From Restaurant Cuisine To PBJ: Lettuce Entertain You Teams Up With With Nut-Butter-And-Jam Packaged Food Startup

By By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune

In its first foray into packaged foods, Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises is partnering with a snack startup that sells nut-butter-and-jam packs to the nutrition-conscious crowd.

Split Nutrition, launched last year, was co-founded by two longtime Lettuce Entertain You partners: chef Jeff Mahin, the creative force behind a number of Lettuce restaurants including Stella Barra Pizzeria and Summer House Santa Monica, and Chris Meers, divisional president of numerous concepts including Mon Ami Gabi, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and RPM Steak.

Lettuce Entertain You, a multiconcept restaurant operator, will invest “time and resources to help support the growth of Split” and carry the brand’s products at some of its locations, including all of its Beatrix Markets, Foodease in Water Tower Place and the market at Summer House Santa Monica in the Lincoln Park community area. The venture is Lettuce’s first outside the restaurant world and with a consumer packaged goods brand, the company said. Lettuce Entertain You did not disclose the financial terms of the partnership.

Split’s on-the-go snack packets tap into the growing popularity of nut butters as a source of energy and healthy fats while embracing a staple of American childhood. Its packaged duos come in peanut butter and grape jelly, almond butter and raspberry spread, peanut butter and blueberry spread, and almond butter and strawberry spread.

Chicago-based RxBar, whose success with protein bars prompted its $600 million acquisition by cereal giant Kellogg, also sells nut butter packets with minimal ingredients, though it does not pair them with jams.

Split, which touts using only four to six ingredients, was developed in partnership with Los Angeles performance nutritionist Philip Goglia, who helped Mahin realize “this beloved pairing combined carbs and protein for peak performance and sustained energy,” the chef says on Split’s website.

The backing by Lettuce Entertain You founder Rich Melman, a massively successful force in Chicago’s dining scene since he launched R.J. Grunt’s in 1971, is a big lift for the startup.

“Lettuce Entertain You has always been a school for entrepreneurs, so when two of my longtime partners developed the idea for Split, I was thrilled to be a part of it,” Melman said in a news release. “I always say that the most important thing in food is great taste, and with Split, Chris and Jeff have created a unique and great tasting product that uses healthy, quality ingredients.”

Split’s products are currently available mostly in California, in Erewhon organic grocers as well as some cycling and running stores, according to its website. It plans to expand into Whole Foods Market, among other national retailers.

This article provided by NewsEdge.