5 minutes with Stuart Macdonald, ManiLife

20 August 2021, 07:00 AM
  • Stuart Macdonald, founder of peanut butter brand ManiLife, on finding fans, becoming a peanut butter nerd and eating a pig's ear
5 minutes with Stuart Macdonald, ManiLife

What would you be doing if you weren’t in the food industry?

Absolutely no idea, but I know I’d probably be single (I met my now wife when I tried to sell her a jar of ManiLife).

What was your first job?

I managed one day working as a barman until I finally came clean that I’d lied to them about my age! After that it was waiting tables and pulling pints (legally) at events all over the UK.

What inspires you?

Pretty corny, but it’s making people happy. For me, ManiLife has always been far more about the people than it has been about the product. We’re pretty fortunate that the two are interlinked!

What’s the worst job you’ve done?

I’m lucky enough that one doesn’t really come to mind. I didn’t enjoy being an auditor (accountant) that much, but even in that there were lots of parts I did like.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Those interactions with consumers where you realise that they are genuinely, absolutely mad for what we’re creating. We’ve had paintings and poems dedicated to us, cakes shaped like giant ManiLife tubs, newborn babies posing with jars and a surprising amount of stuff that probably wouldn’t be appropriate to put in the mag.

And your least favourite?

I probably let the stress of it all get to me a bit much if I’m honest.

How about the food industry?

I think the industry could be better integrated with public health. It’s a tricky one in practice as intervention often has unintended consequences, but it’s mental when you consider the public cost of bad diets. Even small stuff, like the fact that the food offering in most hospitals is still often fizzy drinks, chocolate bars and sweets.

Tea or coffee?

Definitely coffee. I just love how nerdy people have got about it over the last 10-20 years. It’s a massive inspiration for ManiLife. For me, the links between coffee and peanut butter are so obvious, they’re both about:
1. Finding the best raw ingredients and uncovering the stories behind the people that make them.
2. Bringing out intense and interesting flavours through careful roasting.
3. Creating mind blowing mouthfeel and textures. The only difference is coffee has baristas and we have batch blending.

What would be your last supper?

Gousto’s ManiLife PB&J burger. It is honestly out of this world and there is not a burger joint in the land that should not have it on their menu.

What’s your motto?

Do less better. Living by it is a lot harder. I’d definitely put myself in the wild wacky entrepreneur camp.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A pig’s ear. It was absolutely disgusting.

What’s your favourite book?

Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows if we’re getting specific). Unashamedly. I still listen to Stephen Fry’s dulcet tones every night!

Sweet or savoury?

Six months ago I’d be hands-down savoury, but we’ve been getting pretty deep into flavour recently developing a peanut butter tasting school, and I’m realising that all my favourite tasting notes are the sweet ones like caramel and one we’ve called ‘biscuitty’ – haven’t quite hit the sophistication of the coffee nerds!

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