When unable to find anything outside of mass produced products with a three year shelf life, Shristi decided to cater to her own needs. One thing led to another and before she knew it, she had made four different nut butters of which none of the kind were available in the market. With increased encouragement from friends and family, she started what we know today as Rays and Nuts.
Last August, Rays and Nuts celebrated their first anniversary. In the first year alone, they have more than a dozen products in their line of which ten (you read that correct) are nut butters, all handcrafted right here at home.
This is Rays and Nuts by Shristi Rana.
How did the idea of Rays and Nuts come about?
I was very enthusiastic about nut butters but unfortunately Nepal did not have what I was looking for. What we find in stores are mostly peanut butters that are loaded with oils, sugar, salt and preservatives to make them more shelf stable and flavorful, but they almost negate the goodness of nuts. Yes, they are delicious but not the best things to eat for health.
When I began making them myself, I realized that the butters tasted better with nuts alone and there was no need for the additives. The reaction from close ones after tasting them further motivated me.
Who were your target customers, has there been any changes with time?
At first, I aimed at bringing Rays and Nuts to any household, what surprised me was how well it was received. Regardless of age, there was positive feedback from everyone. People realizing the taste of real nut butters without sugar, was one of the most rewarding feelings. Beginning at many farmer’s markets, we were lucky to be introduced to people that have made Nepal their home away from home. Seeing their excitement for ginger and cinnamon spiced flavors in whole food treats brought much satisfaction and motivated us to be more creative.
It has only been a year so we are still building the brand with the regulars, who have been kind to bring us friends and family that become new additions to our family.
What are the different products that Rays and Nuts is offering?
We are using cashews (probably the most favored), almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts for our butters. Using these as our bases, we try to play with flavors as much as possible to make something delicious. Coconut, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee and vanilla are in our current line but you can be sure to expect some bolder moves from Rays and Nuts.
And for the health nuts, we also have butters with moringa cashew butter, chickpea hummus and a super seed peanut butter.
Where do you get nuts from and who is involved in the process?
We have a local supplier for all our nuts who never fails us. To prepare the butters and spreads, it takes a lot of man-hours because I personally make them with some help. That way I can look after the quality of our products and make sure they taste like they should. For the moment, I look after the packaging and marketing myself.
Where do you get the glass jars for your products?
Initially we purchased the jars a few at a time since production was tiny but as we grew we began getting them in bulk from our local supplier.
Where can people find your products?
You can get in touch with us directly through Facebook and Instagram. Our products are available at Maya ko Chino and Evoke Cafe and Bistro, both at Jhamsikhel. On the weekends we had stalls at Le Sherpa Farmers’ Market, Maharajgunj and Farmers’ Market in Bouddha, to which we hope to get back soon.
As per you, do online sales do better or traditional sales?
Earlier, customers would seek us online and come to see us at the farmer’s market or get a hold of our products at Maya ko Chino and Evoke, at which our products are still available. Since we had to put a hold on holding shop at the farmer’s market, we are mostly online which has just been a different avenue for us.
What is the price range of your products?
We begin at Rs. 400 and go all the way up to a whopping Rs.1900. Trust me, the cost of some of our products sound ridiculous to us as well but you have to be realistic and realize that nuts are some of the more expensive foods in Nepal. It takes about 30 almonds to make just two spoons (30 grams) of butter, that is a whole handful of nuts! And although it is a compliment, we have many customers telling us about eating an entire jar of butter in a single day! Our focus remains to bring you the most bang for your buck without cutting down on quality, hence the small, fresh batches.
What are the challenges running Rays and Nuts?
Rays and Nuts has been more of an opportunity than a challenge for me. Bringing something good out to the people and being appreciated, it has been a reward of its own. There were going to be hurdles in any pursuit but nothing has felt like an obstacle in this venture, only the next step forward. The current climate has been a challenge for everybody, not just us and surely we will find a way to adapt and overcome this as well.
What are your future plans for Rays and Nuts?
We are trying to further our reach by making our products available outside the valley. Partnering up with stores outside Lalitpur and improving online purchases and deliveries. With the help of Zapp, our delivery partner, business has held up relatively well.
There are a lot of imported substitutes available in the market, what makes Rays and Nuts different?
We have eliminated all the preservatives, ‘natural flavors and colors that you don’t want to be eating. It does reduce our shelf life to a few months instead of years but so far, no customer has had our products last in their homes for more than a few weeks.
It is common knowledge that not only are those additives bad for the body, they’re bad for the environment. Hence, the glass jars too, that are easily recyclable (we know how much our Nepali mothers love that) we give a small discount if customers return the jars to us, which helps us have a cleaner production process.
How long does it take to get the products ready?
We usually get the products out for delivery by the next day. Depending on the size of the order, you can order today, we can make a fresh batch and you can expect it by tomorrow at your door.
Any unique customer experiences you’ve had?
When coming up with recipes, I created them largely to my taste and fortunately the customers liked them too. In a year, nobody has put down Rays and Nuts for flavor which feels very welcoming. We had our first few runs with only four products but everyone’s increased motivation pushed us to triple our line in just one year.
In addition, since I handled all the sales at farmer’s market and online myself, each customer interaction feels special rather than unique.
From packaging to taste the products from Rays and Nuts is a must. Check out their products on Instagram (@raysandnuts) and Facebook (@raysandnuts).
Interviewed by Trishna Shakya