Interview with Brandon Hiemstra, founder of House of Macadamias

Read our interview with Brandon Hiemstra, founder of House of Macadamias.

What’s the idea behind the brand?

We want to put macadamias, my go-to healthier living snack on a pedestal so that nut connoisseurs can start to appreciate this most noble of gastronomic nuts that currently accounts for only 1% of all nut consumption (vs almonds 30%, pistachios 20%….).

Macadamias or ‘tree nuts’ as they are more commonly known are quite simply the Rolls Royce of nuts with a deliciously distinct buttery taste and velvety smooth texture. Besides tasting sublime, macadamias are overflowing with nutritional worth, low in carbohydrates (33% less than almonds per 100g) yet abundant in healthy fats (monounsaturated variety) yet low in lectins, which provides better digestion compared to other nuts. 

Throw in the fact that macadamias are high in natural collagen and Omega oils 3,6 & the rarely mentioned Omega 7 that revs up one’s metabolism to burn your calories faster than your body can store them as an unwanted fat.  This gives an early sense as to why the foodie fraternities of Europe are sitting up to learn more about South Africa’s best kept secret. 

What’s your career background?

Growing up in a small, rural town, Nelspruit (South Africa) meant that agriculture has always been close to my heart. My grandfather was a macadamia farmer whilst my father built a sustainable irrigation technology company. Simply put farming and the Lowveld are in my blood!  

With bold ambitions I had to carve my own path which took me to the USA, the only country in the world able to handle and nurture my restless energy. LA became home and yet the people and underlying culture are very different from what I knew so there were times when I felt homesick, which is when I sought to seek out my favourite macadamia snacks.

Tracking them down wasn’t easy, however even when I found them, they were uncomfortably expensive, almost three time the price of almonds. About the same time my good friend Brendon was starting out on a keto diet and facing the same ‘macadamia drought’ dilemmas.

Calling my farmer friends in South Africa it soon became clear that they wanted to get their macadamias into the USA but just didn’t have the right contacts.

Seeds were sewn and tentative plans drawn up and a young team came together, with Brendon, myself, our good friend Jared (who spied the same opportunity in the UK) and David, a homegrown fine snacking guru who became our head of growth and operations in South Africa joining forces.

Where did the name come from?

The name as you might guess underpins that our soul focus is all things macadamia, because this is a very versatile ingredient with bags of potential.

It also reinforces our single-minded commitment that macadamias will always sit centre stage with regards all that we do, the first ingredient on any back-of-pack ingredient deck. Within our current portfolio, macadamia presence sits impressively at between 45-98%! 

What’s been your biggest marketing obstacle?

As any follower of keto will tell you, traditional food thinking feels intransigent and distorted, with carbs at the foundation representing a lion’s share of one’s daily diet.

Until recently ‘healthy fats’ have struggled to find their voice which helps explain why global obesity levels are currently spiralling out of control. Thankfully Lockdown was a time when growing numbers reassessed their food and drink regimes which is why keto thinking is now on the rise. 

What’s been your biggest lockdown lesson?

Even the gloomiest times can have positive ramifications, in this instance increasingly health aware consumers reflecting on and re-evaluating old-school thinking with regards what constitutes good & bad food 

And your proudest moment to date?

As a proud brand currently residing on four continents, every time zone will have ‘food hero’ moments, for example in the UK a massive nationwide high street win was secured when House of Macadamias became part of WH Smith’s NEW, healthier snacking fixture.

That said the recent vertical integration of our fledgling business with the world’s biggest macadamia processing plant pooling the resources of 96 avant-garde framers with a processing volume capacity of 30,000 tonnes of macadamias (with the capacity to rise to 50,000 tonnes in the near future).

Such a move underlines our ongoing commitment to not only be the 1st mover but the leading voice in this rapidly expanding food arena. 

Who’s your ideal customer?

Part of me wants to say food literate, ‘healthier living’ females, yet the truth is any health-conscious consumer who doesn’t want to underwhelm their taste buds whilst pursuing a better-balanced food & drink agenda 

What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Never be afraid to zig when most people zag!

Find out more about House of Macadamias.