It’s the middle of the night. You are awake, you are hungry. Maybe you’ve had a tough day with the kids, or maybe you have a big presentation to make in the morning at work, and you just want to grab a spoon and dip into your favorite nut butter.
Or maybe you stayed up to watch a college basketball game that didn’t end the way you hoped. You’re going to need the big spoon. If you’re one of the growing fans of Megan and Mark Overbay’s creations, you’ll feel at least a little better after putting away an entire jar of one of the nut butters made at Big Spoon Roasters, the small company that the couple founded. in 2011.
And it’s getting better. Big Spoon Roasters, which sells produce to hundreds of independent wholesalers and popular grocers including Weaver Street Market and Whole Foods, has announced it is moving its operations from Durham to a larger facility at 500 Meadowlands Drive in Hillsborough. Initially, Big Spoon will occupy 16,500 square feet of building space, allowing for anticipated growth over the next two to three years. The new location is scheduled to open in early August 2022. The site has already been approved for an additional 10,000 square feet of space to be built at the end of the building. This should ensure that Big Spoon will set up shop in Hillsborough for the foreseeable future, even as the business continues to expand.
Mark O’Neal and Emilee Collins with Pickett Sprouse, and Jack Moore and Pete Zseleczky with Gateway Building Co. helped help the Overbays identify real estate opportunities best suited for Big Spoon’s expansion.
Almost since the day the Overbays first brought their concoctions to a bike race in Hillsborough, Big Spoon Roasters has been in growth mode.
“We had no logo, no packaging, we just had random mason jars,” said Mark, co-founder and president of the company. “And Megan made these amazing homemade cookies and energy bars from my nut butter that we also sold. We didn’t even show up ready to sell. We just wanted to give people a taste and applied to farmers markets hoping we could tell people to look for us there. People were so excited and enthusiastic when they tasted what we made that they started giving us money. We didn’t even know what to charge. Five bucks? Ten bucks? OK. We were liquidated that day.
Since 2014, Big Spoon Roasters has sold its nut butters and bars to individual Whole Foods stores, including Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem. When the Southern Regional Office of Whole Foods encouraged Big Spoon to expand, the company began working with a third-party distributor to help get its products into Whole Foods stores in the Southeast.
“This year is very exciting because Whole Foods asked us to become what’s called a global brand, and that takes us to five regions in the United States,” Mark said. “We just received these orders, that is with our first national distributor for Whole Foods, and we are going to the Southwest region, that is Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana; the Midwest, which includes Greater Chicago and all of the Great Lakes states; the Mid Atlantic, which is essentially Philadelphia, to Virginia; and the South, then Florida.
Big Spoon is also present in a number of regional grocers and high-end grocers, including locations in California and a small number of retailers in Europe.
Not bad for a company whose origin story began with Mark craving his favorite snack of apples and peanut butter. Not just any peanut butter, though. In 1999, while in Zimbabwe as a volunteer with the Peace Corps, Mark learned from a rural farming community how to roast peanuts over an open fire and then crush them into a paste. Mix some salt, honey and coconut oil and it had peanut butter.
“I accidentally made the best peanut butter I’ve ever tasted,” he said. Ten years later, in Durham and working in the food industry, Mark was well versed in the artisan food movement and noticed that no one was doing anything with nut butters.
For years, Mark had thought about creating a food business that connected people to agriculture. He then realized that making nut butters was the way to do this. He and Megan had just started dating, and Mark was eager to tell her about his plan, but he waited until he could tell her in person a few days later.
“When I started talking to Megan about it — and I was so excited — I said, ‘You know, I think I know the business I’m supposed to start that involves my background in the Peace Corps. and my dad,” and she immediately said, ‘That’s nut butter.’ She just knew.
He then went to Whole Foods and bought raw North Carolina peanuts and pecans. He took them home, roasted them, put them in a food processor, added local honey and sea salt. It was better than anything I could buy, not to honk my horn myself” , said Mark. “I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends and family. Right from the start, it seemed like maybe it was something no one was doing.
“We had talked about how amazing this dining experience was for him,” said Megan, co-founder and COO. “And then I was like, ‘Oh my God! We have to call it Big Spoon! And Mark said “yes”.
When he was six years old, Mark walked into his family’s kitchen and found his father standing with a giant spoon, helping himself to peanut butter, straight from the jar. Young Mark said “Big Spoon”, and it became his father’s nickname, and a no-brainer as the name of Mark and Megan’s nut butter company.
In 2012, a year after founding Big Spoon, Mark quit his full-time job at Counter Culture Coffee to devote his full attention to nut butters. Megan kept her full-time job but was involved in all major decisions regarding the direction of Big Spoon, and she and Mark put labels on the jars in the evenings. Big Spoon had a big break when the company received national press in its first year. This sparked a flurry of interest from retailers and consumers. In 2013 Mark and Megan moved their small business to its current location in Durham, originally filling one suite and gradually expanding to four suites.
As Big Spoon continued to grow in square footage, it also continued to invest in its equipment to enable it to scale up operations and expand its product line. Throughout its existence, Mark and Megan have ensured the taste and quality of its food products. They also paid considerable attention to the company’s environmental impact, whether through water use, packaging materials and recycling.
“Sure, people might want something that tastes good, and we give them that, but a lot of people are very interested in where their products come from and who was involved in the production – growing the peanuts, growing all that stuff. that we manufacture – and everyone in the supply chain,” said Megan. “We are very focused on that. This is exactly the kind of business we wanted to start. We wanted to build a company that was good for the planet and good for everyone who was involved in its production.
Big Spoon Roasters now has 12 full-time and five part-time employees, and plans to add up to five employees after moving into the Hillsborough space. The new location will require updates and accommodations to meet business needs, but the additional space will allow employees to move around more freely. Shipments awaiting delivery will now have a dedicated placement. There will be additional meeting spaces and bathrooms, changing rooms, a photo studio and even an employee wellness area.
“Bays (loading and unloading) that you can drive to and don’t need our team driving back and forth in the rain trying to get things. There are so many things. It will be super exciting,” Megan said.
Food safety and sanitation are essential for food-related businesses, and the larger facility will allow Big Spoon to continue its safe and clean production procedures as it grows.
“Food safety comes up a lot in our business,” Mark said. “If we talk about our business, we’ll talk about food safety, because we make ready-to-eat foods. When someone opens it, it has to be 100% safe. It doesn’t matter how good it tastes if it isn’t safe, so we’re doing a lot of things in terms of sanitation and employee practices to maximize food safety.”
Another great benefit of the new headquarters will be a dedicated research and development lab that will be included on the new site. Mark said a lot of innovation comes from R&D, but lack of space has limited product expansion or pushed the company to make more seasonal releases.
“We’ve queued up a number of different recipes that we want to put in our permanent lineup and there’s just no room to put them,” Megan said. “We will once we move into the new space and it’s wonderful. The other thing is we just know we’re going to have to produce at a higher volume, and there’s so much packaging and so much more ingredients that you need to get through that much more production that comes from the expanding into more relationships with Whole Foods and distributors.
Some of Big Spoon Roasters nut butter flavors include Cashew Butter, Almond Butter, Chocolate Sea Salt, Pecan, and Fig Walnut Macaron. A variety of jams and nut butter bars are also available.
Beyond the many benefits of the new physical space for Big Spoon Roasters, the Overbays are thrilled to have their business part of the Hillsborough community. They’ve already worked out Sportsplex memberships for staff and note the proximity to walking trails and the Riverwalk. Some of Big Spoon’s employees commute from Burlington, so the new location will be shorter for them.
“It’s also evident that the Town of Hillsborough has really tried to create a supportive environment for small businesses,” Mark said. “We know a few business owners who have had businesses (in Hillsborough) for years and they have had great experiences. It’s a good feeling to arrive knowing that there is this support.
For more information on Big Spoon roasters, visit bigspoonroasters.com