There’s nothing much we admire more than clever and creative locals seeing a niche or having a unique little dream and getting stuck into making it work and making it their own, and lately our eyes have been caught and our tums made happy by some incredible boutique food businesses offering up delicious, nourishing, ethical, considered and generally just good food and drink products – so we thought it was time we gave some of them a bit of a well-deserved spotlight.
Next up is Roman Jewell, who along with his wife Andrea, built a peanut butter obsession into a fully fledged peanut butter business like no other (there’s chocolate and chillies involved) with an instant cult following among fellow peanut butter nutters…
How was Fix & Fogg born?
I guess Fix and Fogg is really the result of an obsession I had to make the perfect peanut butter. The obsession turned into a hobby, which grew into a business.
My wife Andrea and I have always loved peanut butter but our nut butter odyssey kicked off in 2013 when I had a new year’s resolution to become more ‘horizontally skilled’ (as opposed to ‘highly skilled’, which seems to be the focus of a lot of jobs), so I tried my hand at a bunch of different things like cheese making, pottery, sewing… and peanut butter was something I couldn’t crack straight away. The two of us began investing more and more time trying to create the ultimate-tasting peanut butter. We’d stay up late at night working on our roast or talking about equipment that could help us improve the recipe.
We started selling peanut butter at weekend markets in Wellington but found we couldn’t keep up with the demand, so I decided to take the plunge and quit my legal job in January last year and make peanut butter full-time. At the time, it was a really scary decision, but we just dove in blindly and went for it.
What kind of a challenge has it been introducing something new to the New Zealand market?
It’s always a big challenge starting something completely new (and cashflow was certainly a biggie for us), but I think you just have to go for it – throw yourself at whatever you decide to do. There will always be handful of naysayers (they don’t matter), but the experience of turning an idea and belief into a tangible product that people enjoy has been an incredibly rewarding feeling.
We’re lucky in New Zealand that there are a lot of independent, creative food and beverage businesses – it’s a community in itself and we’ve found we’ve learnt a lot from other like-minded people.
Where is your product made, by who, and what from?
We make peanut butter in our small ‘nut buttery’ in central Wellington. We’re tucked away down a laneway in the former basement of the Hannah’s Shoe Factory. There are four of us who make the peanut butter each day, plus Andrea who helps with all the backroom accounts. Occasionally, people wander past and tap on our window and we sell them fresh jars of peanut butter, which is a nice way to break up the day.
We work super hard but there’s always a lot of banter, coffee and a diverse range of music. Everyone comes from different walks of life, which I really like. We’re all big foodies and always have a shared sit-down lunch – it was something I was keen to do after travelling through France a few years ago and watching how French people value that time of day.
What’s something people might not know about your brand or your product?
It seems crazy but all of our crunchy pieces are hand sieved. It’s a hugely time consuming process but ensures we have the perfect the consistency and texture.
What was the first product you made, and what is the latest? Tell us a little about each…
We make four peanut butters: Smooth, Super Crunchy, Smoke and Fire and Dark Chocolate. We started with Smooth and Super Crunchy, which are made with peanuts from Queensland and organic New Zealand sea salt. We buy a particular type of peanut that has high levels of monounsaturated oil (the good type that’s also found in olive oil).
We’ve since released Smoke and Fire, which is a savoury peanut butter made with smoked paprika, manuka smoke and organic New Zealand grown chillies from Kaitaia. Early this year we also brought out a Dark Chocolate peanut butter made from Ghanaian chocolate.
Do you have a favourite?
I really like our Smoke and Fire peanut butter – it’s such an interesting flavour and I like the way it’s uniquely a savoury peanut butter. I eat it most mornings on toast with tomato or avocado and lots of cracked pepper.
What are your current favourite ways to eat/serve your peanut butter?
Obviously, we’re mad peanut butter addicts and are always playing around with different flavours combinations – I find it really interesting because it’s the sort of thing that goes well with both savoury and sweet dishes. Right now I’ve been adding it a lot to smoothies with oats, honey and chia seeds.
A lot of things we’ve done this year have been to manage and preserve the quality and integrity of what we do. It’s something we talk a lot about as a group. We currently donate peanut butter to a number of charities, and I’m keen to continue to grow that side of things.