MANSFIELD — People who struggle with peanut allergies now have a new alternative that's being created right here in Mansfield.
Amy Andes, an OSU Food Science PhD student, has released a brand-new product for people with peanut allergies. Banzo Butter is a garbanzo bean spread that mirrors the taste and texture of nut butters but is free from the top 14 food allergens, gluten-free, and vegan.
"I'm not doing this for money, I'm that poor grad student stereotype," Andes said with a laugh. "I'm doing it for all my friends and family that have food allergies."
Andes is part of a three-person team behind Banzo Butter, working alongside Roshen Karavattuveetil and Ben Thomas. The group prioritized the product to be allergy-free.
Currently the team is working out of the Idea Works kitchen on shared equipment, which limits some people with severe allergies. Eventually they hope to move to a completely allergy-free environment.
Banzo Butter's basic ingredients are simply garbanzo beans, oil and sugar; the strawberry flavor adds freeze-dried strawberries, and the chocolate flavor adds cocoa powder.
Anything you can do with peanut butter, you can do with Banzo Butter, Andes said. Her personal favorite is to eat it with ice cream or fruit.
"Once you put it in a sandwich, you really can't tell what it is. It really tastes like nuts, which is really cool," Andes said. "I'm most excited about the strawberry, none of our competitors has ever made a fruit flavor."
It's been a long road to get to Banzo Butter. A Chicago native, Andes started off studying chemistry in undergrad, before a medicinal chemistry co-op job changed her mind.
"I couldn't see myself doing it for the rest of my life," Andes said. "I wanted to find a different part of chemistry that intrigued me."
A stint studying abroad introduced Andes to food chemistry and food science. Then, an internship with a company working with food allergies completely changed Andes' mind about her career, focusing not only about food allergies but about start-up businesses.
While food science includes many different components including coloring, microbiology and packaging, Andes' research involves sensory science and how people perceive food with each of the five senses, and specifically food texture aversion in kids.
"It takes so many different food scientists to bring one product to life," she said. "It's a really cool science in general because there's a lot going on, and it's relevant for everybody because all people have to eat."
While continuing her education at Ohio State, Andes was part of a product development team that created the first inspiration for Banzo Butter for a competition with the Institute of Food Technologies. Their team advanced through the competition and won first place.
"We had entrepreneur excitement after that was over," Andes said.
The product first developed for the competition was a garbanzo bean wafer cookie sandwich, with garbanzo bean fudge in the middle. Eventually Andes left the team, and she started a new recipe from scratch.
"I didn't want to give up on the dream, the product had so much potential," she said. "It was a huge learning experience for me."
Banzo Butter has been in development for nearly two years. Andes was ready to launch early this year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
"There were so many times it made sense to stop doing this," she said. "But I think at the end of the day, the thought that always pops into my head is a little kid running around at school holding a Banzo Butter and jelly sandwich, who isn't afraid they can't share this food with their friends."
"It's so important to have food inclusivity; eating is such a social experience, that if you feel left out of eating something it takes away from that," Andes said.
"You shouldn't have to be paranoid when you're enjoying a meal with your loved ones. If we can improve that quality of life, why not go for it?"