Anita Marsee loves peanut butter.
One day she was munching on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when she suffered an asthma attack. It got worse and worse, her throat started to close and she was rushed to the ER. When it happened again and she ended up in the ER a second time, she found out she was allergic to peanuts.
No more PBJ … no more peanut butter cups … no more peanut butter, period … sort of.
“Prior to this my favorite candy was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,” Marsee says. “I do miss peanuts, but the thing I miss the most is the peanut butter cups.”
She started trying different types of peanut-free spreads. “Some I liked and some I didn’t, but I was able to eat my peanut butter- free PBJ again and was so excited,” she says. Still, something was missing. Most of them just didn’t have that peanut butter high she got from peanut butter cups so she decided to create something on her own.
“I thought there might be a chance to create my favorite candy to enjoy again so I started experimenting with different ingredients in order to make candy,” Marsee says. After many attempts she came up with a recipe she truly enjoyed. The candy is totally peanut-free, but you’d never know it (we’ve tasted them and agree).
About a year later she woke up out of deep sleep and thought why not make her candy for other people with peanut allergies to enjoy. The catch then was how to turn it into a business.
Marsee took a Build class at what was then D:Hive and is now the Build Institute.
“I brought samples of my candy in for the class to try and everyone could not believe it wasn’t peanut butter,” she says. “I brought in PNOT Bites, cookies, brittle and fudge and again the same comments – I can’t believe it isn’t peanut butter.”
While Marsee had developed the name for her business and perfected her peanut butter alternative recipes, she was less clear about the nuts-and-bolts numbers aspect of her new venture. The program was targeted toward small businesses wanting to open up in Detroit, and it starts from the ground up. What is a business plan? How do you come up with units? How do you do your overhead? Those programs continued at the Build Institute.
After finishing the class Marsee launched Deta’s Dandy Candy. She decided to start off with the PNOT Bites and go from there. Each piece is made by hand. There is a secret ingredient.
As for that secret ingredient – all she will share is that it’s TLC.
Marsee is not alone in her allergy. In the U.S., approximately three million people report allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. The number of children living with peanut allergy appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).
In some children the allergy is so severe they can’t even eat in the school cafeteria, just in case someone has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something else with peanuts. Some schools have even declared themselves “nut-free,” meaning peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are no more. That’s because peanuts can cause a life-threatening reaction in some people. In many cases the individual doesn’t outgrow the allergy.
If you would like to try Marsee’s PNOT Bites you can send her a message by Facebook messenger. The Facebook page is PNOT: Deta’s Dandy Candy or send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The price for the PNOT Bites is $8.50 for a 1/2 lb. bag, which is approximately 16 bites, and $16 for a 1 lb. bag.