Kaiser goes nuts for Badgers

Mariah Howland

Chris Kaiser

Johnson State College and Vermont Peanut Butter hoisted high into the rafters of the Carter Gymnasium the new banner emblazoned with each other’s logos Tues. Feb. 12. The half-time ceremony, coming during a Badger men’s basketball loss, 84-67 to Castleton State College, celebrates not only JSC’s new corporate partnership with Vermont Peanut Butter (VTPB), but the innovative nature of the deal itself.

JSC and VTPB are charting new ground, plying a new, green, local, organic spin on the idea of a corporate patron. “It’s pretty unique to have a D-3 institution pair up with a corporate partner like this,” said Elaine Harvey, JSC’s newly hired assistant director of external and internal information. “Certainly it happens, but there are no guidelines. There are no real rules around it. So, were excited to pioneer this type of partnership.”

The partnership is going to help both entities grow, said Harvey. “Right now we just have a banner up. It’s free advertising for him [VTPB’s Chris Kaiser]. And, it’s kind of neat. Both logos are beneficial: His logo for us gives us cred, and our logo gives him some cred.”

According to Harvey, the pairing began as the brainchild of Director of Athletics and Recreation Jamey Ventura and founder and CEO of VTPB Chris Kaiser.

Kaiser, an athlete with a mountaineer’s wiry build, described the beginnings of the unusual coupling while waiting for the men’s game to tip-off last week:  “Jamey and I just came into contact with each other, and we wanted to have a way to have a food partnership that wasn’t sugar and caffeine-oriented.”

Surrounded by the sound of squeaking sneakers in the gym, Kaiser is right at home. His outfit better suited for an early autumn assault of Mt. Mansfield than a typical corporate ribbon-cutting, JSC’s new corporate partner, it would seem, fits easily with Johnson State’s own image.

“Us being a local company that’s going to be growing quite big over the next few years,” he said. “We wanted to start a grass-roots relationship with a college and use that as a stepping stone so other universities and colleges can say, ‘Hey! We could do this partnership too, and offer discounts to students, and offer it in our cafeterias, and we don’t have to have large companies like Coke and Pepsi monopolizing and throwing sugar in all these kids’ faces all the time.’ It’s a problem.”

The business ethos of Kaiser and his peanut butter fits tidily with JSC’s own, according to Harvey. “We’re both, I think, a perfect match because we’re committed to education, and he’s committed to health,” said Harvey, “But, we’re also both really invested in the local community. Chris’s priority is being Vermont-based, and employing in Vermont.”

Kaiser’s resolve to remain local was tested after Irene mauled his operation in Waterbury last fall. As a result, VTPB moved from Waterbury to Morrisville. Nonetheless, Kaiser says he plans to remain in the vicinity even as his company grows.

“The Vermont brand carries weight,” said Kaiser. “We do 100% of everything that goes into the jar right here in Vermont. We use the best ingredients, and we’re just trying to make sure that everything about this product holds true with the synergy between quality and Vermont products. We’re one of the only companies that uses US-grown nuts, US-grown ingredients, no GMOs, no hydrogenated oils, no palm oils, no tricks. It’s the cleanest, tastiest, fun peanut butter on the market,” said Kaiser.