October 7, 2011

S.O.S. -- Save Our Sunbutter!

Hello, nut-allergic families and non-allergic good-food enthusiasts!

On Monday when I was in my neighborhood Trader Joe's, I had trouble locating sunflower seed butter, a kitchen staple of ours, on the shelves.   A friendly customer service person checked the stockroom and then the store's computerized delivery schedule.  He told me there was no sun butter at the main wherehouse, no new deliveries were imminent, and no orders from their local store had been requested.  This, he said, was a likely sign that the product was on the brink of retirement.  It appeared that they may no longer be selling sunflower seed butter due to poor sales.  NOOOOO......
If you haven't yet discovered TJ's sunflower seed butter -- and hopefully, you can find it very soon again at a Trader Joe's near you -- it is a rich, creamy alternative to peanut butter.  It is great with apples, crackers, or in smoothies and is baked goods such as granola bars, cookies, and brownie bars.  It contains only three ingredients: sunflower seeds, evaporated can sugar, and salt.  There are no mysterious, hard-to-pronounce ingredients and no preservatives on the list.  Each serving size of two tablespoons provides 17 percent of the recommended daily allowance for fiber.
The appropriately named SunButter is another company that sells sunflower seed butter.  I have recently seen this at Target stores as the corporation makes bigger strides to accommodate diets of all different kinds.  However, the price of SunButter was almost 50 percent higher than Trader Joe's sunflower seed butter!  TJ's sun butter is a delicious deal!!
Eliminating sunflower seed butter would affect those with multiple allergies to nuts and soy as soynut butter, which is sometimes easier to find, is not a safe alternative for these folks. 
So after hearing that TJ's sun butter was possibly on the chopping block,  I emailed Trader Joe's through their customer service form.  I wrote what I like to call "a love letter" to Trader Joe's about how much I rely on and love sunflower seed butter as a safe, delicious, and affordable alternative in our household of nut-allergic kids.  I also posted about sun butter's possible fate on Facebook.  I also visited another nearby TJ's and stocked up on a few jars.
I received an email response from a Trader Joe's customer service rep two days later telling me that sunflower seed butter had not been discontinued.  It was still available for all stores to order and should be available the next time I go to a Trader Joe's.  This made me feel a little better but I was still nervous.  Clearly, Trader Joe's doesn't realize that I stop there twice (sometimes three, okay, four) times a week so seeing that huge gaping hole on the shelf or, worse, noticing that the shelf tag has been completely removed makes me wonder if it's ever really coming back.
My friend had seen my post about sun butter on Facebook.  Being a sun butter lover herself who packs her daughter nut-free school lunches, she also immediately sent an email to Trader Joe's customer service with her concerns.  She received a more detailed message -- sun butter is temporarily out of stock in all stores, the company is working out supply issues with its vendors but has no intention to discontinue selling sun butter  -- and that made both of us feel better.
As we raise our children, we often find great products that become staples in our homes.  This sun butter story ends happily but sometimes some of our favorites do disappear.  This is especially true for products that are created for special diets, the allergy-friendly foods like Earth Balance, non-nut butters, gluten-free snacks, non-milk alternatives (RIP TJ's whole grain milk) in the world that are more expensive to produce and therefore a bigger commitment of our monthly food budgets.  
If you are a huge fan of a specific product or company, continue to buy their products.  But also write them your own love letter, "like" them on Facebook, and share your experiences on a blog and with friends and families.  Make your voices heard!  The internet with its many social networking opportunities can be a powerful tool in getting your impassioned messages out and creating a larger, collective force of change. 

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