Growing a Food Brand in the UK: Q&A with CEO of M-EAT!

Growing a Food Business in the UK - M-EAT!
Are you currently embarking on your own adventure, starting a food brand in the UK? And looking to learn and hear more about others experiences and challenges. Then keep reading to find out how this biltong food snack brand M-EAT! started and the challenges they went through with questions answered by their CEO Mark Arasaratnam.

When and how did you realise that you wanted to create a new food brand specialising in biltong?

M-EAT! was founded in 2018 by myself and friends, Lisa and Brett and we set out to do one simple thing, which was to supply good quality biltong that the market didn’t currently have to offer. Myself, Lisa and Brett are all biltong lovers which has made this journey even more exciting. Lisa who is also one of our co-founders has been in the biltong industry for 17+ years which brings a wealth of experience to starting a new meat snack brand in the UK.

We all knew exactly what they wanted to create, ensuring that consumers would love our product, and this is now all visible in the M-EAT! business today. M-EAT! is an ethically sourced biltong brand whereby the beef we use is fully traceable.

Creating the best beef biltong requires the best quality beef that farmers have to offer. We hand-picked the farmers we wanted to work with to ensure we could produce the best possible tasting biltong. So much so, when you order a box of M-EAT, we tell each subscriber which farm their beef biltong has come from.

We wanted customers to be able to see the lengths we go through to, to ensure they receive good quality biltong, that is premium in quality being certified grass-fed UK beef and mouth-wateringly delicious.

What have you enjoyed most about starting M-EAT!?

Running a meat snack brand in the UK has been thoroughly enjoyable for a number of reasons:

1) Creating a business with friends

Working alongside Lisa and Brett who are biltong lovers just as much as me makes the experience even better.

We created this concept around what we believed biltong should be and how it should be supplied, and we’ve pieced the puzzle together to create the M-EAT! Brand which so many consumers love.

As much as we enjoy the great times, it’s also great having friends who are co-founders to get through the challenging times with.

2) Implementing our concept

We believed we could provide a meat snack that was far better than anything else on the market.

Setting off on that journey and seeing what we provide customers today is fantastic.

We are now able to say we provide delicious, cured steak biltong, that has come from premium certified grass-fed UK beef that you can purchase as a one off or embark on our monthly subscription model.

The subscription model is something different that the biltong snack market didn’t offer which our customers resonated with a lot.

3) Increase in demand

We founded the business in 2018 and in doing so we knew there was a demand for a more ethically sourced biltong snack product.

However, these unprecedented times we found ourselves in, had changed consumers buying habits. It had caused them to reflect on their health and fitness.

Days after the first initial lockdown in the UK being announced our orders increased drastically, fourfold.

This shift in consumers behaviour for us had led to a demand which saw our consumers wanting healthy, high protein snacking options in our beef biltong.

This sudden demand led to us having to adapt to a new way of working, as we wanted to ensure we could deliver on the demand but still provide the quality we are known for.

What has been the most difficult moments in starting a snack food brand?

Starting a business definitely has its challenges and starting a UK snack brand is no different. The most difficult moments encountered for M-EAT! were:

Fulfilment & Delivery

When the lockdown in the UK started and we saw an upsurge in demand we had to move quickly to ensure all orders could be fulfilled.

We had to scale our processes to ensure we could meet demand. A period we managed to get through.

However, having just entered a lockdown little did we know it would be the delivery that would give us an issue.

Our delivery supplier wasn’t able to keep up with our increase in demand so we had to seek alternative delivery measures to ensure every single one of our customers could receive their items in a better time frame.

We were producing great quality biltong; it just wasn’t reaching customers within the time frame required. This meant we had to move quickly to ensure this process could be rectified and now this is complete resolved.

Packaging

Another area we didn’t realise issues could arise from.

Whereby we create great tasting biltong at our prepared and packed accredited facility in Wimbledon, little did we know not receiving packaging on time would be one of the issues to overcome.

Again, our biltong being in demand meant we needed to scale our packaging and there were moments whereby our supplier couldn’t get our packaging to us on time.

These are one of these scenarios you can’t predict however a steep learning curve to ensure it doesn’t main a problem again. Thinking ahead and having quantities available within our manufacturing facility is how we now get ahead of this particular issue.

Packaging for a Growing UK Food Business

Marketing

An area a lot of businesses find challenging. How do we drive consumers to our website to ensure they know about M-EAT! and our premium quality biltong?

Marketing is always challenging when starting a new brand as investment is needed upfront as well as ensuring the entire marketing plan came together.

Positively, with my experience in food and drink marketing we had invested in all the key channels required to make a success of this business launch and it was really a matter of waiting for demand to really pick up. In addition, specialists were brought it to help ensure marketing was consistent and improving month to month.

A waiting game which is now delivering as we wanted.

What tips would you offer to anyone else looking to start a snack food brand?

Differentiate yourself

This one really does sound cliché, however differentiating yourself really does support the business you are trying to create. Biltong is already a product that existed, it has done for 400+ years, we just decided to provide the best quality anyone had come across while offering it on a subscription too.

Focus on marketing

Most people think building the business is the difficult part of starting a business however it’s actually the marketing that’s way more difficult. People need to know you exist so getting this right can really outweigh your business operations. I recommend focusing on marketing heavily to begin with to ensure people actually know about your product.

Difficult times will come, ride the wave

Difficult times cannot, and I repeat, cannot be avoided. So, when they arrive, don’t panic. Strap yourself in and ride the wave, do everything you need to do to ensure your business can pull through to the other side.

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