Get your fix (& Fogg) of peanut butter in space

Fix & Fogg Smoke & Fire space pouch floats in space. The bright orange peanut butter is in a clear plastic pouch with a white plastic twist cap and a white, red, blue and grey label.

Some people dream of going to space, but others are thinking about what to eat there. NASA allows astronauts to nominate foods to take with them, and for a recent mission, peanut butter was on the list. The team at NASA approached Wellington nut butter company Fix & Fogg to help. After specialist testing, the peanut butter got the countdown for liftoff. Now, Fix & Fogg is spinning around the planet at 28,000 kilometres per hour.

NASA heard about Fix & Fogg after a fan had sent a jar to a friend in America. That friend happened to be an astronaut. And that astronaut happened to be going on the next six-month mission to the International Space Station. The length of time spent in space means small treats are important. Working out how to deliver the snack in zero gravity came next. Glass jars were not an option, and pouches had to be used.

“If you’ve ever looked at food in a pouch you’ll notice it’s runny so it's easy to squeeze out. ‘Runny’ is not a descriptor for our crunchy peanut butter,” laughs Fix & Fogg co-owner Roman Jewell. Special wide nozzles were developed. And have they had feedback about how the crunchy treat has gone down above the clouds? “An astronaut promised me a selfie with the pouch. I’ve sent an email but haven’t had a reply yet. I assume they can get emails in space?”

But Fix & Fogg didn't begin by aiming for the stars. The peanut butter lovers got their start in a Wellington laneway, before heading 400km above it.

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The name Fix & Fogg conjures up images of an old English law firm. This is apt considering Fix & Fogg owners Roman and Andrea Jewell met while studying for a Master’s degree in law. Roman became a commercial and competition lawyer and Andrea, a criminal lawyer. Their stints in the legal system didn’t last long.

In 2010, as part of a health-kick, the couple were looking for an extra crunchy nut spread without preservatives or sugars. They couldn’t find anything that they liked so set about making their own. What began as a couple’s hobby soon became a serious endeavour. Roman remembers the day they realised it was getting serious. “Our first grind of peanuts was 14 August 2013. I won’t forget because the following day Andrea gave birth to our first child.”

As 2013 progressed the pair realised the fledgling business was outgrowing the little commercial kitchens they’d been renting. The owners of Wellington Chocolate Factory heard they were looking for a space, and had a disused basement area in Hannahs Laneway. Roman and Andrea began experimenting in earnest. “It was just meant to be a kitchen set-up, but now we were in the centre of town people kept stumbling across us. They came up to a window facing the laneway and asked for a taste,” Roman says. The pair started selling peanut butter on ice cream sticks. That progressed to selling it on toast, then smoothies, and other creative culinary delights.

Peanuts are being poured from a large silver bowl at the Fix & Fogg factory.

A series of moves followed as they chased bigger and bigger premises. The availability of flat land and large spaces hindered them for a long time. “We felt like a greedy goldfish in a fishbowl — every time we moved the bowl got too small too quickly.” Roman’s love of Wellington kept them looking for premises locally. Their current 2,500 square metre factory employs 20 people and produces a lot of peanut butter. How much? From a dollop on a stick, the factory now produces more than a million jars a year.

Part of the reason for the couple’s firm commitment to Wellington is the community feel of the food industry. “We were part of a kind of business incubator when we started. Parrotdog, Garage Project, and Wellington Chocolate Factory were all in their genesis then. We supported one another.” Support also came from local speciality supermarket Moore Wilson’s, which ordered multiple cartons early on. “Even the local big chain supermarkets were keen to support our startup,” Roman says.

The confidence of the New Zealand market gave them the boost to try the international market on Amazon. Once they had sold 50,000 jars with the online retailer, American supermarket giant Whole Foods was open to a meeting. Exporting to the huge United States market was the holy grail. Now, even space isn’t the final frontier. 

Roman and Adrea Jewell, founders of Fix & Fogg a Wellington-based company that makes award-winning nut butters.

Andrea and Roman Jewell are the former lawyers who started Fix & Fogg.