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    HOW I BUILT THE UK’S FASTEST-GROWING NUT-BUTTER BRAND

    There’s fast growth, and there’s Pip & Nut growth. Launched to market in 2015 by Pippa Murray, just one year later her palm-oil-free nut butters had experienced 400% annual growth, with revenues topping £3m. Not bad for someone who’d never worked in food and drink, let alone launched a business.

    “I didn’t even know that FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) was a thing at first,” Pippa says. “I was just a shopper who couldn’t find what I wanted on the shelves, so I set out to create it.”

    From those early days at her kitchen table, Pippa now leads the UK’s fastest-growing nut-butter brand. So how did she get there?

    1) Create a great product.

    As a marathon runner, Pippa was eating lots of peanut butter. It was healthy pre-run fuel and a tasty post-run snack. But eight years ago, when she first made peanut butter in her home, every brand contained palm oil. They were also overly processed, Americanised and didn’t appeal to eco-conscious shoppers. “I could see lots of innovative challenger brands emerging such as Propercorn and Innocent, but there was nothing in this category,” she explains. “I loved peanut butter but no one was doing it justice. So I bought a blender and made my own.”

    Pippa started selling her nut butters on a market stall in Maltby Street, London, something she says was one of the most important things she did: “It was a confidence-builder and allowed me to get instant feedback.

    FEEDBACK WE GOT FROM THE MARKET WAS INVALUABLE

    "You can have a great brand, but if the product isn’t good enough, you’ll never get traction."

    “A brilliant piece of advice I rely on came from David Hyatt, founder of Hiut Denim. He said you can have a great brand, but if the product isn’t good enough, you’ll never get traction. That’s why the immediate feedback we got from the market was invaluable. People started coming back week after week. It was a real buzz and gave me the incentive to keep pushing forward.”

    Within two years, Pip & Nut had launched in Selfridges and Sainsbury’s. Pippa recalls: “2015 was an incredible year. We never dreamed we’d get a supermarket listing in our first year and it’s still one of the highlights. We were growing in independent channels but getting recognition from Sainsbury’s and Selfridges gave us validation and exposure.”

    2) Invest in your brand.

    Pippa credits Pip & Nut’s branding with much of her success. She says: “Getting the brand right was vital, especially in such a crowded space. I wanted a distinctive brand, something playful that would allow us to have fun with our marketing. Developing it was a huge investment, one of the first big things I paid for, but it’s worth paying for people who understand your vision and can create a strong identity.”

    She acknowledges that spending a lot on branding so early on is risky but says the reward can be exceptional. “You’re formalising the personality and essence of your brand, so don’t be scared to spend to make it the best it can be.”

    Pip & Nut’s clever branding runs through every element, from The Nest, its Shoreditch head office, to the squirrely language on the packaging. Which, incidentally, is another area Pippa recommends investing in.

    “If you can only spend on one thing, make sure your packaging is clear and unique, and invest at the shelf too. We put time, money and energy into sampling because once people tried the products, they often converted into a sale.”

    As sales grew, so did the need to scale. And while it was a thrilling time, it wasn’t without its challenges. Pippa had everything from recruiting a team to dealing with product recalls thrown at her. Her approach was to be open and honest about the difficulties she was facing and found that as the brand thrived, so her confidence grew.

    3) Believe in yourself.

    “Remember that without you, your business wouldn’t exist,” she says. “It’s easy to feel like a jack of all trades, especially when you’re surrounded by talented people who know all about supply chains or finance, but you were the one who started the business. I might not know everything about marketing, for example, but I know the most about Pip & Nut. And there’s value in that.”

    There’s also value in talking about the challenges you face. When, just two years into her journey, Pippa faced a product recall, she had to dig deep. Not only was there a significant financial implication, but there were also furious buyers and panicked consumers. So she spoke to a mentor who shared his own horror stories, helping her feel less alone and more philosophical.

    “I learned a lot about resilience,” she says, “and what I’m capable of. Now, when issues arise I’m quite relaxed – because nothing can be as bad as that was.

    4) Don’t overlook young talent.

    “It’s easy to feel pressure to recruit the most experienced people you can afford, but I’m a believer in nurturing young talent. There are people out there with fresh, exciting ideas who will bring energy and vibrancy to your business.”

    Finding these people also helps create the right culture, something that’s been increasingly difficult since COVID. “Pre-COVID, our culture developed organically,” explains Pippa, “but since we haven’t been seeing each other face to face, we’ve had to be more considered about what makes Pip & Nut a good place to work.”


    Spoiler alert: it’s not unlimited duvet days and free lunches.

    “What creates a strong culture is how you treat people,” says Pippa. “Give your team independence, ownership and freedom to fail but with support and feedback, and everyone will feel able to come to work, be themselves and contribute. That’s what builds a fun, thriving and exciting culture.”

    Something else people want to be a part of is the Pip & Nut ethos. A certified B-Corp since 2019, the business’s core commitments of ‘Better Nuts, Better Taste, Better Business’ come through strongly everywhere, from sustainable supply chains to food-bank donations.

    “I always wanted my business to leave the world a little better off than when I started, and being a certified B-Corp is a great foundation. The thought that Pip & Nut can reach people and influence their perspectives fires me up.”

    5) Enjoy the journey.

    Pip & Nut has achieved massive amounts in a short time. It’s been a journey of ups and downs, but one that Pippa says has been a pleasure throughout. Her final piece of advice? Enjoy it.

    “I wish I’d captured more of the early days,” she says, “because it’s so good to look back and reflect on how far you’ve come.”

    Not only has Pip & Nut come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. Now stocked in 6,000 stores, Pippa remains full of ideas for product innovation, international growth and brand exposure.

    And it’s the founder’s continuing passion that will help to pen the next chapter of this company’s inspirational story of a market-stall business that became a trusted high-street brand in less than eight years. Achieving such a feat has taken hard work, dedication and plenty of learning on the fly. Pip & Nut is proof that with passion and perseverance, anything is possible.

    Full interview

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    AUTHOR

    Ben Eason, Head of New Business Relationships

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