MEET STU // FOUNDER OF PEANUT BUTTER START UP MANILIFE
TO CELEBRATE OUR COLLABORATION WITH MANILIFE, WE WANTED TO GET TO KNOW STU!
Stu, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at ManiLife?
I’m Stu, husband, father and founder. I like to think in that order, though my wife may not agree..! My role at ManiLife has changed inexorably since we started out but now my focus is on building our vision for the next 3 years, maintaining key relationships (I am finally returning to the farm in Argentina this year!), leading NPD, being the public face of the brand and, hopefully, keeping the team inspired.
We’d love to know, where does the name ManiLife come from?
Mani means peanut and initially life was just a useful 3rd syllable. However, it has become the encapsulation of how we hold ourselves outside of the product. We, genuinely, hold people at the heart of what we do to the extent that if the family I met in Argentina 7 years ago made honey, I’d have started a honey brand.
Why did you choose to make peanut butter over any other nut?
The family I met in Argentina grew peanuts. There are secondary reasons like, they taste better and are better for the environment but ManiLIfe was born out of great relationships more than it was born out of product obsession.
What inspired you to start making peanut butter?
I, quite randomly, started working for a peanut butter social enterprise whilst I was living in Argentina. I thought the product and the impact it had on those we worked with was great. I met the family who runs the estate that we still source all our peanuts from, loved them and loved their product. I looked at the UK market whilst I was still out there and saw no one had framed peanut butter in the same way as coffee/chocolate. There was no mention of provenance, no mention of craft. To me, it was obvious there should be so I imported a tonne of peanuts and started making it, with a few pals in a rugby club kitchen…!
As a start-up we’re very aware there are lots of challenges that come with building a new brand, but also lots of very rewarding moments. What’s been the biggest moment for ManiLife as a start-up?
There are too many but I suppose a pretty big one was when we accidentally burned a batch of peanuts in 2015. From that mistake came ManiLife Deep Roast Peanut Butter (the first dark roast peanut butter on the planet).
In 2019 it became the first peanut butter in history to win 3 great taste stars and just a few months ago, Jif, the biggest peanut butter brand in the world launched a dark roast variant. It’s quite cool to think that a group of young lads messing around in a kitchen changed the face of peanut butter.
We know you have a very loyal customer base, what is unique about your peanut butter that keeps bringing people back for more?
I think it just tastes better..! For fear of sounding arrogant, I’ll read out a recent review (picked completely at random)
“This stuff should be illegal. It’s off the scale. It’s sublime! Take one crisp refrigerated Pink Lady apple, cut into thin slices, and then dunk into this gear and you will, I guarantee you, be transported with every bite beyond heaven and into a higher state of deep nirvana. I mean, it really is one of a kind. I don’t work for this lot. I don’t even know who works for them. But I do know that they’ve achieved a product that is way, way beyond the reach of any of their rivals. This is worth seeking out and then hiding it away somewhere super safe.”
If you were one of the flavours of your peanut butter which would you be and why?
Original Roast Crunchy because it’s my wife Saz’s favourite.
What’s your favourite plant-based recipe to make using your peanut butter?
Sweet potato peanut curry (with chunks of aubergine – I really really like aubergine)
Will there be any more nut butter lines or are you sticking to peanut butter?
Never say never but we’ve got a lot more to explore with peanuts before we get stuck into any of those upstarts.
Join us this Veganuary to celebrate the power of plants with our time-limited ManiLife collaborative special and help make a positive impact within the local community with £1 from every bowl being donated to Made in Hackney.
The bowl is available at the atis Old St Store, the atis Eccleston Yards Store, via Click + Collect and on Deliveroo between 4th of January-31st of January.