An idea that led an entrepreneur to a new food product

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512px-Peanut_Butter_Texture (2)I spent two years working in a peanut butter factory in Randfontein, South Africa, and loved it. So forgive me when I get excited about peanut butter and associated food products.

Last year Pick ‘n Pay introduced the Planters range of peanut butter in its stores but sadly with the economy as it is even its flagship on William Nicol Drive, Bryanston, no longer stocks Planters. Pity. But they’ve cut away a lot of frills since opening that store including sometimes no flowers, fancy hand wash or electronically dispensed paper towels in the men’s toilets.

The interesting and innovative part of the Planters product, a company always known for its quality nuts, was that it decided after something like 80 years to introduce a peanut butter. Not only that but the positioning is towards the more mature adult rather than children.

I came across an entrepreneur Justin Gold who came up with an idea from goo packs, gels another squeezable energy boosts sold in stores. He used his savings and borrowed money from family and friends and bought a squeeze pack machine. His squeezable, single-service nut-butter packs come in several varieties such as chocolate almond butter. He’s also gone into a dark-chocolate vegan peanut butter in round jars. Other flavours are: maple almond butter and chocolate hazelnut butter.

Why this product line is so successful in the US is that Justin’s is differentiated from competitive products. Firstly, the ingredients are natural. Secondly, the line has unusual flavours. Thirdly, the packaging (squeezable packs) is different to anything on the market.

Ideas can come from other industries and products and can be applied to new product lines. This can be successful if the innovation brings convenience, ease-of-use, lower cost and other benefits to customers.

A perfect example of lack of innovation in product packaging is honey. A squeeze pack could help avoid using messy jars but no one seems to be interested in experimenting. I realise honey crystallises but surely someone could experiment and find something (without spoiling the raw honey ingredient) that will make it run?

We have some new flavour nut-butters in our home country but have you ever seen them on the shelves? Immediately evident is the oil separation. They look so unappealing that I’ve never bought one.

The Justin Gold story is inspirational for foodie entrepreneurs in South Africa. New ideas, new concepts, innovative packaging and distribution (especially with the high fuel costs) are needed in the food business. With little or no innovation from the majors, foodie entrepreneurs just need to look for and spot the gap. Opportunities will follow.

Excuse me now; I’m off to make myself a piece of whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter.

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