“Forget Chocolate. Good Spread gets altruism into its peanut butter”

Article originally published in Upstart Business Journal by Laura Braverman on November 12, 2012. 

“What started as a quirky road trip to make college students around the nation aware of the good work of nonprofit MANA Nutrition will soon bring nutritious peanut butter packets to malnourished kids and hungry Americans.

The founders of Nashville-based Good Spread, fresh off a successful IndieGoGo campaign, will soon begin production at MANA’s Fitzgerald, Georgia plant mixing up peanuts, organic honey and sea salt into small packets to be sold $1 each at retail stores.

And in return for each packet sold, founders Mark Slagle and Alex Cox will fund MANA’s production of a packet of peanut butter-based therapeutic food. The nonprofit World Vision will distribute those packets within impoverished communities around the globe.

The two men don’t necessarily want to be called the TOMS of peanut butter, but it’s a good way to describe them. “The idea is that, as we use the market system to grow as a business, we can continually and scaleably grow the production of food and feed malnourished kids in the world,” Slagle says.

How they got to this point is a bit serendipitous, a bit miraculous and quite humorous.

The pair of recent college graduates were introduced by their mutual mentor, MANA founder Mark Moore. Because each had global outreach experience (Slagle shot film in Greece for an international study abroad program, Cox taught English in China), Moore asked them to come back to the United States and help him share the message about the power of therapeutic food in solving world hunger.

Moore bought them a 1971 Winnebago on ebay, outfitted it with a military tent to simulate feeding centers in the developing world, and renamed the automobile the “Manabago.” They toured the country sharing MANA’s story with college students.

But then the Manabago blew up in Malibu, California and the two men were forced to hitchhike 3,000 miles to finish the tour. They also had to find another way to spread the word of MANA.

Early in 2012, they came to Moore with the idea for Good Spread. MANA already had a supply of peanuts as well as the Georgia factory and workers to make a spread. They’d just need a recipe, a brand and $65,000 in startup capital for production, packaging, and distribution.

Moore was quick to agree.

“We had two very solid and legit guys whose personalities and story are contagious (…) mostly because they are really authentic,” he said.

They tested about 10 different recipes before settling on the Good Spread mix. It tastes good as a snack on the go, Slagle said, or on apples and bananas. The men believe their main competition is Justin’s Nut Butter. That brand sells packets of flavored nut butters in organic food stores, outdoors and fitness stores around the nation.

Slagle and Cox thought their story could help create a competitor in the market. They’d test it out on the crowd funding site IndieGoGo, targeting all the students they’d visited around the nation during 2011. In return for cash donations to start the business, they’d repay donors with the first Good Spread packets.

And it worked. About halfway through the three-week campaign, IndieGoGo featured Good Spread on its daily email blast. That helped meet the goal three days before the campaign’s November 5th end. Donations ranged from $10 to a $10,000 gift, totaling $69,518.

Come January, Slagle and Cox will distribute the first batches of spread, along with recipe books, to most of the 545 backers of the campaign. Until then, the men are busy lining up retailers to sell Good Spread packets. They’re targeting backpacking stores and coffee shops and college campuses. They’ll also sell boxes of packets online.

“The vision, all the while, is for a scaleable mass distributor to take us to cities across the U.S.,” Slagle said.

The men do hope to make money in the business, but only as long as they’re fulfilling their mission to feed hungry kids around the globe.”

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