SHERIDAN — In the early 2000s, Bobby Longhurst suffered from a variety of maladies, including anemia, a sinus infection and Epstein-Barr virus. As a result, she received two weeks of care in San Diego. One of the foods she received was a sprouted almond.
The food planted a seed of an idea for her husband Rey Longhurst, who was working as a general contractor remodeling kitchens and bathrooms but looking for a new, less labor-intensive job. He began researching sprouted almonds on his own, buying more than 1,000 pounds of the nuts and testing and examining them in the couple’s garage in Utah for about a year. After he perfected the process, Sprouted Almonds, LLC was born in 2004.
The couple moved to Sheridan the following year. Initially, they rented a garage on Val Vista Street to process almonds but outgrew the space in about two and a half years. They then moved the business into the current location near the intersection of Broadway Street and Eighth Street.
When the business began in Utah, the couple sent almond samples to stores around the country. A few of them bought 25-pound bulk boxes right away and have been customers ever since. The couple only sold in bulk until about three years ago and now offers small packages of original, Himalayan salted and dark chocolate-coated almonds. Rey Longhurst said they sell to stores in all 50 states.
Similarly, the company began making butter about five years ago with creamy original, and today offers a crunchy and salted crunchy butter as well. Two years ago, the company created the brand Longhurst Farms with which to label all of their products. Locally, the Longhursts sell almonds to the Good Health Market and both almonds and butter to Golden Rule Grocers. Good Health Market co-owner Keith Klement said the almonds are one of the store’s most popular items and that the store goes through at least 100 pounds of almonds per month. Golden Rule Grocers co-owner Melissa Smith has done business with the Longhursts for a few years and called the sprouted almonds a great product.
Sprouted Almonds has all custom machines to handle its proprietary sprouting process. Sprouting differs from roasting in that it involves soaking and dehydrating over about a 12-hour timespan. The sprouting process removes an enzyme inhibitor in almonds and makes them easier to digest. Sprouted almonds also have more fiber and less toxins. The small sprout is actually inside the almond.
The Longhursts are the only two full-time employees. Rey Longhurst takes care of the machines and bookkeeping, while his wife handles the marketing and sales. When the company receives large orders of almonds or butter, a few part-time employees help with packaging, sealing and shipping.
The Longhursts don’t actually grow any almonds. They contract annually with growers in California who ship hundreds of thousands of pounds of almonds to them every year. The almonds arrive in 2,200-pound crates and then go through the sprouting process. When Sprouted Almonds began, the couple didn’t know if there would be enough demand because the business was one of the first commercial sprouted almond manufacturers.
“We created the demand ourselves,” Rey Longhurst said. “In the food industry, it is very, very difficult to create a new category, and we’ve done that.”
Bobby Longhurst said it was extremely challenging in the business’s infancy to align with all of the federal regulations. They have to meet strict health requirements and undergo annual inspection from the Food and Drug Administration and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture Consumer Health Services.
“It’s been a difficult road for us,” Rey Longhurst said. “Nothing’s been easy. It doesn’t just fall into place. We’ve had bumps along the way.”
The business has grown gradually over time. The products are available online and Rey Longhurst said about 80 percent of its online business comes from repeat customers.
Sprouted Almonds works with about 12 distributors and sells directly to specialty stores around the country. The company also recently began selling to small stores in Canada and owns buildings next to its operating warehouse, so it may expand in the future.
The job involves round-the-clock diligence, but Rey Longhurst would rather have it that way.
“When you run your own business, it’s 24/7,” he said. “But I prefer my privacy, I prefer my independence, I prefer the challenge.”
Furthermore, Rey Longhurst said he gets his creative outlet from working on businesses like Sprouted Almonds. It doesn’t feel like work; instead, it is rather enjoyable.
“Most people — maybe 95 percent of the people in the world — would consider what I have done an insurmountable task,” Rey Longhurst said. “But to me, because of my God-given skills and abilities and desires, it’s been fun.”
From an idea that began under severe circumstances, the Longhursts have grown Sprouted Almonds into a unique, sustainable operation.