How an almost blind man turned a family peanut butter recipe into a $10 million annual turnover

It all started with a love of peanut butter, and an age old family recipe.

As a lifelong fan of the spread, New Zealander Bruce 'Pic' Picot found himself "disappointed" and really "gutted" when he purchased a jar of homebrand peanut butter and the sugar content was through the roof.

"In New Zealand, we never used to have sugar in our peanut butter," Mr Picot told Australia's news.com.au.

"But I had seen American peanut butter which loved putting sugar into their spreads, and I knew that would eventually come here.

"About 12 years ago, I purchased a 1kg tub of regular peanut butter, and all I could taste was the sugar. It was really disappointing and disgusting."

So after making a call to complain, the customer support team informed Mr Picot that the reason for the sugar was to cater for the appetite. People were changing their tastes and becoming addicted to the sugary taste.

But instead accepting the new wave of peanut butter, Picot opened up the family vault - and had a go at making his family's own nutty recipe.

"My mum and aunt used to make peanut butter at home, by using an old Vitamix blender," he explained.

"They would roast some peanuts and squash them up at home in the kitchen. Then they'd add a little salt, and that was it. Peanuts and salt."

Buying his own peanuts, and roasting in his kitchen - Pic soon started making a few jars of the two-ingredient spread.

His son, who was 12 at the time, fell in love with the texture and taste of his dad's product and started introducing it to some of his school friends.

"They gave me $5 for a jar of the peanut butter because they thought it was the best," Pic said.

"That's when I thought that maybe people would actually buy it if I made enough of it."

At the time of planning his peanut butter business, Pic was pulling in around $200 a week at his local laundromat.

Pic Picot of Pic's Peanut Butter. File photo / The Oamaru Mail
Pic Picot of Pic's Peanut Butter. File photo / The Oamaru Mail

But with his eyesight continuing to diminish due to Macular Degeneration - a condition which causes loss of central vision, making him unable to read or write - Pic had to give his laundry business up; which was keeping him afloat financially.

"When I closed the laundromat, I figured if I made 30 jars of my peanut butter on a Friday morning and sold it at the local market that afternoon, I might be able to make some money back," he explained.

"I thought it would be fun to be at the market as well."

Realising a single blender in the kitchen wasn't going to make sufficient jars of the spread, Pic saved up $10,000 and spent part on 40 bags of peanuts, and the remaining funds on a stainless steel concrete mixer.

"These blokes down the coast in New Zealand made concrete mixers, and had a food grade one which I could put a burner underneath," he explained.

"I put the peanuts in the mixer and rotated them, which was all set up in my garage.

"I found a second hand supermarket grinder to grind the peanuts on the spot, and just started to fill jars. I was able to make 40 jars in one morning, and take them down to the market to sell $5 each."

Word spread and as every week rolled by, Pic was selling out of jars faster than he could keep up.

"People from all over New Zealand started to come and see me in Nelson, and locals would come back every week to buy another jar," he said.

"It was really starting to work, and some people started to ask about ordering online, so that's when I decided to start a mail order business."

For Pic, his business hit a boom when the local supermarket approached him and asked for a crate of Peanut Butter to sell within their store.

"They wanted 96 jars, which as the time was a huge order," he said.

"I was heading into retirement, and I could see this was going to get very busy. But I decided to fill the order, and then demand just kept growing."

The demand for Pic's Peanut Butter outgrew his kitchen, meaning he had to source a proper kitchen that met health and safety standards.

"I leased a little kitchen which is where I worked for the next year," he said.

"It kept slowly growing, so I got some people in to help me when we started making around 1000 jars a week, which earnt us around $5000.

"It just grew so quickly. In 2007, I was making just $200 a week, but now we are turning over $10 million a year".

At first Pic's Peanut Butter was only being distributed in New Zealand, but today the spread can be found in shelves across the world - including Australia, Vietnam, China, Japan, Singapore and most recently, the UK.

"We have been in Coles for nearly two years, and then we went into Woolworths just over a year ago," he said.

"It's wonderful to be able to say to people they can get the peanut butter in big supermarkets because everybody knows where they are.

"What the supermarkets really like about Pic's is that we have premiumised the category.
"Peanut Butter used to be made cheap as possible, so initially when we took it to New Zealand supermarkets, they thought it was ridiculous we wanted to sell a jar for $7.50.

"But now we are outselling every other brand in NZ three to one. We have 40 per cent of the market, and we are twice as expensive as the cheaper brands."

Today, Pic's Peanut Butter make 15,000 jars of peanut butter each and every day - which is around 2.5 million jars each year.

With distributions continuing to grow, Pic hopes to reach four million by mid-2018.

Today, Pic's has 35 employees in the small town of Nelson, New Zealand. And by using 2000 tonnes of Australian peanuts annually, he hasn't found "anything that's remotely as good" in the world.

"I think some companies out there compete to make the cheapest peanut butter possible," he said.

"And their taste just gets nastier and nastier."

- news.com.au

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