Fix & Fogg’s Roman Jewell opens up about the brand’s battle to get established in export markets – relying on innovation and a commitment to values and quality.
In the hotly contested battle for peanut butter supremacy, husband and wife team Roman and Andrea Jewell continue to make significant strides.
“I believe a large part of our success has been down to a couple of key factors,” Roman says. “Maintaining focus on our values and quality.
“But we also have a hunger for innovation – whether it’s releasing new flavour varieties or creating interesting and sustainable packaging.”
Their business, Fix & Fogg, has seen sales double year-on-year for the past five years, mostly driven by word of mouth.
Its variety of spreads are now sold throughout New Zealand and several export markets, like Australia, Singapore, the Philippines and the US. Exports now comprise an important 20 percent of sales.
Roman says growth is a good thing and every new business needs it, but it has placed an “enormous” of strain on Fix & Fogg’s cashflow.
Despite that, they have never taken external investment, funding the business on their own from day dot.
“It’s been tough at times and nerve-racking having a mortgage over our family home, but at the end of the day we’re huge believers in what we’re doing,” he says.
Starting a peanut butter business took a leap of faith from the two former lawyers, who say running a food business is significantly more challenging.
The pair say holding onto company values when experiencing extraordinary growth can be a big challenge.
“As we’ve grown over the year’s we’ve held on to our core values and maintained our commitment to quality,” says Roman. “In some ways this has hamstrung our growth and the speed of our production, but it’s shown to us that it pays off in the long-term.”
Roman says being a Kiwi company can be both an advantage and limitation – it all depends on the market.
“For selling in Singapore, our New Zealand identity certainly gives us cut-through with customers – it helps elevate the premium nature of our products.
“However, our experience on Amazon over the last 18 months has shown us that US customers don’t value the New Zealand Made tag as part of our core USPs – the emphasis in that market is placed more on ingredients and taste over provenance.”
Fix & Fogg’s Amazon sales have grown from 20 to 100-plus jars per day.
Roman’s advice for other Kiwi exporters is to focus on one export market at a time.
“Things like cashflow, recruiting staff, setting a clear strategy and new product development are tricky concepts to embrace and manage properly.
“Each market will chew up costs and time getting the product selling on the shelf. We made a bunch of mistakes early in our days by ‘spreading’ ourselves too thin.”
The company’s name comes from Phileas Fogg and Detective Fix – two characters from Jules Verne’s classic 1873 adventure novel Around the World in 80 Days.
“Like the story, the idea of embarking on a great journey, taking risks and trying new things resonated with us,” says Roman. “You can get a taste for it in our numerous nut butter varieties and innovative packaging.
“Although we’re not quite sold in 80 countries around the world, maybe one day we could just do that.”
Story by Catherine Beard, executive director of ExportNZ and ManufacturingNZ – divisions of BusinessNZ, New Zealand’s largest advocacy body. Email [email protected]