A local couple have made it their mission to provide allergy-friendly spread options to kids in the area. Alison Boudreau and Justin Ralph are no strangers to the challenge of having a child with severe allergies. Their almost 3-year-old son, Beckett, has been diagnosed with many food allergies, including most tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy and several vegetables like bell peppers and avocados. He has had one anaphylactic reaction in his short life where he stopped breathing and they had to administer his epi-pen. “It was horrifying,” Justin says.
Justin found that when you have a child with so many allergies, you read labels obsessively. Through their search for products that Beckett could eat safely, they found that even packaged foods that were supposed to be school-safe still contained allergens like soy and eggs. Even if they weren’t on the ingredient list, many of them warned of possible cross-contamination, which is still an issue for kids with severe allergies like Beckett. “There isn’t a fun alternative for kids with a lot of allergies,” Justin says.
One day, when they were at Alison’s parent’s house, they wanted to give Beckett some pumpkin seed butter. As usual, Alison looked at the ingredients and found on the label the warning that it might contain nuts. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a no-nut butter,” she thought. A website designer by trade, she looked up the domain name and found it was up for auction. “It was a sign,” she says.
An avid cook, Alison had made both pumpkin seed butter and apple butter before. Dairy-free caramel was also in her roster, as Justin is lactose intolerant. The only recipe that they had to develop from scratch is their choco-pumpkin spread, which is their allergy-friendly version of Nutella. Despite their best efforts to find a local wholesaler of pumpkin seeds, they were unable to find a nut-free facility that processes them in Canada. “We are using pumpkin seeds from a facility in Rhode Island,” Alison says. “Everything else is sourced locally.”
As soon as their website and social media went live at the end of November, a wholesaler contacted them and they had their first order. “We were planning on having a very soft launch,” she says. “There was a lot more interest than we expected.”
Alison and Justin have now booked a nut-free commercial kitchen in Gloucester where they will be producing their No Nut Butters. They have already done several craft markets this season, including the Christmas Craft Market at the Carleton Tavern in Ottawa, where they sold out. All the flavours of the No Nut Butters are available at Geronimo in Kemptville and B&H Grocer, where they will be doing a tasting this Friday, December 20.
At this point, Alison and Justin are looking at this business as a fun side project. Alison says that part of the business model is also spreading awareness about allergies and how dangerous they can be for kids like Beckett, if they are not taken seriously. “People have a lot of misconceptions, and they don’t understand how serious it is,” she says. “We are opening up the door to have the conversation without pointing any fingers.”
They are also looking at this business as a gift to their son, who is the one that suffers the most from his food allergies. “He has to eat at the table by himself at school,” Justin says. “Maybe, if this does well, schools will be a bit safer”.
Justin and Alison are passionate about this project, because it feels like they are turning a difficult situation into something positive that will help, not just Beckett, but all kids with severe allergies. “It’s a way to turn something that is bad into a strength,” Justin says.
For more information, or to buy the No Nut Butters online, visit www.nonutbutter.com, or find them on Facebook under No Nut Butter.