Working full time and trying to maintain a solid foundation for a health and fitness journey, Tushar Menon and his brother, Nishant Menon, noticed that for time-poor consumers like them, there was no no options in the australian market for healthy and hearty food. , protein-rich ready meals.
While there were convenience foods intended to aid weight loss, there was a gap in the market for active consumers who needed more energy.
With the added motivation of wanting to start his own business, My Muscle Chef was born in 2013.
The key elements the brothers wanted to address were time on the one hand and convenience on the other. Also, back when the business started, buying a healthy meal was expensive.
But My Muscle Chef co-founder and CEO Tushar Menon says that before you can overcome these factors, there’s a steep learning curve.
“The biggest challenge when we started was that we had no market experience; it was a huge learning curve to understand the demands of running a food business,” he said. “Also, the fact was that we were dealing with a perishable product, so it could not be produced in large quantities and stored in an ambient temperature facility. Our meals were frozen at the time but still perishable, so it was essential to understand transport and storage and how to produce them in a safe environment.
Nearly ten years later, having gained a good understanding of these logistics has benefited the company. This also translated when they ventured into producing fresh rather than frozen meals. Wanting to move away from a sealed model of Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) – which uses a tray with a top seal that holds product for 10-12 days – My Muscle Chef turned to vacuum packaging skin to maintain quality, extend shelf life and help with logistics.
Vacuum skin packaging aims to keep oxygen out of the product, which preserves it for 14 days and ensures that the flavor is as good at the expiration date as it was at the time of production.
After researching and locating suppliers, they tested the packaging.
“The trials were successful and at first we were a bit unsure as no one in Australia was doing this for ready meals yet,” Menon said. “But we were confident that the positives would outweigh everything else, and it was the best decision we’ve ever made.
“The quality of the product when vacuum sealed is second to none and the food doesn’t budge so from a presentation perspective it was brilliant and from a taste and quality perspective it was amazing .”
Build a connection
Another important aspect in building the business has been building transparent relationships with partners and suppliers, especially in the delivery of their cold chain products. Menon says one of the biggest challenges has been ensuring the correct temperature is maintained from the time the product leaves the factory until the customer receives it. They are the key to this communication with a network of trusted partners and suppliers.
“Delivering cold chain products is always a challenge. Maintaining this temperature from start to finish is important for our products,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have a wonderful team that we have worked with for some time now and who understand our high standards and requirements for customer service.
“We’ve built this relationship over a long period of time, and it’s working well. If you don’t do it right, it’s a huge challenge, because otherwise you’re chasing stocks across the country. Having clear visibility is key and it is a strength for us. Our delivery success rate is over 99%. »
The convenience food maker now distributes more than three million healthy and fresh meals, drinks and snacks per month to more than 4,500 suburbs nationwide.
Menon attributes this success largely to customer research, which was conducted in 2018 to better understand their target market and why customers chose to purchase their products. This had a huge impact on the My Muscle Chef brand.
“The real turning point for us was when we spent time thinking about what we were doing well and what our next steps were moving forward, and a big part of that was moving towards a more data-driven approach and really understand who our customers are,” Menon said.
“The research really blew our minds – we always assumed our target customer was the performance, health and fitness oriented gym goer. But we found that 60% of our customers ordered our products for more than convenience. “
This valuable data gave the manufacturer a clear direction: rather than advertising My Muscle Chef as a fitness-focused brand, they expanded their appeal and product line to reflect “Every Body, Every Goal.”
Additionally, due to the stigma surrounding frozen meals, once the company shifted to producing fresh ready meals and expanded its product line, it was able to reach a wider audience and the growth of the mark began to skyrocket.
Quality and Automation
Although My Muscle Chef started out in a small kitchen in Sydney’s Potts Point, the growth of the business has seen them accommodate plans to build a new facility in Yennora, where they are now based. This facility will merge manufacturing and distribution under one roof and help meet ever-increasing demand.
“It will be a custom-built site suited to our current plans and growth expectations. A lot of our challenges will be eliminated by creating more efficiencies and automating our new facility, which is very exciting,” Menon said.
Automating their processes will allow clear traceability of product quality from start to finish for each product, batch and ingredient.
“You need to know where the ingredients come from, what all the batches are, when they were produced and when they were shipped, which gives us full visibility. We have taken this into account in the new site to ensure that we have the appropriate technology and processes in place to protect and improve our quality,” Menon said.
“Quality is the number one priority. Having moved so quickly it would have been easy to compromise on quality – but the team have done a phenomenal job of ensuring at every stage that quality is the priority. No matter how good your marketing is, if your product isn’t good, the customer won’t buy it.
Quality is an attribute that extends throughout the My Muscle Chef company, including in the products. All of their fruits, vegetables and meats, including beef, chicken and fish, are sourced from Australia and delivered daily. And while automation is involved, Menon says their point of difference is in how meals are prepared and presented — with care.
“One of the comments we always get from customers is that it tastes like home cooking, and we like to hear that because the way our production is organized, we produce it like a full-scale restaurant,” said he declared. “It’s not a heavily processed product, and the food also looks very appetizing due to the way we process the product and the ingredients we use.”
Muscle up forward
Since its inception in 2013, My Muscle Chef has managed to become a healthy, convenient and affordable option for busy consumers looking for a fresh meal that tastes as good as a meal they could cook at home.
“We’ve had lots of feedback from customers looking to find My Muscle Chef products they can buy on the go,” Menon said. “Customers now accept that you can get a healthy, quality, home-style ready meal and I think the industry as a whole has done a very good job of improving the perception of the products.”
The convenience food maker’s focus now is on increasing brand awareness, starting with a “Strong Like This” marketing campaign. Focused on educating Australian consumers that good nutrition is a key part of maintaining mental and emotional health as well as physical health, the campaign launched in February to overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“I think this is the start of a whole new chapter for My Muscle Chef and it will really help us reach more Australians and grow our brand,” Menon said. “The sky is the limit for our business. We have achieved great things so far, thanks to fantastic quality products. Now that we have a very focused marketing and branding strategy, we are excited to see how many more households we can tap into. »