Narelle Plapp – Food for Health founder and CEO
Narelle Plapp’s journey from naturopath to building her own food company began from her patients’ needs. The practising naturopath was surprised at the large number of patients she treated who did not understand the value of good wholesome food and how it impacted their health.
“One of the key naturopathic principles is that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and it’s a philosophy I really wanted to share”.
In 2005, with that philosophy in mind, she developed two mueslis designed to help support digestive issues.
Her patients reported positive results after incorporating the mueslis into their daily meal plan, giving Narelle the confidence she needed to create a food brand that encapsulated everything she believed in.
As such, Food for Health was born.
Driven by the motto ‘we are passionate about health for everyone’, Narelle set about creating a range of food that was healthy, allergy friendly and honest.
But for go-getter Narelle, Food for Health was just the beginning. After seeing a gap in the market, Narelle recognised an opportunity to join the manufacturing industry.
“There was a lack of options for businesses in Australia needing toasted muesli, granolas and/or clusters at volume,” Narelle says.
“I commenced building the custom design, 10,000 sqm site on Moorabbin Airport in 2018. This site is now known as Grain & Bake Co Australia.
“The strategy behind building Grain & Bake was not only to make Food for Health products, but also to offer contract manufacturing for other businesses at scale. By October 2019, I had my first contract customer on board”.
Today, Grain & Bake manufactures approximately 14 other brands and has a turnover of more than $20 million.
Previously, Australia only had two, male-led manufacturing options for toasted muesli. Narelle knew a female CEO would be welcomed in the industry.
“Given muesli brands in Australia are dominated by women, I believed that a female-led manufacturing business would have better aligned values with the industry.”
Narelle understands how to treat her Grain & Bake customers – for Narelle it’s a partnership, not a transactional relationship. Narelle allows her customers to be included in the whole manufacturing process. From the early stages, customers spend time with Grain & Bake’s product development team in the innovation lab.
“I want to respect my client’s business and have a transparent stakeholder relationship. Our clients are always welcome on site to watch their products come to fruition,” Narelle says.
“I better understand my clients’ needs based on my experience with manufacturing businesses before Grain & Bake.
“Though, gaining potential clients’ trust to deliver consistent quality foods on time, every time, takes patience”.
This is one of the many challenges that comes with food manufacturing.
Financial challenge is another, investing in a start-up comes at a great cost and even greater risk. So far, over $7 million has been invested in Grain & Bake, with further investment required in the future to branch out into other food categories.
To overcome the challenges, Narelle learnt to align with key stakeholders that believed in the company’s long-term vision. This has been fundamental in raising significant capital and building success.
Grain & Bake is built on Australian soil and manufactures for other Australian brands. Narelle is proud to make a positive contribution to the nation’s economy, employment rate and local farmers.
“Australian manufacturing is key to our future food industry’s success, while creating jobs and supporting Aussie farmers and produce. This is especially important following the global pandemic.”
But Narelle’s empire is much more than business. As a mum of two beautiful children, her passion for healthier food and education on the importance of good nutrition is stronger than ever.
She’s equally passionate about creating a flexible working environment for everyone on her team, mums or not. “The greatest gift you can give your team is support and understanding. In turn they will give you loyalty and respect,” she says.
Both Food for Health and Grain & Bake have come a long way from when Narelle used to hand-mix the muesli to supply her customers.
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