PIC Picot can’t remember a time when he didn’t like peanut butter – that was until mid winter in 2007 when he had been out of peanut butter for about a week and finished up buying a big jar of a crunchy house brand from a local Nelson supermarket. The newfangled idea of adding sugar to it had been introduced in New Zealand about a year before but he had naively thought that it was only in the products targeted at kids.
“I plunged my old grandmother’s bone handled knife into the newly bought jar and spread it thickly over my well cooked slice of Vogels – and took a bite. I didn’t actually spit it out but it just wasn’t to my taste. I checked the label – 10% of sugar or about half a cup in every kilo jar,” he said.
Pic rang the customer service number on the jar and got told their surveys had shown that this was the way people (like him) liked it.
And that’s how Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter, a premium product made in Nelson, got started. And despite it being almost twice as expensive as the major brands, it is one of the fastest selling sku’s in Foodstuffs Wellington and Christchurch where it was first warehoused early in 2011.
Pic’s experience led him to buying a ten kilo bag of peanuts, roasting them, putting them in a blender with a little salt.
“And God it was good,” he said. So he messed around with different levels of roasting and then blending and even blew up the blender. But his friends all loved it and wanted more. Now Pic is a bit of a character who had to close down his little Nelson Laundromat that gave him a few dollars of handy cash. He missed the couple of hundred dollars a week and figured if he could sell 30 jars of his peanut butter at the Saturday market, he’d be back in the money.
So be bought some jars, tracked down a small peanut grinder and easily sold his first output that weekend. The family oven didn’t make a very good roaster and he burned a lot of nuts because he couldn’t move them around. He then toyed with doing them in the microwave but it just burnt them faster – and more spectacularly. So he went looking for something in which the nuts could roast and move around at the same time.
The answer was obvious – a concrete mixer with a burner underneath it. So he had a stainless steel one built and set up in his garage. It worked a treat except for a couple of minor mishaps. The first involved a power cut that stopped the drum rotating but left the gas burner roaring and only a neighbour’s quick alert at the billowing black smoke saved the day, a minute or two before the fire brigade arrived.
The other incident was a little more exciting. The garage was at the top of a steep drive and the roaster, being on wheels, vibrated its way out the door down the drive trailing its gas bottle and power lead into the middle of the road. The whole event finished up on Youtube. Clearly this was in need of some organization so Pic leased a commercial kitchen in a disused meatworks and the orders started rolling in. His one man band became three as he was joined by Craig and Amanda Dawkins who had worked for Nelson jam-makers Anathoth.
“I was determined to keep the business small and beautiful, avoiding forklifts and office staff. For a while we were able to borrow a forklift on the
few occasions we needed one, but trucks began arriving more often and before long we had pallets of peanut butter to be loaded. “So we finished up hire purchasing a forklift,, brought on more guys to help Craig in the factory and Amanda set up full time in the office,” said Pic.
By then, everything was happening around them. The peanut butter was selling well in the Nelson and Marlborough area, Amanda and Craig
were having a baby and Pic’s eyesight was deteriorating badly. Mail orders were pouring in from all around the country and if the little factory wanted to sell more, all it had to do was make more. “The key was pacing our sales effort to make sure demand didn’t outstrip supply,” he said.
Anyway, making peanut had become a business and new buildings were leased in late 2010 with the first serious commercial production in March last year. The increased capacity has allowed Picot Productions Ltd to range its product nationally in both supermarket groups and just a couple of months ago, the company began distribution in two Australian states.