by Mellisa Hannum
Once Again Nut Butter has a perfect motto, “We spread integrity.” That sense of integrity can be seen in every aspect of Once Again’s operation, from its development and support of domestic and international fair trade, to its purchasing from small, organic farms and cooperatives, to the educational, medical, and employment programs it has established in Nicaragua.
“We have an integrity model … that I think is superior,” said Gael Orr, the company’s Communications Manager. Orr spoke about Once Again’s commitment to farmers, as demonstrated in its building of a fair trade infrastructure in which the company invested hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“A lot of investors can buy fair trade products,” she said, “but they didn’t invest the time, energy, and money to create the infrastructure.”
This infrastructure has improved the quality of life both of the farmers and the communities in which they live.
“These jobs have been created as jobs of dignity,” said Orr. One example of respecting the land and the farmers can be seen in the sesame that Once Again uses for its tahini. To keep the soil viable, the sesame crop is rotated with organic cotton. Maggie’s Organics, a manufacturer of organic fiber apparel, coordinates its production with Once Again by purchasing the cotton it uses in its line of ethically produced clothing.
The nut butter company’s dedication to creating a positive impact is nothing new. Once Again was founded by Jeremy Thaler and Constance Potter in 1976 as a worker cooperative. Its name was derived from the fact that Thaler and Potter had “once again” created a worker co-op, since they had also founded a worker co-op that focused on distribution.
Once Again has evolved from its roots as a worker co-op. Today it is an employee-owned, food cooperative manufacturer with an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). After one year, employees are awarded shares in the company, adding to the concrete feeling of investment and ownership that Once Again employees have about their business.
In 1981, the company purchased and renovated an old industrial building that was once used for silk production. It was there that four orphaned raccoon kits grew up, enjoying the nut butters. Once Again adopted the image of a raccoon in their honor, as well as adopting the kits and caring for them until they were old enough to be released in the forest.
“Our raccoon has become a symbol of our wholesome nature, our closeness and responsibility to the earth, and the nature of our product,” states the company website.
That sense of responsibility is also reflected in their mission statement:
“Once Again is a democratically operated employee-owned workplace.
“We pride ourselves in providing the health-conscious consumer with products of superior quality and integrity. Located in a small, rural community, we are dedicated to supporting organic and sustainable farming practices. We are proud to offer a healthier alternative, where every customer matters.”
Valuing their customers and staying true to their ideals has made Once Again Nut Butters successful.
“Our customers tend to be pretty loyal,” said Orr. “They know who we are.”