Over the last couple of years, we’ve met many customers who know macadamia nuts from their time abroad, be it travelling in Australia, a holiday in Hawaii, or growing up in South Africa. These stories have a fondness embedded in them for a time that has since passed - through the unique creamy, nutty taste of macadamia we can reconnect to these treasured memories. We met a customer with one such memory, and this story is about the personal connection we made through this taste & memory.
On the topic of fond memories, on the weekend of the 18th July 2022 we set up shop at the long-awaited Bedford River Festival. As kids growing up in Bedford town, this event had always been the peak of excitement for Tim & I. There'd be massive bouncy castle slides & delicious street food, and we'd wander our familiar local park and riverside embankment, lost amongst hundreds of thousands of visitors to our otherwise-unheard-of home.
Cancelled over 2020 & 2021 for obvious reasons, the festival returned in 2022 and we were excited to be a part of it. We set up the stall under our trusty gazebo that had joined us in so many farmers markets & specialty food events up until this point. Over the course of the weekend we met Bedfordian family & friends old and new, long-time fans of macadamia nuts as well as new converts. The two-day event was so busy that we were relegated to taking cash payments because the local mobile internet was so overwhelmed. We were having a great time notwithstanding.
In the early afternoon on Sunday, a couple came to our stall and we spoke about how incredible macadamia nuts are and how people in the UK are missing out if they don't know their deliciously creamy, buttery flavour. Chatting happily, Tim & I had had this conversation many times before with those lucky enough to know the nut.
Taking a sample we'd offered, the husband paused and considered the macadamia on his palate, before looking at us and saying something like:
"Wow! You don't get macadamias like this in the supermarkets these days."
When we asked what the man meant, he told us that the nut he'd sampled from our table took him back to visiting Sainsbury's supermarket in the early 1980s with his mum. He described the packaging in detail and said that the nuts from those days tasted exactly like the ones we were selling.
Me and my brother were gob-smacked/aghast/stunned, whatever you want to call it, because the man's story had connected with a revelation our Dad shared with us only months ago. Growing up with family, you're often surprised when they tell you family history you feel you should've already known. Perhaps they'd said it to you a million times before, you just weren't listening. With us, we learned that not only had our Granny Sue established the first macadamia nut processing factory in Malawi in the late '70s, but the Malawian Macadamia nuts she sold managed to end up on Sainsbury's supermarket shelves. These were the same shelves that this customer was telling us about...
...in a crowd of 125,000 people at a river festival...
...40 years later!
We've not stopped talking about this story for the weeks since the festival. When Granny Sue was told, she was taken aback and thrilled. She said she still has the original design work for the packaging and is going to share it with us, which we're excited to see.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Since the late 1970s/early '80s a lot has changed. Now, we're proud to source from the smallholder farming cooperative union, HIMACUL, which means the farmers get paid more for their nuts. The Neno Macadamia Trust has since developed, and is now helping the farmers in tree planting activities, is incentivising smallholder agroforestry with Carbon Damage Mitigation payments, and is aiding HIMACUL's further development. As a family, we're all based in the UK now, but our connection to Malawi and the smallholder farming cooperatives hasn't stopped. In fact, we're planning a business trip for late September in which we'll catch up with the cooperative leaders in a way that's otherwise been confined to Whatsapps and Zooms for the last three years. And while the Malawi Macadamia nuts are back on supermarket shelves in the UK, it is the Co-op Supermarket that's made the move to foster relationships with farmer cooperatives in Malawi through selling nutcellars macadamia.
Towards the end of our conversation with the man from the Bedford River Fest, he told us how he buys the raw nuts regularly and loves to use them in cooking. It made me think that there's so many macadamia fans out there, people who love the nuts for what they are, without need for roasting & caramelising. Price and availability are often problems for these people, but what if it didn't have to be?
How could nutcellars better service this yearning for the queen of nuts evokes such powerful memories AND gives so much back to people who need it the most? Perhaps a subscriber model of some sort? You've read this far, what do you think?
What memories are you going to create?
(Keep scrolling to find out more)