If you’ve had any sundaes this summer in the shops, it’s time to brag on yourself a little, because you’ve had, as Krema Nut Co.’s motto proudly proclaims: “the finest nuts since 1898.”
Yes, among the layers of all that sundae goodness—the ice cream, the whipped cream, the sauce, the cherry on top—are salted, crunchy, super-fresh nuts expertly roasted by Krema Nut Co., the longest continuously running roaster in the United States.
From pistachios and pecans to peanuts and almonds, Krema has been providing nuts for us since the early days, back when Jeni operated one shop in the North Market. Brian Guinta, a Dayton University alum whose family bought Krema in 1991, recalls “Jeni would come in here and buy tubs of our peanut butter or bags of smoked almonds right off the shelf to make whatever ice creams she was going to make that day.”
Founded by a spice grinder and peanut butter maker named Benton Black at the turn of the 19th century, Krema today provides all the roasted Virginia peanuts we use on our sundaes, as well as all the almonds to make Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream, the pecans in Middle West Whiskey & Pecans ice cream, the pistachio butter that serves as the base for Pistachio & Honey ice cream, and the toffee pieces folded into Churro (Krema makes their fair share of candy, too). The nuts arrive shelled, skinless, and raw at Krema, where they then are roasted and salted and delivered straight to us.
At the company’s headquarters, just west of our kitchen in Columbus, just 15 people work full time in a building Krema has occupied since 1926 (the building itself was built in 1900). Spread out among a few adjoining spaces, the entire West Goodale Boulevard operation is 10,000 square feet of space, with 3,000 devoted to the roasting and wholesale packing and shipping room.
“We’re an island here in this part of town,” Guinta says. “We’ve looked at a lot of other buildings to move into in Columbus, but nothing has ever made sense for the way we do things.”
Krema nuts not destined for our ice creams and ice cream sundaes are bought by the thousands of pounds (along with an array of candies) through Krema’s home shipping business and bustling retail shop and peanut butter sandwich and shake cafe.
Guinta took some time to talk all things Krema nuts.
Peanuts don’t grow in Ohio, of course. How do you know what you’re buying to roast are the best?
Our deal is just always buying from the top folks. We’ve gone through a lot of testing and growing analysis to just make sure we’re always using hands-down the best stuff. Our Virginia peanuts for example are extra-large, high-quality peanuts. They arrive raw with no shell and no skin and we roast them by time, temp, and sight in peanut oil the same way Benton was roasting them in the ’40s and ’50s.
Are all nuts you roast immediately bagged and immediately shipped out?
Here’s how it works. We’ll bring in a full pallet (2,000 pounds) of raw nuts. Then we oil roast them. Every week is Groundhog Day. We make and ship, and we always make just enough just to get through our retail needs and our wholesale needs. That way everything turns over quickly. It would make the most production sense to run a few pallets of each kind and then have a month’s worth ready to go. That makes the most production sense. But for us, with the freshness and quality that we like, it makes more sense for to do it once a week.
Why is Krema peanut butter so good? The fact that it’s gmo-free, and has no added salt or sugar, no trans fat, is gluten-free, and has no palm oil or cholesterol?
All of that, but also because of the peanuts we use and the way we roast them. All of the roasting is done our roaster, custom built in the 1960s. It’s tried and true. The peanuts we use are blanched skinless number one fancy-grade Spanish peanuts from Oklahoma and Texas—the highest grade of peanuts. They’re not broken up pieces, which are cheaper to buy and use. They’re whole, so they roast evenly, go through the (press) easier, and come out perfectly. One other thing is that the heart of the peanut is removed. The heart is bitter. It’s not removed by manufacturers who make (large national brand of conventional peanut butter we shall not name) because you can’t taste anything once you add sugar, salt, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and everything else to the mix.
What about the Krema process routinely surprises people?
The way we roast every week. It’s not easy doing it the way we do. People will ask, “Why don’t you run that cooker for a few days and have enough for the month?” But we’re always cooking every week so we can always fresh. I don’t anybody that does that. We’re dinosaurs and proud of it.
Let’s talk about the brittle in Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream. How labor-intensive is it compared to any other candies you make?
Well, first Brown Butter Almond Brittle is one of my favorite flavors that you guys make. Typically that’s what always I get, plus one of the seasonal flavors. The brittle is tasty by itself, but it’s unbelievable once it gets into that ice cream. It’s fairly labor-intensive. It’s not an easy product to make, but we’re a candy maker, so we’re good at brittle. We make a few other brittles, too: Cashew Crunch is a really big seller for us.
What is the best part of your job?
I try to spend a decent amount of time in the retail store. Seeing the customers interacting, and hearing somebody say, “I just tried the Cashew Crunch,” or the pecans, or x product, and, “Oh, my gosh it’s the best!”—just hearing all that positive feedback. Our retail shop and dining room has been open since the ’60s. I talk to a lot of women who are grandmothers who say their grandmother used to bring them to the retail shop. I love that. I also oversee our shipping department and I love seeing gifts go out. it’s always fun to get a gift.
What nuts do you eat every day?
I put peanut butter on my oatmeal every morning and it never gets old. It’s such a great staple for nutrition. I eat our giant cashews every day also. If I need a snack, and I need to shake it up a little but I’ll do the red skin peanuts.
What is the best-selling nut? What is the best-selling candy?
Definitely the giant roasted salted cashew. It’s so addictive and delicious. Cashew Crunch is best-selling candy. Another big seller is the dark chocolate sea caramel. They’re kissed with a little bit of sea salt—oh, my god, if you can put down the bag before you finish it, it’s a miracle.