It may seem cold in most places, and most thoughts for sports consumers may be on the upcoming NFL Championship Games, but baseball’s Hot Stove, from the Hall of Fame announcements to team caravans to the upcoming Baseball Writers Dinner, keeps talk about the diamond moving along.
Because baseball is such a varied property and such a long season, the ability for entrepreneurship and hustle always exists, and every once in a while a really smart idea mushrooms up from the infield dirt. One of those we recently discovered was HomePlate Peanut Butter. Peanut Butter you say? Yes. Peanut Butter. A staple of Americana, and those on a budget and a product which really is self-explanatory, albeit with a fun twist.
HomePlate Peanut Butter was created by a group of former professional baseball players- Josh Beckett, Marco Scutaro, Danny Peoples, Mike Lowell, John McDonald, Brooks Kieschnick-along with founder Clint Greenleaf, who grew up playing baseball every day and eating a ton of peanut butter. During those long days in the minor leagues, they counted on PB as a staple. They grew to love peanut butter as an inexpensive and accessible way to stay fueled and fit.
They wanted peanut butter that was delicious, but fit their training regimens. After they retired from the game and began grocery shopping for their own little leaguers, they became convinced that families, athletes and America deserved a better peanut butter. The mission is to create peanut butter that meets the rigid standards set by the professional baseball players who make up the company’s founding team. Every flavor is made from natural and sustainable ingredients.. No goopy oil layer, or gritty, chalky texture, just wholesome, great tasting peanut butter.
Make sense? We asked Caleigh Bressler, Marketing Manager for HPPB to whet our business appetites a bit more.
Peanut Butter, simple product with a big market, how can HPPB crack through to make a success?
Peanut butter is a quintessential American staple, found in over 84% of American homes. There are hundreds of brands for the consumer to choose from, but that’s exactly what the market is forcing consumers to do – choose. Currently, a consumer is forced to choose between the delicious favorite from their childhood that is typically filled with harmful ingredients or a hyper all-natural alternative that is healthier but at the sacrifice of flavor and consistency. The wholesome peanut butter of our childhood has been robbed from us and replaced with a chemical-laden spread or a goopy, gritty paste with a layer of oil separation.
HomePlate Peanut Butter is made with simple, wholesome, better-for-you ingredients that are all-natural and sustainably-produced. But more importantly, the peanut butter is downright delicious, giving consumers the best of both worlds. We are giving consumers a peanut butter that doesn’t require them to choose between taste or health.
You have several notable names as investors; how did former MLB players get involved and why?
There is a deep yet somewhat unknown connection between peanut butter and baseball. When players enter the Minor Leagues, they are actually quite far from the glamorous lifestyle of the professional athlete. For a AAA player in his first year, he can expect to make a monthly salary around $2,150 before taxes and clubhouse dues. As a result, they are always looking for the cheapest way to fuel their bodies. Packed with protein, healthy fats and energy-fueling calories, peanut butter becomes the unofficial staple of minor league players, who consume upwards of ten peanut butter sandwiches every day. Essentially, peanut butter and baseball players go together like Ramen Noodles and college students.
Our angel investors all knew how much players and American families rely on peanut butter, but felt that there needed to be a better option. Two of our three founders played minor league ball with our Angel investors and have stayed friends over the years. Given the connection of Peanut Butter and Baseball, they were natural first choices for our investors.
How active are they in the building of the business?
Our founders and investor help us tell the story of baseball and peanut butter from an authentic, first-hand experience. They were essential in helping us determine a flavor profile and an approved ingredients list. Beyond just investing in the product itself, they’re also investing their time in helping bring back the wholesome peanut butter of our childhood.
We were able to connect with several of the founding team during the MLB Winter Meetings this past January, and it was great to hear them talk so passionately about growing the brand.
The company is just a year old, what has the response been on the consumer side?
For many, this is the peanut butter that they have been waiting for. Once consumers taste HomePlate Peanut Butter, they are shocked to discover that we only use all-natural ingredients. Moms in particular love that they can now purchase one peanut butter for the whole house – instead of loading her cart with a different brand for each member of the family, one jar will satisfy her “texture-sensitive” children, her sweet-tooth husband and her health-conscious self. Our reviews from Amazon are glowing, but it’s the personal messages we receive on our Amazon Seller Central that make us feel like we are truly meeting an unmet need in the market.
From an influencer marketing standpoint, how valuable is it to get buy-in from professional athletes?
HomePlate Peanut Butter is the official peanut butter of the Professional Baseball Clubhouse Managers Association, and currently found in all 30 major league clubhouses. When you hear about the pitchers that are eating a PB&J right before they close out a close game, you know that HomePlate Peanut Butter has helped fueled their success. Professional athletes’ diets have also come into a harsher spotlight in recent years. Gone are the days of guzzling cheeseburgers to put on weight – team nutritionists are educating players to fuel smarter and peanut butter is a staple that players are pleased to have as nutritionist-approved. We’ve found that the endorsement from baseball players (as well as NBA and NFL players) has given us some immediate credibility to start the conversation – but it’s nothing if we don’t have the right product to continue it.
Any anecdotal stories of athletes who have become loyal subscribers of the brand?
The Detroit Tigers clubhouse manager didn’t immediately order up with HomePlate, but once his players came back from away games and tasted HomePlate Peanut Butter in their visiting clubhouses, they came back begging him “Where’s our HomePlate Peanut Butter?!”
After a story ran last February on the Golden State Warriors losing their PB&Js, we sent some samples to the team. During the NBA playoffs in 2016, ESPN did a story about the team and featured a video of sandwiches made with HomePlate.
If you are asked for the one or two product differentiators from the big names, what do you tell people?
HomePlate Peanut Butter occupies a unique niche in the market. Whereas most peanut butter brands focus either on flavor or nutrition, HomePlate seriously delivers on both benefits.
The reason why this matters more than ever is because of the shifting shopping trends among consumers. Healthier eating and better-for-you options have been continuous food trends in recent years – consumers are reading their labels more and looking for “cleaner” alternatives to their childhood favorites. However, studies show that “taste” is still the number one consideration that impacts consumers’ decision to purchase foods. The best way to compete in this market is to give consumers a product where they won’t have to compromise on one or the other.
Our connection to baseball also allows us to have a “seal of approval” from some of the fittest athletes in the country.
The core audience. tied to the name, is baseball. Any issues with a jump to other sports because it is so baseball focused right now?
Our founding team is made up of baseball players and our brand was certainly made with them in mind. However, this connection has actually served as a great leaping point for us into other sports as opposed to a hindrance. Peanut Butter as a protein-packed fuel is universal across all sports and our peanut butter has been found in locker rooms that range from University of Texas football to Golden State Warriors. We have received attention from golfers who like the single-serving squeeze packs on the links, endurance athletes that incorporate the product into their months-long training program and the CrossFit goer who enjoys the nostalgic indulgence of a PB&J after their workouts. Our roots may be in baseball, but a love of peanut butter is universal. If all the college teams can drink Gatorade (despite the obvious tie to Florida), we believe HomePlate can flourish in sports other than baseball.
Will this grow to companion products like jelly?
We do plan to grow the brand lineup to include additional products, but our focus will primarily be to provide healthful protein-packed snacking options that befit a professional athlete’s diet. Before we grow to too many products, we want to be sure we get this right first. While we may not venture into jelly, we plan to explore other ways that consumers might be able to make the most of their peanut butter snacking. Certainly, there are several trendy options on the market that we could copy, but we would prefer to avoid being a “me too” brand and rather develop new innovative solutions to the market. We are fortunate to have our connection with the Clubhouse Managers, who give us feedback as to what the players might want to see next.
As pitchers and catchers get set to head to spring training, what should the sports business world be looking for from HPPB?
Our offices just packaged over 2,600 jars of peanut butter to ship off to the clubhouses to make sure the players are starting off their season on a well-fueled foot. And those are just for Spring Training! As the year progresses, we will be ramping up our partnerships and efforts to reach a larger spread of the baseball market. Expect to see us sampling the product at some major and minor league games. We also plan to draw more attention to the minors, and specifically how peanut butter makes an impact there.