Empowering your customers to drive innovation while remaining agile

No matter the size of your business, continuing to have a customer-first approach will ensure business growth. However, it is easy to lose sight of what is important to your customers when trying to remain ahead of the curve and juggle the everyday tasks of running a business.

I was able to identify and tap into a customer need at the start of a now booming ready-made meal and meal-kit industry. The demand for functional, ready-made meals that don’t compromise on freshness and taste has exploded among time-poor, health-conscious consumers over the last three years.

With the sector becoming increasingly cluttered and constantly changing, and our business rapidly expanding, we need to remain nimble to keep up with evolving customer demands.

At My Muscle Chef, we have enjoyed quick business growth since launching as a side hustle in 2013 from a small commercial kitchen. Keeping the customer at the forefront of everything we do has enabled us to grow our business to one that sells an average of over 200,000 meals per week across online and retail and employs a team of over 400 staff.

We actively seek customer feedback through quarterly surveys and assess the wider health and fitness industry trends to inform our innovation pipeline. While insights drive our product development and business plans, our ability to be nimble and trust expert opinion ensures we remain relevant with consumers.

An example of quick to market innovation driven by customer feedback is our vegan range. We decided to launch the range after the rise of plant-powered eating, combined with direct feedback from our customer base on a want for more vegan-friendly meal options.

In 12 weeks, we conceived the range, created the recipes, commercialised the product, and developed the necessary packaging to successfully launch ten plant-based, protein-rich vegan meals. Over 6,000 vegan meals were ordered in the first week of launch.

It is our customer-centric approach and commitment to remaining agile that has helped us increase revenue by over 235 per cent this year as compared to the start of the boom in 2016, and expand the number of stockists by almost 500 per cent in the last 12 months.

Here are my top tips on how business owners can balance a customer-focused approach with quick to market innovation.

  1. Industry trends: Keeping up to date on industry trends ensures product offerings continue to meet evolving customer needs. We look to already well-established markets overseas and see what could be adapted for our unique Australian market.
  2. Customer feedback: Your current customer base is integral to product planning. Customer insights give you a clear indication of what is working well, and what needs to be improved. Asking our customers for regular feedback has been key in guiding product development, along with creating a loyal customer base who feel heard.
  3. Business agility: Maintaining agility as your business grows is about prioritising decisions that will offer the biggest return to the business. Consistently reviewing team structure, and not being bogged down by a traditional organisational structure, enables us to identify opportunities to grow and evolve as a team to help address industry trends and internal pressures. Additionally, a test and learn mindset will allow for greater growth. You will learn from success and failure.
  4. Expert opinion: Learning when to let go and bring in the experts is a crucial step in being agile. While I am involved in every business decision, it was when I engaged relevant experts and learned to trust their advice that My Muscle Chef was able to start to expand quickly.

Tushar Menon, Co-Founder and CEO of My Muscle Chef

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