Made in KG: Runner — the First Kyrgyz Brand of Peanut Butter
GO KG's Made in KG section is continuing to introduce different businesses based in the Kyrgyz Republic. This will include stories behind both established businesses and startups worth attention. Previously we've told you about OA Kyrgyz Organic, a Kyrgyz organic food manufacturer and World of One, the very first Kyrgyz indie platformer. This time it is quite an unexpected product for the Kyrgyz Republic, peanut butter — Runner is the first Kyrgyz peanut butter brand. Runner peanut butter is currently available in almost every major market of Bishkek including Boorsok and Globus chains. Don't forget to use our promo code GOKGRUNNER when ordering online to get a 10% discount.
Vladimir Babenko, of the co-founders, says the idea came to him back in 2015, when he couldn't find peanut butter to buy. He visited almost every shop in the city and markets too, but no luck. At the time, he was considering different business ideas and peanut butter production became a good fit. Vladimir thought to name the company after the peanut group, Runner. Moreover, the name matched Vladimir's plan to make the product organic and popular both among kids and sportsmen. 'I used to run a lot then and Runner seemed a perfect name' recalls Vladimir.
The company initially had three co-founders. Two of them were responsible for financing and one — for technology. Later one of the co-founders, who used to be Vladimir's colleague, left for other business opportunities. The third co-founder is Vladimir's mother and she is responsible for the technology of the product. Having a background in chemistry she was a valuable asset after she quit her job, so Vladimir decided to invite her to join.
Currently there are only four team members — two of them are responsible for the production process, the other two — Vladimir himself and a marketing officer. Like it often happens in startups, Vladimir is responsible for everything, as he says, starting from logistics and up to human resources management. 'Today I can be busy fixing equipment and roasting peanuts, and tomorrow I have to sit at the table negotiating with customers.'
Runner was founded in December 2015. An entire year was spent to try different recipes and to put production on rails before the company reached the desired quality of the product. Vladimir has never been in food production business before, but he had a clear vision of the peanut butter he wanted. 'The most difficult part was to start the business' says Vladimir. 'Though there were moments when there was equipment breakdown or when we couldn't define roast level.' There was also little to none information sources in Russian — 'fortunately there was more than enough in English' says Vladimir.
When asked why he started his business, Vladimir says there were several reasons. He didn't want to stay at his previous job and neither did he want to join another company. He loves peanut butter and wanted so start something from scratch. Vladimir says 'Entrepreneurship is a risk, but driving a car is too, isn't it? It makes sense to me, because only here one can actually realize one's full potential.'
According to Vladimir the company is still receiving investments. The nearest goal is to develop a manufacturing plant. 'I think you never stop investing into manufacturing' says Vladimir, 'the larger the volume, the greater the plans'. The line of the products includes four options at the moment — classic peanut butter, crunchy, chocolate and crunchy chocolate. Some customers are already placing orders with a specific composition according to their request. Runner is also supplying other food production businesses with its product.
Runner plans to cultivate a taste for peanut butter in the Kyrgyz Republic, which is not a popular breakfast item in the country. 'We want moms in the Kyrgyz Republic to use our organic peanut butter instead of products with doubtful composition. Our country has the most delicious walnuts and pistachios in the world. We import the best peanuts and sesame seeds from Uzbekistan. And you can make great products from it.'