The Local Way with Naturally Nuts in Visalia
Oct 24, 2019 11:00AM
● By Catherine Hunt
Story by John Dillion
Photos courtesy of Naturally Nuts & Salina Marroquin
JOHN ONETO has been around nuts his whole life and he’s loved every minute of it.
“I was born in a walnut orchard and my family still farms the same land,” Oneto says. “We’re still on the same ranch.”
He and his family run Naturally Nuts, a Visalia-based business that sells nuts and nut-based products, but he does it differently than his competitors. Oneto boasts a locally focused, hands-on approach to what he sells.
“We love local products,” he says about the honey, olive oils and dried fruits he sells in his store. Often, his products come from a few towns over and he knows the growers personally.
Oneto has a background in nut processing, having co-developed a revolutionary way to prepare pistachios in the early 1990s. “We created a continuous flow brine and roast system. Our competitors came to us to have us roast their nuts,” Oneto says.
Before the process became commonplace, pistachios would often be dunked in saltwater and then roasted. The problem with that, Oneto explains, is that the saltwater would become dirty. “The trick was to figure out how to control the salt levels,” he says. That was where he stepped in.
He and his colleagues invented a brine system that uses saltwater to control how much flavor and seasoning each nut gets, but they do it continuously. That way they wash and salt the nuts at the same time without the dirt remaining in the water. With this system, they were also able to control the salt content of their products, because some of them would not appeal to certain markets. North Americans, Oneto says, like a highly salted nut, where lightly salted nuts sell much better in countries like Japan. The industry has since moved on, he says, but he helped it get there.
Now, he spends his time running his business. After opening their first retail business in 1995, he’s made the full transition to business owner. Oneto says he likes to try and create new products on the fly. “One of our new things we do is nut butters,” Oneto says. “A really big thing right now is plant-based proteins.” Naturally Nuts creates butters from almonds, peanuts and walnuts, among others. “Our almond butter is just the bomb,” he says.
Oneto feels a deep connection with his customers, as well. “Every one of my customers is my friend,” he says. “I just have always enjoyed sharing products from my ranch with my friends and neighbors.”
His shop markets across the United States and they ship nationwide, but sometimes the out-of-state customers come to them. “We get a lot of people here from out of town. They come from all over the United States and from around the world.”
Oneto says visitors to Sequoia, Kings Canyon or Yosemite National Parks will often stop at his shop to look at his products. It’s a privilege, he feels, to be the one to show them the area where a lot of the nation’s fruits and nuts come from.
Naturally Nuts sells products year-round, but the best time of year for them is during the holiday season. “Our real time to shine are the Christmas holidays,” says Oneto. “If you don’t know what to get someone, our stuff is really nice. We make a peppermint bark that is just magnificently wonderful.”
They make their candies in house, as well. Most commonly ordered are their nut clusters and candies, but Oneto says their gift packs are by far their best-selling items. “We’ll make you whatever you like,” claims Oneto. “It can be quite challenging, but we’ve been around a while.”
He says it’s common for orders of well over 20 separate gift packs to come in at a time for a workplace, fundraiser or even just for family. Oneto takes pride in the high customizability of the gift packs. “Everything is good value. We believe in good value,” he says.
Oneto is looking forward to the future of his business. He feels that it’s not the products he sells that let his shop thrive, but it’s the authentic way they make their products. “It’s not that our products are so great; they’re just what they’re supposed to be.” •
Naturally Nuts • 1830 W Caldwell Ave., Visalia
(559) 735-9121 • www.valleynut.com
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