Love at First Bite

Australian food brand Carman’s has dramatically boosted its Hong Kong sales by teaming up with a local partner.

As an 18-year-old, first-year university student, Carolyn Creswell rounded up AU$1,000 (US$793) to buy the small muesli business where she worked part-time. Twenty-five years since, the Melbourne entrepreneur, dubbed Australia’s “muesli queen,” has built Carman’s Fine Foods into a thriving export success, with Hong Kong, Singapore and the Chinese mainland being the primary markets for export sales.

Tell us about your business.
In 1992, we started with just one type of muesli and now we have a whole range of mueslis, clusters and porridges. In nutritional snacks, we have products ranging from traditional muesli bars to protein bars to nut bars and even oat slices. We have just launched our range of bliss balls, which are little, bite-size healthy balls within a resealable bag. We have a broad range of products and we design them so that people will love them. Our latest range is our first foray into savoury snacking.

Carman’s has become the number-one selling muesli and bar brand on Australian supermarket shelves, and now exports to 32 countries worldwide. In terms of Hong Kong specifically, over the past 12 months we have seen massive growth through our partnership with New Base Trading Co, equalling a 135 per cent increase in sales.

How did you enter the Hong Kong market?
Although Carman’s was available in Hong Kong for five to seven years, in 2015, we developed a partnership with New Base Trading Co. We find it extremely important to have a partnership with a company that lives and breathes Carman’s, just like we do.

We get hundreds of requests from around the world for the Carman’s range. With Hong Kong being such a central hub for travel, it’s wonderful that so many people are able to find their favourite Carman’s product when in Hong Kong. We listen to our customers and feedback from the Hong Kong market, which has also contributed to what you see today.

How did you manage to build this start-up into a global brand?
Success has taken a long time — it certainly didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow and steady plod every year to be better and to be very customer-focused so that we could deliver products consumers want to buy. I never imagined it would be as big as it is today, but you know it has been 25 years! It’s a long, long time. I still pinch myself when I think back to when I was that 18-year-old student, personally hand-making and packing each and every single packet of Carman’s muesli. I used to make deliveries next to semi-trailers out the back of my little Daewoo hatchback. When I started out, my goals were mainly focused around growing the business. Now they’re more about personal growth and finding meaningful ways to give back to this universe that has been so kind to me.

What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those in the food industry?
Love what you do! Your passion, drive and enthusiasm will determine your business success. Think of the people you work with as another family, delight your customers constantly and your business will quickly thrive.

[Source: HTDC Hong Kong Means Business]