Narelle Plapp is no stranger to healthy living, and was inspired to get into the wellness industry from a young age. Years later, as a qualified Naturopath, she wanted to be able to help her patients not just overcome their health problems, but to empower them to become healthier in a fuss free manner – on a daily basis.
In 1999 Narelle graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Naturopathy, and from there, her world opened up. She began her path by opening two health food stores and consulting as a Naturopath before starting the business that has truly created her mark in Australian Wellness – ‘Food for Health‘ – back in 2005.
Initially, Narelle created two muesli recipe’s for her patients, then started mixing each batch by hand, mailing them out via Australian post as the demand grew. She gained so many positive results through her mix, that she was prompted to go from car boot sales to making a commercialized product. With that roaring passion, she had suddenly made her first BIG sale to supermarket chain Woolworths – without initially having the means of completing the mass order!
From humble beginnings, her brand is now stocked in 14 countries around the world and is a household name for Woolworths and Coles (found in the health food aisle). More recently, she’s secured a deal with Virgin Airlines being preferred health food partner, and handing out 250,000 of her muesli bars each month.
This week, I asked Narelle about the challenges she’s faced, how she defines the brand and what is next on the horizon…
M.E. “You started your career as a Naturopath, what were your key learning’s that made you want to create ‘Food for Health’?”
N.P. “My career goes back 20 years now, way back before gluten free and “I quit sugar” were main stream words… I sound old, I know! (laughs).
The key discoveries I found when I was consulting, were the lack of low sugar and gluten free foods; so I created 2 recipes for my patients to take home and make themselves in their own kitchens. These products were an integral part of my patients treatment plans to help overcome their illness.
The key motivator to bring Food for Health to life was simply that I saw a gap in the market and I went for it. I knew my muesli’s were functional, low sugar and tasty, and there was just nothing like them that existed on the market all those years ago.”
M.E. “When you started ‘Food for health’, what were the biggest challenges you faced bringing it from an inspired idea to the final product?”
N.P. “There are always many challenges when starting any business; but the one that resonates with me most was packaging and finding the RIGHT supplier.
I remember I worked with a local Melbourne company that had their boxes printed in China. The first shipment of my boxes were supposed to be blue, however, when they came in, they arrived green! I was so disappointed. Not only was It a huge cost, but It created further delays in launching my product. I wanted to stay true to the design colour and principles, so I found a local printer that although was more expensive, the finished product was 100% to brief. I am happy to say that I still use them today.
Food laws and regulations were another challenge. It was a learning curve and one that you must get 100% right. As a commercial food manufacturer you have responsibility to your customers that all information is within the [Australian Health] food standards. This is an ongoing concern and one that changes often. I now have a full time QA manager that makes sure we keep up with all requirements.”
M.E. “For those who don’t know your brand, how would you describe it in brief?”
N.P. “‘Food for Health’ is a brand that creates healthy, delicious food that not only supports people with food allergies, but also for people that simply care about their health. Our motto is:
“We are passionate about health for everyone” – Narelle Plapp
We always stay true to our motto in all new product development and education.”
Narelle’s brand is low in sugar and unnatural additives, calorie controlled, and she also has high protein, low FODMAP and gluten free options available.
M.E. “Like most people starting a business, I’m sure you’ve had challenges. Who or what kept you pushing forward with that ‘head down, butt up’ attitude that you are known for?”
N.P. “People that know me always say that I’m a bit of a ‘fighter’. I am not one to give up and take ‘no’ for an answer. I thrive on finding solutions for any problem, and I am always thinking [with the mentality of] “how?” rather than what we ‘can’t do’.
Business has not always been easy, and you sure need some persistence and a heap of tenacity. Even now that business is a little easier with the support of an amazing team around me, I am still pushing myself for the “what’s next?””
M.E. “How do you think the health food industry has changed since you entered the market back in 2005?”
N.P. “The health food industry has certainly changed from when I first launched. I must admit, I think my timing was right when I first presented to Woolworths all those years ago too. The health food aisle was a dark, dusty corner of the supermarket, so an easier category to get into. Unlike today where everyone wants to gain entry.
The actual shelf space that the major supermarkets now give the ‘health food category’ has grown by 30% over the years, which shows you the growth in the overall industry.
I also think the interpretation of health is somewhat hazey. With the rise of food allergies, low sugar, high protein etc. and other food trends; marketing can be a little misleading for consumers.
The top key sellers in the ‘health food category’ are gluten free biscuits. Not healthy, just gluten free. So again, down to interpretation.”
M.E. “You’ve had such an inspiring career path, and are now also raising two small children, what is next on the horizon for you?”
N.P. “We are currently building and investing in our own infrastructure [to manufacture locally] which is both exciting and overwhelming – but mostly exciting!
Most muesli brands you see on the shelves today use contract manufacturers. We wanted to gain more control over the quality of our products, and have closer relationships with farmers and our raw material suppliers – rather than being told which ingredient to use.
it’s an exciting time at ‘Food for Health’ with plenty of opportunities on the horizon.”
M.E. “If you had ONE piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs, what would it be?”
N.P. “Don’t give up….keep the 3 p’s at the top of your mind all the time:
“Persistence, patience and the big one for me is passion.” – Narelle Plapp
I love my business more today than when I first launched. I love that at ‘Food for Health’ we offer healthy solutions for people each day.” – Narelle Plapp
If you’re passionate about finding a product to keep your gut healthy and HAPPY, give one of Narelle’s breakfast creations a try! Available now at Woolworths & Coles nationwide, or directly online at Food for Health.
Hope you’re all having a happy and healthy week,
Monique Elouise x