How Peanut Butter Got a Whole Lot Better

I’ve been back and forth with a guy on Facebook and WhatsApp for the past three weeks. We had made plans to meet up for coffee, but the Ramadan holiday, work, family, the Eid holiday, and so on and so on, kept us from carving out some time to talk.

We agree to meet at the National Gallery of Fine Art during the Art at the Park celebration. I weave my way past the live music and the painting demonstrations to a corner of the park where local sellers have erected stalls. One is selling hand-made stickers, one sunglasses, and another original paintings.

I’m not interested in any of that today (though I may have to circle back later to get some sunglasses for my wife). Today I’m on a search for peanut butter.

Weeks earlier I had been out with my wife and one-year-old son at the farmer’s market at Nour al-Barakah Park in Rabieh when we had come across some of the best peanut butter we had ever had. And not just in Jordan, but anywhere.

I had to find out more about what Peanut Better is all about.

The man behind the brand is Osama al-Ajlouni. A full-time computer programmer and Jordan-native, Osama got a taste for peanut butter—the good, natural stuff—while studying for a year abroad in Sweden. After returning to Jordan he went in search of that same taste, but came up with nothing. There simply were not very many peanut butter options out there—let alone natural and home-made.

Osama decided to make his own and, after many failed experiments in his home kitchen, began to home in on the perfect recipe. “It took time to learn what nuts to use, what kind of roasts work best, and how exactly to prepare them,” Osama says. “But eventually we got it right.”

The secret is all in the preparation and the quality of the nuts. “Most of the peanut butter out there is full of sugar, or salt, or added oils.” Says Osama, “Even the so-called “organic” stuff—I think they add oil to it so that it makes it look more natural or organic.” Peanut Better is made of one ingredient and one ingredient only: roasted peanuts.

As I sit with Osama at his stall in the park, customer after customer stops by for a sample. None believe that he adds no sugar; that he adds no salt. All are amazed at how delicious something so simple can be—and all buy a jar.

Not only did Osama perfect peanut butter, but he also expanded to almonds, cashews, and pistachios.

He began selling to friends and family and then filling orders gathered through social media. When I first got in touch with Osama, I asked to meet in his factory or his warehouse. Judging by the quality of his peanut butter, his professional packaging, and expansive social media marketing, I was not expecting his reply: “Well, this whole operation is really just me and my mom in our kitchen.”

But there are plans to expand. “The obvious answer is to start producing for a major retailer, one of the local grocery store chains or a health food restaurant,” he says. “But we may need more staff for that. Right now we need to take the next big step and find an investor to support us—more staff, production facilities, and warehouse space. That’s what’s next.”

Peanut Better continues to grow, with hundreds of social media followers and thousands of customers. The brand is becoming shorthand for peanut butter and is closely tied to Jordan’s local food scene.

When I ask him about his plans for the future, I get an answer I don’t expect. “I’m not a business person by nature—I’m a computer programmer and that’s still my main focus as a career. My goal is to generate some momentum with the business so that I can turn the whole thing over to my mother,” he says, “She has never had a job and never had a means of independence. This would give her that—something that becomes more and more important as she gets older.”

I leave the park with a bag of peanut butter under my arm and hope that everyone can hear Osama’s story, buy his peanut butter, and support a great local business. Though Peanut Better is small today, tomorrow it could be the next big brand—all it needs is your help.

Follow Peanut Better on Facebook here and on Instagram @peanutbetteramman.

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