Hungry, curious customers gaze at the overhead menu in the Krema Nut store located in the downtown Columbus Convention Center. The choices here are limited to a staple of school lunches… peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. "I walked by and saw it," says one customer."The sign. It said peanut butter sandwiches. I'm like, peanut butter sandwiches, someone actually sells that!"
But these aren't ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Offered in almost a dozen varieties, with generous amounts of fresh nut butters and a wide selection of jams and spreads, they could be called gourmet. Some are just like mom used to make, creamy peanut butter topped with strawberry jam. Others are more exotic. Like the Peanut Butter Apple Cheesecake, with velvety cream cheese and chunky apple fruit spread. Or the Elvis, a toasted sandwich drizzled with honey and stuffed with sliced bananas.
Adding sandwiches to his retail operation is an idea Krema Nut owner Mike Guinta had kicked around for eight years. To carve out an edge in the competitive nut business, he decided to target baby boomers who grew up on peanut-butter and jelly. "When they come in and peak through the window at the menu board, if you watch 'em, you'll see a big smile on their face," he says. "Because what these people are doing is reliving their youth. They're remembering."
Customer:Oh… This takes me back to my childhood," says one customer. "I haven't had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in years. And I just really wanted to have one. Just saw the sign walking past, wandering around. I'm tired of all the fast food."
Reporter: "And when you saw the sign you just started thinking about your past?"
Customer:"About being a little kid, it's like I have to have one of these."
Krema Nut is not alone. With today's consumer looking for nutrition, taste and variety, eating establishments all around the country are adding menu items that remind customers of home cooking… They're actually part of an overall trend that we see in the food service industry called retro chic," says Sharon Olson, president of a company that tracks marketing trends. "And basically what that is sandwiches and other food items that look homemade have tastes that were remembered from childhood, are something that's very popular, that they're all something that's done with a new twist, some new flavors, new and more interesting and we're seeing them come up in a lot of places."
Krema Nut owner Mike Guinta says he puts a new twist on an old favorite by using the highest quality ingredients. That reduces his profit margin but draws customers into the store to buy other products. The plan is working. Mr. Guinta expects his sales to rise by $300,000 to $400,000 a year. "If we can make a few sandwiches a day, let it be fun, add more to our shop, make it a well-rounded shop that would probably do is just create talk," he says. "Wow, did you see I got this great sandwich. Well then they'll come n and buy a bag of cashews, a bag of peanuts, some chocolate. Then they'll remember us at Christmas time."
Maybe even before, if the shop hangs onto flavor combinations like the Kicker, A Cajun spiced peanut butter paired with jalapeno spiked raspberry preserves. This combination didn't scare Eric Joe-Mee. As a kid he used to put all kinds of things on his sandwiches. "Everything. We used to call them 'clean the refrigerator sandwiches'. And it was kind of peanut butter and jelly as a base and then you kind of improvise from there," he says.
Other customers have asked for everything from bacon and lettuce to mayonnaise and pickles with their peanut butter. Those items probably won't end up on the menu says owner Mike Guinta, but the shop does plan to keep experimenting with the good old peanut butter sandwich.
Graphic courtesy of ArtToday