Ken Condliff has always been a tinkerer.
So when he lost his job in high-tech manufacturing during the Great Recession, Condliff turned his engineering mind toward reinventing his career and launching his own business in a different field.
“A lot of what I worked on in manufacturing was innovation, how to make something new and better,” Condliff said. “I took the same thinking to food, and I said, ‘Peanut butter hasn’t changed in 100 years. It’s peanuts with salt and sugar, some kind of gooey flavor. Let’s junk the gooey flavors and go with sunflower seeds, flaxseed meal, organic quinoa, chia seeds and hemp seeds.’ ”
Those early days of the new venture seem like a distant memory to Condliff, now the owner and self-proclaimed “Chief Nutty Officer” of Nut-Tritious Foods, a Vancouver-based nut butter maker with a growing market in Seattle and Portland. He began distributing his line of nut butters — made from pecans, almonds, pistachios and all sorts of other nuts and seeds — at Whole Foods in Portland and Vancouver several years ago. Since then, he’s expanded into farmers markets and health food stores around the Northwest.
This winter, Condliff sent about 400 tubs of his five best selling nut butter varieties to PCC Natural Markets in the Seattle area — his largest order to date. Now, Condliff is setting his sights on an even bigger target.
“Our goal for this year is to expand into California,” he said. “There are a lot of healthy consumers down there.”
As the name implies, healthy diets lie at the center of the Nut-Tritious Foods mission, Condliff said. Today, Americans eat too many high-calorie foods lacking in nutrients, and Condliff decided his products should be part of the change.
“Oftentimes, people eat nutrient-empty foods — which are carbohydrates, salts, sugars and fats,” Condliff said. “We’re going in a different direction. We aim to be the most nutrient-dense nut butter on the market.”
The business didn’t start that way, though. Condliff set out to start a juice company. He experimented with adding nutrient-dense ingredients such as kale, beets, radishes and pumpkin seeds. But his recipes never hit the mark the way the popular nut butters did.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how healthy something is, if it’s not tasty, customers just aren’t going to choke it down,” he said. “But I started toasting and grinding up a lot of nuts and seeds for the juice, and I thought, ‘Well, this tastes a lot better and there’s nothing like it on the market.'”
Condliff makes his nut butters in a commercial kitchen near the intersection of Mill Plain and Grand boulevards. Nut-Tritious Foods doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store, but more information about where to find its products can be found at nut-tritiousfoods.com.