One Idea and One Shop
With a passion for quality, an awareness of the market and a savvy understanding of branding and marketing, Moo Premium Foods are providing great alternatives to common dairy products. Producing a range of yoghurts and puddings, Moo Premium Foods has capitalised on an opportunity to supply great tasting dairy goods to a very discerning public.
Moo Premium Foods began with an idea and a single retail outlet. The quality of their product proved to be so good that consumers almost demanded they change tracks and become a local manufacturer and distributor. Managing Director Mick Sanders says that some of their first customers were local grocers, and it was they who suggested stocking their products. Mick’s wife and partner, Sally, helped develop the original packaging and marketing strategy and continues to be a valuable asset to the company and the direction it has taken since its inception. Sanders says that he is proud to be the head of a 100 per cent family-owned Australian company who are expanding their capabilities.
“My wife and I started the business six years ago now. We had always wanted to start up a business together, and it made sense that food is what we got into,” says Mick. He was a chef by trade, and Sally came from a design and marketing background. In Mick’s previous role he had the opportunity to travel a lot, utilising this time to gather ideas and concepts in order to determine the business they wanted to create. “We tried to keep an eye on different ideas as part of our overseas travels,” he says. Whilst travelling through France, the Sanders’ sampled delicious, thick yoghurt packaged in little glass tubs and were exposed to the idea of making quality yoghurts and dairy products. Knowing there was nothing like the product they encountered available at home in Australia, the concept of MOO Premium Foods was created. “When we went about choosing a name for ourselves we wanted to pick one that was fun, but also reflected who we are and what we do.”
The history of a MOOving business
MOO Premium Foods grew to a chain of retail outlets located in shopping malls. “There was a fair amount of interest in that, and that spurred some quick developments, so we grew to have eight different shops in eight different shopping centres. While we were doing that, some of the customers that used to frequent the shops said to us that they had a couple of IGAs, and asked if they could sell the product there,” says Mick. So began the second phase of Moo Premium Foods as Mick and the company began to explore the possibilities of becoming a mass market producer of their quality products. “We started looking into this and at that time we told them ‘yes, okay, we will do that’ so we started doing a pre-packaged product,” says Mick.
This phase quickly grew to be the main staple of the business. The Sanders’ had to buy a second commercial premise in order to supply the demand they were enjoying. “Over time the retail side has become less of a focus and the distribution side has become the absolute main focus.” Mick says they then concentrated on getting their products into as many different retailers and ultimately as many different customers’ hands as possible. MOO Premium Foods have created systems that work extremely well, where they can supply across South Australia, and – through their relationship with Coles – can also supply their wares into the Northern Territory. They have developed a relationship with a partner in Western Australia that has provided them inroads there.
At present, says Mick, MOO Premium Foods is entering the third stage of the company’s development. Since its inception, MOO Premium Foods has received acclaim from its peers, and has more than pleased their retail customers with their prompt delivery abilities. “We take a lot of pride in how we deal with our customers, and we treat them all the same no matter how big or small they are,” says Mick. This reference to good management has a lot to do with Mick’s training and experience in the food and hospitality industry prior to starting his own business.
Traditional methods, modern results
Manipulating traditional processes into a model for mass production has been a particular achievement for MOO Premium Foods. “Our product is a stirred yoghurt, so it gets set in a vessel that is either a 10 kilo or 20 kilo bucket. After that we actually repack that into the individual tubs.” Mick illustrates how their process differs from the mainstream yoghurt manufacturers that make their products in a large vat, and then pour the product in a liquid form into the containers that it is sold in. By setting their product in smaller vessels, MOO Premium Foods is able to keep the thick dense texture that has won them so many awards and loyal customers. The special taste of MOO Premium Yoghurt has appealed to many judges over the years. MOO Premium Foods are multiple winners of the Dairy Association’s Champion Yoghurt Trophy. Mick says it would be very easy for them to produce a product to appeal only to the judges’ tastes, but when MOO Premium Foods make a product they consider their most important judges – the customers who enjoy eating their products. “You can only do that if you are 100 per cent comfortable with what you are doing,” says Mick.
Rebranding the image of yoghurt
“I always feel it’s important to explain that MOO Premium Yoghurt is different,” Mick admits. “I think the secret ingredient has to be the texture, because it gives our products a thick rich feeling, gives it real body. The constancy of the texture is important because when people get it they know they are going to get the same product time and time again.” This is important for MOO Premium Foods to differentiate themselves from the more familiar mass-produced dairy yoghurts. “These are usually very thin, or watery with little flavour in it. There are a lot of people out there that have been turned off yoghurt because of this.” Mick says that part of their job in marketing their products is to retrain the preconceived ideas some people have about yoghurt. MOO Premium Foods has aimed to capture the attention of people who have disliked other yoghurt brands by offering a full flavoured, full bodied alternative.
“One of the products that has been extremely successful is our muesli yoghurt, with ingredients made especially for us in the Barossa Valley. We use that with a blueberry topping that we produce and it has become an extremely popular flavour as a breakfast snack,” he says. “At the same time we have products that people look at as a dessert or an accompaniment to a fruit platter with dinner,” says Mick, adding that in this way they can cover multiple aspects of the dairy market. “I think all of our products can be considered for a night time or day time snack or as a replacement to ice-cream. I think that our product is especially versatile because we have worked very hard to make sure our products are not tart,” he says. Producing a yoghurt that is more pleasing to the palate gives it a much broader appeal.
The question has to be asked, since Moo Premium Foods is a family owned and operated company, does Mick ever get mistakenly called Mr Moo? Mick laughs at the question, and says the answer is actually yes! “Apparently there used to be kids that called me that at school…they called me Mickey Moo,” he says. “I was probably called a whole heap of other things at the same time,” he reflects with a bit of humour. “In all seriousness, MOO Premium Foods is very much a family business, both on my side and my wife’s side who are involved as investors rather than as part of the day to day running of the company.” Mick knows that this is important to the company and its character; he believes that the family involvement and support has helped build the MOO Premium Foods brand and developed strong ethics of a family business providing other families with fantastic products.