Young entrepreneur stirs up a popular peanut butter

PB Crave finding success in Rosemount

Starting a business carries countless risks.

Austin Riess is the owner and general manager of PB Crave in Rosemount. (Photo by Andy Rogers)
Austin Riess is the owner and general manager of PB Crave in Rosemount. (Photo by Andy Rogers)

Hard work is in danger of being worthless, and even then, one is relying on a bit of luck.

Austin Riess, a 2009 graduate of Lakeville North, dreamed of being the boss while working in corporate America a few years ago.

After studying at Iowa State University, he took jobs with Target and Kohls, but he decided it was too risky to work for someone else.

“I sat there and thought, ‘Wow, this is not for me,’ ” Riess said. “I heard people spending 10 years working themselves up the corporate ladder. It’s probably a millennial thing to say, but I don’t want to work 10 years for that. It’s a horrible risk-reward. There’s 5,000 people in a corporate office and 1 percent of those are managers.”

He was already broke and in debt, so he thought what’s the worst that could happen and moved back home to Lakeville.
Now the 26-year-old is the owner and general manager of a peanut butter company PB Crave in Rosemount.

Starting your own business is has its ups and downs. There were many 60-hour weeks over the last two years, he said, with no guaranteed paycheck at the end.

“You have to be able to take denial so many times,” Riess said. “I knew I was going to be working just as hard, if not harder. At 5 p.m. it’s easy to be done and shut your brain off. But when you own your own company, it never leaves you.”

Riess and his father, Curt Riess, who is an investor for PB Crave, had been experimenting with peanut butter flavors for years.

Curt Riess didn’t like peanut butter, but once they started adding organic honey, bananas and chocolate, they were hooked.

“We already have these formulas, so we thought, why don’t we give it a shot,” Austin Riess said.

They designed flavors such as Cookie Nookie, which is a blend of chocolate chips, cookie dough flavoring, honey and peanut butter.

Razzle Dazzle features raspberry along with dark and white chocolate. Choco Choco is a mix of dark chocolate and honey, and it’s no surprise Coco Bananas includes chocolate and bananas.

The products have no added sugar, and they include more natural ingredients than the average spread, according to Riess.

It’s meant to be mixed up. Natural peanut butter tends to separate on the shelf, Riess said.

PB Crave, which now has 10 employees, is found in 3,288 stores across the Midwest including Hy-Vee and Coborn’s grocery stores.

Riess is looking to double, even triple production in 2017 and introduce a few new flavors.

He has about 17 products in the vault, including almond and sunflower butters.

One reason it’s been successful is because Riess feels he knows the target market.

Adults today, especially ages 18 to 35, like buying things from local, small businesses, he said.

“They’re very educated and very informed and health conscious,” Riess said. “They’re also a generation that was given a trophy whether you won or lost. This generation says just because it’s healthy, I still don’t want it to taste bad.

“I’m that way too. I want my cake and eat it, too. In some areas, that doesn’t work and we’re all finding that out. But there are some where they’re not going to put up with it. It’s either going to happen or you’re not going to have a customer. … This is a healthier option that doesn’t taste like sandpaper.”

Millennials also like to spend money on products that honor a greater good.

PB Crave donates 2 percent of profits to Project Peanut Butter, which feeds malnourished children a peanut butter paste filled with minerals and vitamins.

“They can bring kids from borderline death from malnourishment to a healthy child in a month,” Riess said. “I’m extremely grateful that we’ve partnered with them. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and it’s important for me to help others.”

The products are made in Cannon Falls while PB Crave headquarters out of Sweet Harvest Foods building in Rosemount, where they share services like accounting, distribution and marketing.

Riess has already tested out a few new products along with single-serving packages, which could hit the shelves soon.

To find out more information about PB Crave, visit www.pbcrave.com.