Carmel Valley-based NuttZo wins honors for Small Business Month
Seven years ago, Carmel Valley mom Danielle Dietz-LiVolsi created an organic nut and seed butter so her children would eat. Today, her product is sold internationally and was recently named one of the 78th Assembly District’s 2015 “Small Business Month” honorees by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.
“It’s super-exciting,” Dietz-LiVolsi said. “I’m a big local advocate, so to have it be a local award is an honor. It’s my hometown, so it’s a big deal.”
The idea for NuttZo came after Dietz-LiVolsi and her husband, Kevin, adopted their son Greg from the Ukraine in 2002. The family pediatrician advised they feed their 3 1/2-year-old boy protein because he was so undernourished.
“Greg was super-malnourished and super-vitamin-deficient,” Dietz-LiVolsi recalled. “He was very skinny and had a lot of eating issues.”
Because Greg didn’t like meat, his mother had to get creative.
A peanut butter lover, Dietz-LiVolsi decided to make homemade nut butter, adding ingredients such as hazelnuts and flaxseed, to give her son the nutrition he needed. The nut butter proved popular with Greg, and later with Matthew, the 1 1/2-year-old boy the couple brought home three years later.
While cleaning the food processor one night, her husband asked her why she didn’t just buy a similar product at the store. Knowing there wasn’t anything like it available, Dietz-LiVolsi had an “aha” moment and decided to bring her nut butter to market.
Soon after, the radio sales rep quit her job and launched NuttZo in 2008.
“It was kind of a non-brainer,” she said.
A year later, NuttZo was on the shelves at Jimbo’s in Carmel Valley — the family’s grocery store.
“I try not to get too ahead of myself, so I have no expectations,” said Dietz-LiVolsi, whose sons are now 16 and 12. She also has a biological 26-year-old daughter. “I’ve been super-fortunate.”
NuttZo offers crunchy and smooth versions of its seven nut and seed butter spreads. There are three flavors, including original peanut, PowerFUEL — which she said is comparable to almond butter — and chocolate.
Today, the organic product is available at about 2,500 stores — including Costco, Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market — across the country and is even available overseas in Kuwait.
A 2011 endorsement from TV’s “Dr. Oz” helped propel the product’s popularity.
Dietz-LiVolsi donates a portion of the product’s sales to Project Left Behind, a foundation she and her family created to help orphans around the world. Since it was established in 2008, the nonprofit has provided shoes, meals and education for children in five orphanages.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Dietz-LiVolsi said.
For more about NuttZo, visit www.nuttzo.com.