Bugle business spotlight: We Are Nuts

By Janet Wight

Since Jim and Margaret Burt launched We Are Nuts in 1987, the locally family-owned purveyor of craft nuts and snacks has grown to be one of the biggest of its type in the regional food snack niche.

Originally, the company was a microbusiness selling hand packaged nuts to office employees at the 3M Company.

Through the years, the company grew to include a small retail operation at its St. Paul warehouse, 890 Vandalia St., followed by a pop-up retail store that was open for a few months each year during the holiday season.

The company produces “unique proprietary products that are second to none,” boasts second generation owner Michael Burt.

Popular flavors include Maple Bourbon Toffee Almonds, Cinnamon Toasted Toffee Peanuts, Hot Nuts Toffee Peanuts, Hokey Pokey Caramel Corn and Tutti Frutti Caramel Corn.

The business has steadily grown throughout the years, currently employing between 35 and 40 people.

In 2019, We Are Nuts bought Midwest Northern Nut, an established northeast Minneapolis business. The pandemic provided the opportunity to thoughtfully and strategically integrate the cultures and brands of the two companies. All of the employees were retained during the pandemic.

One of the primary goals of We Are Nuts is to procure the finest possible nuts. Currently, Vietnam is the leading source for its cashews, and Burt explained he has developed sustainable relationships with growers who promote fair wages and a good working environment.

Fun new flavors and seasonal releases are constantly in development, Burt said.

“Nuts are an incredible source of nutrition. Ours are never boring,” he continued. Focus groups are used to test and validate innovative concepts and varieties.

Burt contended the quality of his premium products can’t be matched by larger companies. He noted his family is proud of its roots and everything it has accomplished, but that has been possible only with the strength of the community that has been so supportive over the years.

The St. Paul retail store is tucked away on Vandalia Street in south St. Anthony Park. It features a plentiful assortment of gourmet nuts, caramel corn and candy.

In addition to these signature products, the store contains a reclaim center that offers price conscious shoppers an ever-changing array of deeply discounted closeout and discontinued groceries.

For the past 10 years, We Are Nuts products have been available at all 28 Lunds & Byerlys supermarkets. Its products are also offered at Fresh Thyme Markets throughout Minnesota, on Sun Country Airlines flights and at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Deals with other regional corporations are in the works. Additionally, We Are Nuts is the largest provider of bulk ingredients for the regional food service industry.

On a related note, We Are Nuts is a popular fundraising choice for schools, churches and sports teams. Participants sell nuts and snacks to family and friends that, in turn, benefits a wide variety of nonprofit organizations.

The company, which won the 2021 Minnesota Family Business of the Year award, is headquartered in northeast Minneapolis.

Visit We Are Nuts on Facebook or at wearenutsmn.com for further information. 

Janet Wight lives in the Como neighborhood and is a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.

Photo caption Clockwise from left: Michael, Tommy, Jimmy and Jim Burt. Photo by Travis Anderson.

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