We’ve all heard jokes about lawyers, but what happens if a few lawyers started joking around on their lunch break about the idea of launching a nut company?
“It started as a joke,” Dez Nuts’ president Chris Oliver says. “But then a couple of us took it back from lunch and looked at how much it would really cost to do this. And we just didn’t stop.”
They registered the domain. They tried out recipes. They discovered that pecans have grooves for spices, while peanuts make everything taste like peanuts. And 90 days later, Dez Nuts came into existence.
Oliver founded the company alongside co-workers Carmen Chopp (CEO) and Eric Smith (CFO). He also recruited longtime friend Jacob Lowry to be the COO.
“I’ve known Chris for a long-time and I’ve heard 100 to 200 money-making ideas, but this is the first one I thought was kind of a slam dunk,” Lowry says. “I like the name and the purpose and the mission.”
The name – a nod to the Friday movie series — is edgy by design. The hope is to catch a potential customer’s attention, in part, to talk about the philanthropic arm of the business.
“We say, ‘Small sack. Big heart.’, because as we sell product, we want to give a portion of that to a local charity,” Chopp says. “The thought of designing a company that could do great things spoke to all of us.”
While the team of lawyers are in the process of figuring out exactly how the company will function, they intend to be transparent about how the money is distributed. They’re also thinking about a nut squad – a group attached to Dez Nuts that would do charitable acts. While the structure is still in development, the team has focused on getting a series of nut recipes finalized.
“There are only so many ways to make a candied cinnamon pecan and everybody has had them in the airport,” Oliver says. “But with Dez Nuts, everything has a unique ingredient.”
The Cinnamon Thyme mix of almonds, cashews and pecans actually has two unique ingredients: thyme and cumin. The nuts are sprinkled with olive oil, sea salt and a cinnamon mixture before they’re roasted.
Each of the initial nuts in the Dez Nuts’ lineup features uncommon flavor combinations. The Nunions bring together vanilla, brown sugar and onion powder on macadamia nuts.
“My wife had bought a really nice bottle of vanilla and I used about half of it,” Oliver says of his time developing the recipe.
Lil’ Slices of Hell are almonds that are sliced, soaked in a mixture of organic tomato juice and dried Carolina Reapers (the pepper that has been rated by Guinness World Records as the hottest chili in the world) and then baked. The dried peppers give a manageable heat says Olive once had the “worst half-hour he ever had,” after eating the fresh version of a Carolina Reaper.
“It’s almost like the almond slices turn into potato chips,” Oliver adds.” It’s a great snack, but it has a ton of flavor. It’s not just one of those hot things where you get heat and nothing else.”
Dez Nuts is currently lining up a commercial kitchen, so they can sell their nuts in stores. They’re also playing around with a few new products like honey lavender cashews and a smoky take on a traditional nut log.
“It’s a modern Kansas City twist on a nut log. There’s caramel, but then there’s some smokiness from the rub I use for barbecue contests,” Oliver says. “Caramel-Q tastes like somebody dipped your caramel in a bit of barbecue sauce and you ate it.”
While they sell online and look to land on store shelves, the founding team could envision a small storefront for Dez Nuts in the future.
“We’d love to have a little shop next to the Local Pig or Westside Storey and you’d have the smells coming out the door and bringing people in,” Oliver says.[Images via Dez Nuts]