Cook & Nelson supplies New Zealand with a raft of exceptional food and beverage products from artisans both here and overseas, including McClure’s Pickles and Seedlip. Co-Founder, Nick Brown tells us how he turned a passion for food into a thriving business.
What inspired you to start working with food? My mum was a cook and a chef and so for me, working in kitchens, being around food, sitting around a table as a family for dinner… it sounds cliché but that was very much an anchorage of my childhood. That’s how my wife, Becs and I socialise, we will gather in the kitchen and cook for our friends.
How do you select the products you sell on Cook & Nelson? We look for products that we want but that might not have a strong local or domestic production. We made a decision early on that the products we stocked would have to add value to the market — we didn’t want to just add noise to the shelf.
What do you think has been the biggest driver of your success so far? I do demonstrations once a month and become one of those annoying people at the supermarket. Saying that, I learn so much by watching people and listening to the things that matter to them. If we stepped away from doing that, we would run the risk of becoming a company that shoves stuff down people’s throats as opposed to finding out what they want and responding.
Are you aware that you are one of the pioneers of pickle culture in this town? If we’ve done anything, we’ve inspired local and domestic producers to have a crack at creating a better product, and I welcome that. Rather than creating competition, we wanted to create an opportunity. If there is a pickle culture, it’s because other people are in that space now too — everybody should be eating more pickles!
What does the future look like for Cook & Nelson?
Joe from McClure’s Pickles says that he’s been in the first year of his five year plan for the past 10 years and I think that’s a good way to look at it. It’s not about the end goal, it’s about being present in the moment. I feel fortunate to be sharing the business with my wife and to be raising our kids, and every day I try to take a moment to be appreciative of that because otherwise, what’s the point?w