You are here

Mad about peanut butter

Food Security

Did you know that peanuts originate from prehistoric Bolivia? With nut butters growing in popularity, it might come as surprise that peanut butter is not very common in this South American country. Mr. Mad is one of the few Bolivian companies that makes peanut products. Owner Gino Urey called on Food Technologist and PUM expert Thirea Peters (24) to expand his peanut butter line.

Peanuts that are grown by farmers today are the result of hybridisation between two wild species. “Bolivia has an abundance of peanuts,” says Thirea. “Processing raw materials into finished products – like peanuts into peanut butter – is not so common in Bolivia. However, it can significantly increase a companies’ profit.”

Entrepreneur Gino Urey realised that there was a market in the country for peanut products. Thirea: “In the beginning, everybody accounted Gino Urey as crazy for trying to make the Bolivians love peanut butter. Hence, Mr. Mad was founded three years ago. Now their local, small-scale peanut butters sell like hot cakes. For two weeks I have worked together with Mr. Mad in Sucre, Bolivia to develop new processing strategies and formulations for their peanut products. Gino is a very enthusiastic and creative entrepreneur. One of the advices I gave him was to focus on developing only a handful of products at one time. If what you have created is successful, you can move on to the next idea.”

'We reduced the percentage of sugar in the peanut butter from 20% to 5%'

Together they formulated key ambitions for the company, the so called Mr. Mad crazy values: to have Bolivians love and own their ancient crop in peanut butter form and to produce local, natural products that help stimulate economic growth and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Thirea: “Mr. Mad’s waffles stuffed with peanut butter are part of the lunchboxes for local schools, which are supplied by the government. Expanding in this area is one of their most important objectives, giving access to peanut products for all incomes. We developed new flavours for these fillings: vanilla, chocolate and honey. We also reduced the amount of sugar in the peanut butter from 20% to 5%. Ideally the products would have been sugar free, however this is a real challenge. People in Bolivia love sweet stuff and it is part of their culture and habits. Reducing sugar (and salt) always needs to be implemented gradually for a consumer not to dislike a product. Slowly reducing even more over the years is part of the business plan. Nevertheless, the recipe for a 100% natural peanut butter has been provided and already will be distributed to local restaurants as base for sauces. In the upcoming six months Mr. Mad will try to expand to more regions in Bolivia and will even start exploring markets abroad.”

Thirea Peters is at 24 years old PUM’s youngest expert. She studied Food Technology at Wageningen University and is a Food Scientist with specialization Ingredient Functionality. Thirea is currently working for one of the world’s largest beer producers AB InBev. “It is my goal to share my knowledge on food technology with as many people worldwide as possible, helping to achieve equal chances for everyone on the market. I am passionate about healthy, sustainable food.”

Text Elise Mooijman and Thirea Peters

Photography: Thirea Peters

More information: Mr. Mad on Facebook