This biz is committed to nutrition for seniors and rekindles the love for food

“The transition from a homegrown success story to a new international market is a challenge for most companies. Add to that the combination of a pandemic, an industry under scrutiny and a highly vulnerable customer base – now there is a challenge.

“My answer to anyone starting a business is to keep the product as the primary focus of the team, the advice we followed in launching into this new market.”

Sam Bridgewater, founder of Pure Food Co.

Sam Bridgewater and Maia Royal founded The Pure Food Co in 2014 after witnessing his stepfather, Mark, struggle with food and nutrition while battling a serious illness in an aged care facility.

Sam felt there must be a better way to provide appropriate food for seniors or people with illness by combining taste and nutrition. He did extensive research and development to innovate a solution that combined higher levels of essential nutrients into beautiful meals and other snacks.

And so, Sam and his colleague were inspired to create a meal system that offered not only optimal nutrition but also good taste and diversity to encourage seniors to continue to eat sufficient volume. So at the age of 28, the team set out to find a solution to that problem; Thus, in 2014, The Pure Food Co was born – an innovative nutritional system tailored to the nutritional needs of seniors. Following significant growth and recognition within the New Zealand market, The Pure Food Co has been launched in Australia in partnership with several major aged care groups.

The Pure Food Co offers preformed food products that are presented in an engaging manner to provide visually appealing, highly nutritious pureed foods. Their line of products also includes purees, designed to be easy to swallow and made with the finest local ingredients, all with protein as an essential component to help seniors with muscle maintenance and recovery.

“From a background in banking and management consulting, my co-founder and I can safely say we learned a lot – some the hard way! Food production and the complexity of it were very new territory for us, and ensuring that the food solution we offered not only addressed the nutritional and taste issues we had identified, but was also economically sustainable for our customers was a key challenge we had to face. engage. face from the start.

“Our solution had to not only compete with tight food budgets, but also provide much more value to get into networks and stay in the long run. Likewise, from a market perspective, we were treading very new territory. Fortifying food as we do it wasn’t a ‘thing’ at the time, so we took a gamble, and it paid off; this was a crucial turning point for us in creating true innovation.

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The early days

“Initially, our approach was healthcare-oriented, and we now work with almost all public hospitals in New Zealand. More recently, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the aged care industry, in line with our mission to nurture the world’s seniors.

“After starting production in a food innovation incubator in 2017, we built our manufacturing facility in Mt Wellington, delivering the scale we needed to drive rapid growth. We entered the Australian market in 2019 and, despite the challenges of a pandemic shortly thereafter, have seen a significant impact on the company’s quintessential growth over the past year.

“We currently deliver approximately 3 million food experiences annually in these two markets, and we are proud to be a multi-award-winning company with multi-award-winning innovations, most notably three-time category winner of The New Zealand Food Awards, including Supreme Winner in 2019, as well as The Deloitte Fast 50.

Sam notes that gathering insight from key stakeholders has been a vital technique for them from the start.

“The collaboration with dieticians, speech therapists, operators (healthcare and elderly care) and of course the people who would eat our meals was crucial during the research and product development phases. Because we invested heavily in research with our relevant audience, we came to market with a product that delivered the value propositions they wanted and needed, as well as the elements they didn’t know they needed, but now love to be!

Carrying out product review: Knowing what the customer wants

Sam insists that, without a doubt, getting the right product has been essential to their marketing strategy.

“If that foundation isn’t there, there’s no chance to grow if customers need to see a positive outcome to justify the investment. As a result, organic referral has been the biggest growth driver for us since the beginning: kitchens and clinical teams using the product are moving from healthcare providers and bringing us with them.

“We have continuously promoted awareness and representation of the nutritional needs of seniors and in recent years have not been afraid to raise the issue. We recently took a close look at our approach to social media as another way to generate customer leads, with LinkedIn being one of our priority channels.

“We see this route as a great way to not only connect with operators who can become direct customers, but also to increase the general awareness of the issue of senior nutrition. For example, we recently launched a campaign on our social media channels which is tailored to notable Australian athletes to highlight the similarities in nutritional needs between athletes and seniors and to engage the audience of these athletes to consider aging nutrition in younger generations.

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“We did some research alongside the campaign, which showed that, despite health and wellbeing being a huge priority for everyday Australians, few had considered what this might look like later in life, and changing this is one thing. topic we will look at. the board when it comes to our marketing.”

When it comes to learning, Sam says in the past he’s been tricked into doing too much at once, leading them to laser-focus on key strategic priorities to improve the offering and customer base in a way that’s aligned with their overarching mission.

“We still regard the daily signing of a new customer or network as an important moment; it is a huge responsibility to implement a food system for residents and businesses and we do not take that lightly.

“From our own first-hand experience, we know how important it is to do this the right way for these residents and their families, so we never underestimate the task ahead.”

Successfully launching in a new market

“The Pure Food Co is inspired by a problem we identified on a personal and societal level. Simply put, no solution offers seniors tasty, easy-to-eat, and plenty of nutritious foods while meeting the tight budgets of the public health system. Hailing from New Zealand, our focus naturally started there and saw us grow to a scale where we are deployed in almost every public hospital and 100% of large aged care networks.

“However, the challenge is global, so in 2019 we started launching in the Australian market. Throw a global pandemic into the mix, and you’ll see why we’re only ready to talk about a successful launch in this market now, in 2022.

“The Australian aged care sector is complex and under close scrutiny. With 50% of people going to aged care in this country classified as malnourished, it is also an industry that needs help. We saw an opportunity in this new market to meet the need we had met in New Zealand.”

Lead with product

Sam says his answer to anyone starting a business is to keep the product as the team’s primary focus, the advice we followed when launching into this new market.

“We had to prove not only the efficacy of our product, but also the affordability (working with tight budgets where many aged care facilities have to feed their residents on about $12 a day, and often less) and usability of our offerings. In an industry that is already struggling to retain sufficient staff, we need to provide a solution that makes the lives of carers easier, not harder.

“The most important part of a product?”

“Make sure it gets into the hands of those who need it. The key learning point during the pandemic and beyond was to make sure we were clear, cautious and on the edge of conservative regarding our supply chain to ensure product availability at all times. The trust operators place in us to implement their food systems is immense, and once this trust is broken it would be a huge challenge to rebuild it – regardless of the business you are building.”

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“Organic referral is a huge driver for business growth and for many companies looking to expand,” continues Sam.

“Investing in a dedicated Country Manager who can connect directly with potential and current customers has been crucial to increasing our presence in this new market, supported by a diverse and highly skilled team focused on continuous improvement.

“Staying agile and evolving in the way you communicate your company’s offerings can make all the difference when changes occur in the macro environment. It’s no surprise that the pandemic has devastated the aged care industry and the priorities these already overworked teams are juggling. In our case, we saw that health across the board was more important than ever, and people took into account the role nutrition plays in their well-being.

“However, due to a labor shortage, our potential customers would not consider solutions that were difficult to implement. Communicating the benefit of our prepackaged solution became an important message with the skills shortage in mind. When testing the waters in a new market, it’s vital to find new and different ways to engage with your audience.

“While our core focus is on aged care and hospital settings, speaking with a secondary market of people with loved ones in such facilities and urging them to advocate for the seniors in their lives is proving fruitful.

“We recently launched a campaign on our social channels that focuses on heroing the #grandfluencer in your life (the important senior who has made a difference to you); getting these younger audiences to consider the senior nutrition conversation and understand the reality of senior nutrition is a step in the right direction.

“Overall, whether launching into a new market or driving growth in an existing area, being able to measure success, improve conversion and reduce risk associated with implementing your product, are critical to driving success. There may not always be a pandemic that creates challenges for your global expansion, but there is definitely a curveball around the corner, so prepare accordingly.”

More about The Pure Foods co here.

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