The “You Don’t Need Us Awards” Round 7 – Penzey’s Spices


So this is a little something that we haven’t done in a while over here at the Brains on Fire Blog. The “You don’t Need Us Awards” celebrate the brands and businesses that are doing such an great job already connecting with their customers and advocates that, well, they they don’t need us.

I’m happy to say that Penzey’s Spices is one of those brands. Penzey’s is an purveyor of fine herbs and spices that is based out of the U.S. My mom is a bit of a gourmet, and I grew up with their catalog always within reach in and around the kitchen area of our house. She still uses them exclusively to purchase all of her spices and spice mixes from. There is bound to be someone that asks about them at any given dinner party, and you can count on Mom to create one or two new customers for Penzey’s that night.

With that said, here are the reasons that they don’t need us.

1. They have a fantastic product:
They are the place that you can look that obscure spice that Julia Child requires for that duck recipe that she wrote in the 70’s. Not only will they have it, they’ll have four varieties of it. On top of that, each spice jar or bag will have serving suggestions printed right on it. I know, this isn’t a new idea or anything, but it definiteely keeps you from having that obscure herb sitting in your spice rack for two years because that Julia recipe was too much of a pain to make again. Having a great product is the foundation, nothing else would really matter that much if that weren’t the case, right?

2. They care about their customers, and have customers that have grown to care about them:

Look at what they say on their job openings page on their website:

“We are currently looking for people who believe that cooking is kindness, and that kindness can change the world”

I think that spells it out plain as day. One of the things that I’ve always been enamored with about Penzey’s is that they always put their customer on a pedestal. I don’t think of a high end spice dealer being really that down to earth, but they pay attention to the fact that their customers aren’t all like Thomas Keller. Their catalogs always feature real people, making real recipes with their products. They focus on making it easy to use the obscure ingredients, and celebrate the adventure of cooking something new.


3. They extend the idea of cooking is kindness thoughout everything they do.

Here’s an example. Every box of herbs and spices that they send out also includes a little extra something. Whether it is packaged with Turkish Bay leaves, or Cinnamon sticks, there’s always something other that what you ordered that gets you excited about cooking. It’s funny, I never knew that there was a difference between Turkish Bay Leaves and Regular Bay Leaves until I recieved them randomly in a box of spices. Now I ONLY use Turkish Bay Leaves, not because I’m a snob, but becasue Penzey’s was right in the fact that they ARE better. Not to mention the fact that if my mom saw regular bay leaves in our kitchen, you’d better believe I wouldn’t hear the end of it. Love you Mom.

That’s it for award number seven. Check out the others we’ve previously given away: USAA, Arborwear, The New Glarus Brewery, Chick-Fil-A, Patagonia, and Johnny Cupcakes.

Any companies or products that you can’t stop talking about and want the world to know? Sounds like they don’t need us. Let us know about them in the comments.


Nathan Spainhour Nathan Spainhour is a Designer + Interactive Director at Brains on Fire. Meet him here.

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