Fix and Fogg on expanding into the US
The Kiwi founders behind what is now being called by many ‘the world’s best peanut butter’ have expanded their operations into the US. Founded in 2014, Fix and Fogg is a Kiwi owned and manufactured peanut butter that has been taking the world by storm. This year, they expanded their operations to Houston, Texas. We spoke to CEO and co-founder, Roman Jewell, about their thought process behind expanding into the US.
Can you tell me a bit about the background of Fix and Fogg? Did you always have global ambitions?
Andrea and I started Fix & Fogg 6 and a half years ago with the goal of creating something meaningful, sustainable and delicious. Things started small (in the kitchen of a lawn bowls club to be exact) but there was so much local demand for what we were making that the business quickly progressed. We now supply supermarkets and specialty stores across New Zealand as well as Singapore, Australia, and the USA.
It’s funny you ask about our global ambitions because the name Fix & Fogg actually comes from two characters in the classic 1873 adventure novel, Around the World in 80 Days. At the time I liked the idea of the business being a great journey and adventure. We are now well beyond 80 days … but Fix & Fogg (the peanut butter edition) is slowly starting to go around the world.
Why did you choose the US as the next location for one of your window shops?
The US is the biggest and most competitive peanut butter market in the world, so naturally we were drawn to it. It’s a bit of a brave and bold move but we’re committed to taking our products, values and proud Kiwi story there. Texas in particular had a great appeal given its huge size and opportunity. We found an ex-pat Kiwi living in Houston and we immediately clicked. We always wanted to open a small window in the USA to give our brand an anchor point in this new market.
To what extent did Covid-19 impact your expansion into the US?
Covid-19 has been a rollercoaster for most businesses and F&F is no exception. It crushed our travel plans, delayed ranging decisions and closed our Houston retail window after it had only been open for one week. The upside was that our US online sales went through the roof – we were lucky to be offering US consumers something that is an every-day item. We also snagged some unexpected press by a well known publication rating us as the ‘world’s best peanut butter’, which significantly helped our sales. You can read about it here.
What does your team structure and operations look like given you can’t really travel at the moment?
We employ two people in Texas who look after everything from selling jars from our window, packing online orders and pitching to supermarkets. We’re a true start-up in that sense – it’s a tiny team trying to make some noise in a large, saturated market. They’re backed up by a team in NZ managing strategy, operations, finance and marketing.
Beyond Covd-19, what has been the most challenging aspect of expanding Fix and Fogg into a new market? What has been the most rewarding?
Dealing with any new export market is challenging – and we often say it takes 2+ years to properly establish yourself somewhere new. The USA is a lot different to New Zealand’s FMCG market – there’s more complexity, players and layers of bureaucracy. Geographically it’s a much larger country so logistics and freight add another cost element.
What advice would you give to businesses looking to expand into a new market during this time?
Do your market research and get advice from as many people as you can to understand the opportunities but also challenges and risks. If you’re in it for the long-term then the current situation shouldn’t stop any decision to pursue a well-thought out strategy.