There’s liking nut butters - and then there’s leaving your job to devote all your energy to launching a range of them.
But for Pippa Murray, who did just that to launch Pip & Nut, it was a no-brainer.
A former producer for the Science Museum, the 28-year-old Londoner had never developed a product before, nor did she have a background in food, describing herself as just a “regular cook”. But neither obstacle was going to hold her back.
“I’m addicted to peanut butter,” explains Murray, who had the idea for the brand four years ago.
“I absolutely love the stuff, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to launch the brand, because this is a product I genuinely love and I genuinely felt I could sell really well.”
Another reason was her desire to find a healthy way to top up on protein while training (Murray’s also a keen marathon runner), and an alternative to the palm oil and sugar-loaded varieties that dominated the peanut butter aisles.
She spent 18 months burning through blenders in her North London kitchen on a quest to make the perfect spread, before winning a competition run by Escape the City, enabling her to live rent-free in the capital, so she could save towards her launch and focus on building the brand. The catch?
“The accommodation was a shed in the back garden in the head office,” says the entrepreneur, breaking into a laugh.
“It was nice. It had windows and doors, and it was summer so it didn’t need heating. There was definitely a moment of, ‘This is so exciting’, and then a realisation that this is real now but also I have to live in a shed for three months and, ‘This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever had to do!’ But it was a great summer.”
Murray started selling her products at London’s Bermondsey Market at weekends. Did she ever have doubts?
“All the time,” she admits.
“I remember when we did the first large manufacturing run, a month before we launched; I remember seeing all these products roaring off the production line and while I loved it, there was a little bit of self-doubt creeping in, like, ‘What if no one buys it? What if I end up with 20,000 units in a warehouse that I can’t sell?’”
That didn’t happen, though, and the “tipping point”, when she realised she could turn her dream into a reality, eventually came. “For me, it was when I got the crowd-funding investment, because up until that point I’d just had my mum saying, ‘This is great and the product’s fantastic’, and my sisters patting me on the back,” she recalls.
“There is something about when you raise private investment, which is what I did when I was in the shed. It really validated my business, because I think people don’t throw money at something they think is rubbish.”
Pip & Nut nut butters - all entirely natural and palm oil-free - are now stocked in 2,500 stores in the UK and Ireland, including Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barrett stores, with plans to introduce new products to the range in 2017.
Murray, who won a 2016 NatWest Everywoman Award in celebration of her achievements, also has a new book just out, called Pip & Nut: The Nut Butter Cookbook - and it’s not just 100 recipes for PB on toast!
“We get tagged in about 100 Instagram posts every day of people eating our products, and it’s great because not many of the pictures are of peanut butter on toast,” she notes, chuckling.
“Most of the time, it’s things like a really amazing breakfast bowl, on porridge, on pancakes, smoothies.
“What we’re about as a brand is telling people you can get quite creative with this product.
“Even if it’s in a small way, cooking is a way of having fun and expressing yourself,” Murray adds. “Why not have some fun with the food you’re eating?”
Want to have fun with your nuts? Here are two recipes from Pip & Nut: The Nut Butter Cookbook.