Almond butter spreads charms after 99th Monkey nuts out Coles deal

Almond butter spreads charms after 99th Monkey nuts out Coles deal

It may seem a long way from the local farmer's markets to a distribution deal with Coles, but Melbourne entrepreneur Nick Sheridan is one who has mapped the route.

And it could all be thanks to one savvy market manager.

Former journalist Sheridan has inked a deal that will see his 99th Monkey nut butter products sitting on the shelves of 650 Coles supermarkets Australia-wide.

While Sheridan is reluctant to talk about the financial side of the deal, he says it means his small enterprise will move at least 500,000 jars a year and step up production to about five tonnes of almonds a month.

And while he happily concedes that luck played a role in his success, that conversation with a market manager didn't hurt.

"My wife and I had returned to Melbourne after a stint in London and I decided I wanted to work for myself and not return to journalism," he said.

"I was making a peanut butter and chocolate spread at home and selling it at my local farmers markets.

As anyone who shops at one will tell you, farmers markets happily accept a wide and varied range of vendors.

"The people who manage markets are fantastic sources of information. Almost anyone can set up a stall so the managers see all these small business set up and they learn which ones will succeed and which will fail.

"I was selling this peanut and chocolate mix and one day the manager asked me if I had a normal peanut butter spread.

"I had one, I was making it for myself at home. They encouraged me to bring it along and it outsold the chocolate mix right from the start.

Sheridan said it was a crucial lession.

"Being open to those types of suggestions were critical for us."

From there 99th Monkey has spread its offering to eight products, with its almond butter the top seller.

Initially, making the move into food production was tough, with Sheridan admitting he had to learn on the run.

"I didn't even know I had to used a registered kitchen to prepare everything, I found it all out along the way.

"But people were happy to help me out along the way and I was very fortunate in that a few food businesses lent me their kitchens out of hours.

"I was also lucky in that in the past five years there has been a lot of consumer interest in smaller brands and products and I was one of the products that benefited from that."

However, things started to break out for the fledging food company when Sheridan attended a food incubator run by yoghurt company Chobani.

"That gave me some great contacts and helped me expand my vision for the business. At that stage we were in a lot of independent stores but we weren't particularly profitable. In the food business you need a lot of volume to be profitable."

The incubator provided the introductions, and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I've loved every minute of it. That's not to say there haven't been huge challenges and times where I thought this isn't going to work," Sheridan said.

"But stubbornness kept me going.

"I'm a big believer in that if you are going to do something you follow it through to the end"

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