Jason grew up in Barrow, Alaska exploring the state’s landscapes and participating in various outdoor adventures. He attended Alaska Pacific University and graduated in the Fall of 2002 with a degree in Outdoor Studies. Jason would continue his explorations around the world, but it was a kite surfing trip to the Philippines that ultimately lead to an unexpected discovery.
How did you first learn about Pili Nuts?
I started kite surfing and decided to book a trip around Asia to enjoy my new hobby. While on the trip, I heard about a place in the Phillippines that had great surf and very few knew of its location. While working our way to through the northern Phillippines, we came across the Pili Nut and were blown away by the taste. I knew I had to learn more about this nut.
I located the region the nuts came from and flew there to learn as much as possible. I bought 10 pounds and brought them back to the States in my backpack. I purchased 100 plastic bags off the internet, bought a sealing machine, and a scale off Craigslist. Then, I found a graphic artist to design a sticker to put on the purchased plastic bags – this was the beginning of Pili Hunters. I would travel up and down the West Coast kite surfing, sleeping in my truck, and trying to sell Pili Nuts.
How are the nuts harvested?
The nuts are harvested by hand. Guys climb 100’s of feet off the ground and use a stick with a hook at the end to pull down the nuts one by one. It’s very labor intensive!
What are Pili Nuts similar to, if anything?
The Pili Nut is hard to describe. It’s a mix between a pine nut, macadamia, pistachio and maybe a little Brasil nut. The Pili Nut is rich, buttery and earthy. It’s an awesome nut!
How have you grown the business? How does one go about introducing a newer product to the North American market? How do you generate excitement?
I worked my butt off selling to stores. I also went to Paleo, and Keto food shows to introduce the product. A few companies have already copied us.
We’ve expanded our product line, but because of the market competition, I have to come up with new products continuously to stay ahead. We have some exciting new stuff coming out soon including various kinds of butter!
Beyond online, where can consumers purchase your nuts?
We sell in 150 stores, but people can purchase online through www.eatpilinuts.com.
You majored in Outdoor Studies, right? What did you do with your degree after graduation?
Yes, I graduated with a degree in Outdoor Studies (OS), and I had a blast! I learned so many skills that apply to business, and life. I loved every OS class I had with Paul, Dave, and Roman including the environmental aspect of the curriculum. Everyone should take an OS course – nothing but love for APU.
Additionally, I used my degree to work as a mountain guide for 11 years. I was lucky enough to work all over the world, which gave me an appreciation for travel, new cultures, and ADVENTURE.