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Thriving Butterbelle business for food student

Posted 13 March 2015

Zoe Harrison with some of the Butterbelle products

A Harper Adams University food student has made her dream a reality by launching an artisan business selling luxury homemade butters.

Zoe Harrison established Butterbelle just one month ago after noticing a gap in the market for all-natural nut and seed butters with no added extras.

The 37-year-old has since been overwhelmed with interest and has even been invited to exhibit at food festivals across the county.

Zoe, who studies BSc (Hons) Food, Nutrition and Well-being, said: “I began producing my own nut butters after finding it difficult to source products off the shelf without added sugar, salt, palm oil and vegetable oil.

“I then began giving them away as gifts and before I knew it, I had enough interest to start my own business.

“They are particularly popular with those that live a healthy, fitness-led lifestyle. Mainly due to nuts being packed with heart-friendly Omega 3 &6 fatty acids, as well as being high in protein.

“But anyone with an interest in wholefoods and natural ingredients should give them a go as they can prove a really versatile product.”

Zoe roasts the nuts by hand before processing them slowly to release the natural oils to form the butter. By using this technique, there is no need to add extra ingredients other than natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup and spices such as cinnamon, to create new flavours.

The Butterbelle range includes traditional butters such as peanut, through to more creative flavours such as cashew butter with cacao and almond butter with manuka honey.

Zoe, from Shifnal, added: “I have always taken an interest in living a healthy lifestyle - cooking meals from scratch for my family and enjoying yoga, crossfit and mountain biking.

“And it’s through links with the fitness community that I’ve been able to reach out to new customers, as well as selling to Harper Adams staff and students. I also stock the pop-up shop in the Guildhall on Newport High Street and Green Fields Farm Shop in Donnington.

“I’ve been amazed at the support I’ve received and it’s really encouraging for my dream of achieving a career in new product development.”

Zoe lives with her two daughters 18-year-old Stevie and 15-year-old Lara and it was once they became old enough that she was able to pursue her life-long ambition of working in the food industry and start her degree at Harper Adams. Together they enjoy taking a break from their studies to spend time in the kitchen experimenting with flavour combinations.

Zoe is currently on her placement year working for the university’s Catering Department, an experience that has both supported her business venture and opened up new opportunities.

It’s through this placement that Zoe has been able to become a member of the Telford and Wrekin Fairtrade Alliance and a Student Ambassador for the Marine Stewardship Council. She is also looking forward to completing her Royal Society of Public Health Level 3 in Nutrition for Healthy Diets, which will enable her to promote healthy nutrition in the hospitality and catering sector.

Zoe added: “I have always been passionate about nutrition and food, and establishing Butterbelle alongside my degree is helping me to gain experience of all aspects of product development - from sourcing ingredients and packaging, to costing products and managing food safety records.

“For the future, I hope to source new local stockists, as well as exhibit at popular food festivals across the county. I’m looking forward to holding a stall at Green Fields Food Festival in June and at a Crossfit competition in Oswestry on March 21.”

For more information, visit Zoe’s Facebook page.

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