About six years ago three Melbourne high school mates decided they’d had enough of chips, biscuits and chocolate and began looking for healthier snack options.
Not surprisingly, there were few other choices available so they decided to launch their own product range – and Harvest Box was born.
Founders William Cook, James Scott and George Stooke wanted to create a business that would encourage people to make healthier eating choices – whether at home or at work.
“Snacking doesn’t have to be a dirty word,” says co-founder Will Cook.
In partnership with Australia Post, the Harvest Box team designed a recyclable box that could be sent through the post as a letter to any address in Australia.
Each box contained four punnets of healthy snacks including nuts, dried fruit, seeds, crackers and treats.
Since its launch in 2010 Harvest Box has delivered more than one million healthy snacks to just about every postcode in Australia.
“We had about 100,000 people sign up online for Harvest Box services,” Will told Dynamic Export.
And following extensive online market research to determine the most popular mixes, the snack packs were later distributed through retail outlets.
Harvest Box products can now be found in about 3000 stories throughout Australia, including supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations, cafes and selected grocery stores as well as schools and other education facilities.
Consumers can choose from a range of 20 different snack pack mixes including dried fruit and nut combinations, yoghurt balls, milk and dark chocolate treats as well as special Health Bombs and Chia Bars.
Firmly established market
With a firmly established market in Australia Harvest Box has been spreading its wings into the lucrative Asian market.
“We started exporting about one and a half years ago and we are now sending products to Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Philippines and UAE,” says Will.
And business is booming.
“Asian consumers are far more health conscious now,” says Will. “We’ve noticed a big change in snacking choices (in Asia) in the past two years.”
He admits the company’s export success did not happen overnight.
“It takes a long time to develop overseas relationships. It’s important to develop good relationships and find the right people to work with.”
Many of those relationships were built with the support and assistance of the Victorian Government.
International trade shows
“Victoria is well known as a food bowl in Australia with many food and packaging companies and producers,” Will says.
“The Victorian Government assists food companies to have a presence at international trade shows. We attended shows in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
“It was at those shows we developed relationships with our key distributors.”
At the Fine Food Australia show, to be held in Melbourne next week, Harvest Box (Stand K16) will launch four new snack packs they call Flavours of the World.
- Chilli & Lime
Will says food shows such as Fine Food Australia are an important part of the company’s marketing strategy.
“Fine Food allows us to engage with our current customers in Australia and internationally.”
Harvest Box was on display at last year’s Fine Food Australia Show in Sydney with amazing results.
“We had several enquiries from exporters, local customers, distributors and companies. It helped to reinforce our brand and encourage new business.
“That’s why we’ve decided to launch our new Flavours of the World at the show.”
While the company remains loyal to the Australian market, Asia is the key target for future growth.
“And though we have never really explored the US, UK or Europe markets, it’s something we would really like to do,” says Will.
All Harvest Box products for export markets carry the distinctive green and gold Australian Made logo.
“It’s a very big selling point,” Will says. “Most consumers in Asia understand that if they are buying an Australian Made product they are buying a ‘clean’ and mostly healthy product.”
Harvest Box sources nearly all of its products locally.
Its dried apple is from Tasmania, the dried mango and pineapple comes from Queensland and its almonds are from Mildura. And wherever possible its fruits, nuts and seeds are free from preservatives, sulphites, additives and added sugar.
His advice to SME food companies looking to export?
“When exporting food products you must ensure those products fit the cultural requirements – both taste and design.
Do your homework
“It is also important to understand from a legal perspective what is allowed on labels and packaging.
“We found with most Asian countries they have slightly different legal requirements on what you can say on packets, so we had to adjust the packaging for different regions.”
Before venturing overseas Will says Australian SMEs should do their homework and thoroughly research new markets.
“You must understand it is not going to happen quickly – it usually takes one to three years to get some traction.
“But in saying that, the financial rewards can be fantastic.”
Must see food show
Fine Food Australia will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from Monday, September 12 until Thursday, September 15.
This year’s show has attracted more than 1000 exhibitors with innovative products from around Australia and from over 45 countries internationally.
For those wanting to learn more about food export opportunities, Fine Food Australia has a dedicated New & Export Ready showcase.
For more information visit: www.finefoodaustralia.com.au