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Justin Gold, 35, Boulder, CO
Lightbulb moment: As a vegetarian and avid outdoorsman, Gold relied on a lot of nut butters for protein to power him through his frequent hikes and mountain bike rides. Frustrated with a lack of good options, he started formulating his own nut butters in his kitchen and selling jars at the local farmers' market. Then a game-changing idea came to him on a long mountain bike ride: "I was sick of eating bars and gels, and just wanted a packet of almond or peanut butter," he recalls. The resulting squeeze pack he created put the company on the map with national distribution in Whole Foods Market and Starbucks.
What's in a name: "When I first starting concocting nut butters, my roommates were constantly eating my 'experiments,' so out of necessity, I started writing 'Justin's' on the jar, just like any disgruntled roommate, and it stuck."
Youthful misstep: In the early days, Gold created a peanut butter specially formulated for dogs that contained no salt, sugar, or hydrogenated oils. "I thought naming it 'Doggie Style' would be a fun way to gain newsworthy exposure," he says. "Needless to say, we don't make that flavor anymore."
Up next: Justin's recently introduced a line of candy bars, available in milk chocolate peanut, dark chocolate peanut, or dark chocolate almond. Gold is happy with the company size at present, with 20 employees in the office who have diverse interests, activities, and roles. "But I'd like to double the company over the next few years while maintaining our work-lifestyle balance," he says. Expanding the employee roster is likely inevitable, considering Justin's sold an astounding 25 million squeeze packs and 1.6 million jars of nut butter last year alone.
Meet the geniuses responsible for creating the foods you just can't get enough of
Meet Justin, Amy, Lara, Peet, and the others responsible for the nut butters, frozen meals, bars, coffee, and other foods you love.