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Changing the Game

Erika Peterson turned a decadent treat into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

When Erika Peterson and her partner Craig Mount moved back to Rapid City from Colorado, they missed the homemade peanut butter that they had discovered at farmers markets and grown to love. So, Peterson bought a refurbished commercial peanut grinder and made small batches for family and friends. Demand grew through social media, word of mouth and the understated power of peanut butter. Nearly two years later, she leads a company called Nerdy Nuts and sells up to $500,000 worth of peanut butter a month. “I had no clue how obsessed people were with peanut butter until I started selling it,” Peterson says. “Our flavors sell out every week; people are asking us for merchandise. We just can’t wrap our heads around it.”

The business’ rise began at the Black Hills Farmers Market. Peterson would sell out of peanut butter within two hours. It continued as they branched out to other marketplaces and trade shows. “We started asking our customers what they were looking for, and how they were eating our peanut butter. And everybody kept saying that they’d just eat it with a spoon, because it was so different and good.” That difference comes in the texture. Peterson calls it “smunchy,” somewhere between smooth and crunchy, featuring tiny chunks of peanuts in a smooth base.

After the couple had their second child, Peterson — a graduate of the University of South Dakota’s School of Business — went all-in on peanut butter. She created a presidential peanut butter line, naming flavors after contenders in the 2020 general election. National television networks noticed, giving them their first taste of viral stardom. “That’s when we realized that people were looking at peanut butter as an actual food item, a treat, something they could indulge in.”

That led to an indulgence line featuring peanut butters with chocolate, brownie bits and other decadent delights. When three influencers on the social media platform TikTok all posted rave reviews, sales skyrocketed. Peterson rented a commercial kitchen, hired a packing company, found a facility to make plastic jars and hired logistics experts to help it all run smoothly. “We went from a tiny company doing $30,000 in sales in 2019 to a multimillion-dollar company in six months,” she says. “We’re changing the game of peanut butter.”

Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the May/June 2021 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.


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