Spreading a peanut butter empire with ‘slugs’ – 20 minutes with Pic’s Peanut Butter’s Pic Picot

Everyone has their preferences for how they like their peanut butter – heated discussions have been had, since time immemorial over whether it ought to be smooth or crunchy. But one guy has nut-lovers joining in chorus: they all really like his nut butter.

“I first just knocked stuff out at home, with brown craft paper. You know, butcher’s paper.”

That’s Bruce ‘Pic’ Picot, talking about the packaging arrangements of the first incarnation of his now much-loved Pic’s Peanut Butter’s, using the textured brown paper you used to get your meat wrapped in, once upon a time.

“It was an awful, awful process,” says Picot of those 2007 sessions. “Absolutely tedious.”

Picot was, at the time, hand-labelling hundreds of tiny jars filled with peanut butter he had created, after realising that: A – there were no local peanut butter makers left in New Zealand, and B – they all tasted terrible.

“You soon realise not all double sided tape is created equal,” he says.

It’s been eight years since the first jar from the first batch hit the local farmer’s market, and these days, he’s doing pretty well, with expansion into four different continents (as well as New Zealand, obviously).

But how has his company grown so large so quickly, and why are people, well, nutters about his nut butter?

Picot confesses over the phone that he’s actually never done any advertising, except for relying on word-of-mouth, and the strength of the product itself. However, he does print poems on the back labels of his jars.

“I have this terror of boring people,” Picot says. He views the jars themselves as a publication, and started to put up poems very early on in creating his business.

“I was doing creative writing at a local polytech, and I was writing poems,” he says. He has written some of the poems featured on the jars, while two other poets – Cliff Fell and Bill Smith – also contribute.

Interestingly, Picot says he attributes everything he writes to Smith, though the ‘why’ was a bit lost over the phone.

At the same time, his mantra to ‘not bore people’ has meant a steadfast refusal to jump on the health-kick bandwagon that’s currently storming the world.

“No. No to [labelling] ‘GE free’, ‘wheat free’, or ‘gluten free’. I’ve seen products with ‘organic cane juice’ on its label. It’s just sugar!”

“I don’t want to be in the fashion business,” Picot loudly proclaims.

More recently, he’s put his hand up for the New Zealand Innovators Awards, hoping to get some well-deserved recognition for the newly created Pic’s Peanut Butter Slugs, 30g, or ‘shot-sized’ sachets of peanut butter, designed to be eaten straight out of the pack.

“Confession time. I eat my peanut butter out of a jar,” Picot says.

He reckons there’s this kind of guilty feeling when people do that, not to mention that it could get rather messy, so the slugs are a way to get out of that sticky situation.

Meanwhile, for him, entering the competition was more of an afterthought than something he needed to do.

“Oh, I knew very little about it, actually. I just filled in some forms and thought to give it a go,” Picot says.

Picot says that, for him, entering the Innovation Awards was the same as entering the Deloitte Fast 50 or the Entrepreneurial Awards: just another opportunity to meet people “doing interesting things”.

“[These events] shine a light on interesting companies,” he says. “The main value is the ability for interesting people to meet other interesting people.”

At the end of the day, however, he says his entire business has been built entirely by the little guys.

“It’s very grass roots,” Picot says. “There’s an reliance on people to talk. I can’t believe we’ve grown this big and gone this far.”

And there’s really only one thing he can say to that: “Thank you all so much.”

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 Pic’s Peanut Butter is just one of the many entries in this year’s New Zealand Innovation Awards. If you have an innovation (at any stage of development), ENTER NOW.

Entries close August 4 www.innovators.org.nz