The Spice of Life and Giving Back
Hot Monkey Nuts was created out of a craving for snacks that were not only spicy, but that tasted good. For so long, I searched for that perfect go-to snack while sitting at my desk at work. One day, I got some free habanero powder in one of my hot sauce orders and on a whim, I mixed it into some cocktail peanuts along with some parmesan cheese and garlic powder. The concoction turned out pretty good for what it was, but I knew the flavor could be improved. Even though I’m a pepper-head, I hold flavor as a necessity above all else. It’s easy to make something spicy, but to make it taste good, now that requires talent. This is where my culinary chops came in handy. I have an uncanny ability to know when a dish is missing an ingredient or just needs that something extra to make it pop. And after few batches, what we now call 3-Alarm Garlic Parm, became the first flavor. The Hot Monkey Nuts moniker came about when my coworker, who called me Monkey Boy, started calling them Hot Monkey Nuts. Our tagline “got the guts? eat my nuts!” was also created during a particularly funny conversation at work where my coworkers enjoyed my nuts and had a ball talking about my nuts, pun intended.
I tried out a few other flavor combinations, where my wife, Cate, who also loves nuts but can’t handle the heat, became the nut-taster before the hot pepper was added. In addition to 3-Alarm Garlic Parm, we created 5 other flavors, that we now call Sour Screamin’ Onion, Nacho Momma’s Nuts, Cinnamonkey Spice, Fromage a Trois and Jamaican Me Sweat. All this happened in 2005. My hobby was merely that, until my coworkers wanted to give them as presents. This is when I knew I had created a unique product line with the potential to become an official business. It all seemed incredibly daunting back then.
Fast forward to 2018, 13 years and 4 kids later, I had a string of jobs to support my growing family, but never felt validated or passionate about any of them. I was working in a toxic work environment and felt myself slipping into the abyss for about two years. My family watched me descend into depression and constant anxiety, but with the support of many mental health professionals and my wonderful wife, I am finally on the long road to finding joy in life again. During the early stages of my recovery, Cate urged me to find joy, meaning, and purpose in my life. She remembered a time when she saw me at my happiest- making spicy peanuts. One night, on a whim, she bought the URL for hotmonkeynuts.com, which happened to be an available web address, and in that moment, my past dream became a reality. Our journey took a few detours, but I am so proud of the brand we’ve built and how far we’ve come since 2005. I couldn’t have done it without Cate’s perseverance, positive attitude and determination to succeed in what seemed like a herculean effort to start a business.
Our purpose is to create flavorful spicy peanut snacks, but we feel so grateful to those that have supported our family, that our mission has become to increase awareness of depression and anxiety. We want others to know that they are not alone- are never alone- in the struggle to regain their lives after thinking that there’s no reason to go on. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org, and have pledged to donate a percentage of our profits to their wonderful organization, who focus on educating, training, and supporting research for anxiety, depression, and related disorders. Greg literally wouldn’t be here today without the dedication of mental health professionals, and this is our way of saying thank you! So, 13 years later, after the crazy years of raising 4 children, I am genuinely excited to turn my hobby into this new venture and share my love of all things spicy with everyone.
Eat My Nuts,
Greg Muenker, Founder