Business is Boring

Business is Boring #34: Pic Picot on making peanut butter the New Zealand way

‘Business is Boring’ is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.

Today’s guest is one of the people I’ve been most excited to meet through the podcast. You will know his products. The ubiquitous jars that over the years have gone from splash-out occasional treat to breakfast mainstay.

He’s the guy who took nuts from Australia, roasted them with clean New Zealand power, and turned them into friendly jars with a red star on the lid. Pic Picot started out with a converted concrete mixer in a garage and has turned his peanut butter business into a 20 thousand jar a day export success, and we’re absolutely stoked to have Pic on Business is Boring.

Either download (right click to save), have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

How did we get to the point where there wasn’t any peanut butter being made here even though we’re a nation of peanut butter eaters and obsessives? Why was all the peanut butter coming off the lines in Australia being made with Chinese nuts, or nuts from far away?

Well, they were still making peanut butter with Australian peanuts in Australia, but these companies were obsessed with adding emulsifiers and things to them. The typical emulsifier these days is hydrogenated palm oil, so they get palm oil and they bubble hydrogen through it or some weird thing so it’s like when you’re making margarine out of oil. So it sort of hardens the stuff up, stops it ever separating, but 10 per cent of hydrogenated oil is very dangerous stuff. It’s full of weird sort of saturated fats and nasty – I forget the name of it – but it’s really nasty, as is palm oil. It makes it taste awful and destroys a lot of the flavour of the peanuts.

Our [peanut butter] separates so you have to mix it up, that’s the deal. If you don’t mix our peanut butter up and it’s oily on the top it’s gonna be dry on the bottom, and that’s your fault, it’s not my problem!

Tell me about the growth you’ve had over the years, what kind of arc have you had?

Well, the best I could figure is that we’ve grown 40 per cent in a year. So we started off making 20-40 jars a week and now on a good day we make twenty thousand jars a day, so it’s phenomenal amounts of peanut butter. There’s tons and tons and tons of the stuff. It seems to still be growing.

Where are you selling it? What new markets are you opening up?

We’re all over New Zealand now, we’re by far the best selling peanut butter in New Zealand and we’ve…

Sorry to interrupt, that’s amazing, because it’s twice the price and it’s the best seller!

I really think the people who were making it before just treated their peanut butter lovers like, you know, when we first went to sell it I’d go into fancy, gourmet shops and go went into shops and say look I’ve got this peanut butter and you could see they’re looking at it “oh, we don’t eat peanut butter, we drizzle olive oil on our toast in the morning”, for goodness sake and the whole thing of peanut butter as kids’ food, it was all gaily coloured jars with dancing peanuts and stuff on them.

The funny thing is, kids really love our peanut butter, you know they really really like it. I dunno why they ever put sugar in it, they only started doing that 12 years ago, which is what really got my goat in the end. I got really upset when I accidentally bought a 1 kilo jar that was half full of sugar and I rang them up, I rang their 0800 number and said “look there’s bloody sugar, why you putting sugar in my peanut butter” and they said well sir, we do market surveys, and that’s the way everyone likes it, which was really annoying for me, so I made some [of my own].

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