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Monica Meldrum, CEO and Co-Founder of Nourish Foods.

Meet the entrepreneur who turned a home deposit into a thriving food empire

“Lean in to your values, your passion and importantly your ‘why’ and take the time to really articulate these and to envision what the future of your business could look like.”

Monica Meldrum of Nourish Foods and Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards winner

In the vast landscape of the food industry, where corporate giants hold sway, Monica Meldrum and her husband, James, embarked on a remarkable journey back in 2005.

Risking their home deposit, they took a leap of faith and founded Nourish Foods, driven by a vision that extended far beyond mere business success. Their mission was to make a lasting difference in the lives of parents and children, not only through nutritionally superior products but also by addressing social equity through dedicated programs.

Monica’s eyes light up with passion as she recounts the purpose behind their venture: “We firmly believed that we could build a business that would truly impact the lives of parents and children. Our goal was to offer products that not only surpassed the nutritional standards of others in the market but also allocated proceeds towards initiatives that addressed social equity for children.”

Confronting the deceptive marketing tactics employed by prominent food brands, which often misled parents and children, Monica and James courageously stood their ground, risking it all for the betterment of children everywhere. Their unwavering dedication paid off, propelling Nourish Foods to achieve an astounding $23 million in revenue over the past five years. Expanding their reach in the realm of children’s food and beverages, they introduced two new brands, Offbeat and Just Add. Moreover, they proudly became Australia’s first certified B Corporation, symbolising their commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Monica, a Melbourne-based mother of two, humbly dispels any notion of overnight success. She emphasises that their accomplishments are the result of 18 years of relentless work and unwavering devotion to their flagship brand, Whole Kids. “When we launched Whole Kids, we harboured a grand vision for our humble business,” Monica reflects with a smile. Their aspiration was for parents to feel a sense of confidence when choosing their products, knowing that they were making the best possible choice for their children, the environment, and the community. Supporting Whole Kids meant supporting a company that genuinely cared about its impact.

The impact of Whole Kids’ organic snacks on children cannot be overstated. Sales skyrocketed, with an impressive 77 per cent surge in Woolworths stores alone. This triumph firmly established Nourish Foods as an industry leader, fuelled by their unwavering commitment to providing wholesome options for children, ensuring that every bite contributes to their well-being.

Harnessing values for success

“We have had to say ‘no’ to potentially lucrative opportunities as they just don’t align with our purpose and our values.”

At the core of Nourish Foods’ journey lies a relentless focus on their category and the needs of their customers, many of which resonate with their own experiences as parents. Monica firmly believes in the power of understanding their customers’ needs and honing in on their category. “Our customers have always played a central role in informing us about what is important to them and how we can support them on their journey as parents,” Monica reveals.

Listening to their customers has been the secret sauce of their success, allowing Nourish Foods to create products that deeply resonate with families. By actively seeking feedback and insights, they stay one step ahead in meeting the ever-evolving needs of their cherished customers.

Staying true to their purpose hasn’t always been easy, however. Monica acknowledges the tough decisions they’ve had to make along the way, turning down enticing opportunities that don’t align with their core mission and values. It’s all about maintaining that unwavering commitment to their purpose, ensuring that every move they make contributes meaningfully to their customers’ well-being.

From day one, Nourish Foods has been driven by a powerful purpose: to help families create a healthier, happier world for their children. This purpose acts as their guiding light, illuminating every corner of their business. Monica emphasises, “Nothing gets past our purpose filter. It has to align with our core mission before we even consider it.”

This steadfast commitment ensures that every decision, every initiative, and every product they bring to life is in perfect harmony with their mission, empowering families to make positive choices for themselves and their little ones.

“We are very focused on our customers and, beyond the products we make, their cares and concerns for the future. A lot of our innovation centres around convenience and offerings that we want to see, use, and give to our children without sacrificing good nutrition or the environment. Unlike other companies in our category, we really do care about our legacy and how we use our business to make the world a better place for future generations.”

Becoming a B Corporation

Recognising the importance of showcasing their unwavering commitment to creating a positive social impact, Monica sought a way to go beyond their Organic Certification. That’s when she discovered B Corporation—a transformative movement redefining success in business. Becoming a certified B Corp is no easy feat. It involves an independent assessment that evaluates a company’s influence on its employees, suppliers, the community, and the environment. It’s like having a thorough check-up to ensure you’re a champion of social and environmental goodness.

During an exciting audit, Monica had the pleasure of hosting the B Corporation team, who flew in from New York and Nigeria. They shared incredible stories from around the globe, highlighting businesses that were part of this transformative movement for change. Nourish Foods proudly became a founding member of B Corporation, leading the pack in their industry by earning certification nearly 13 years ago. And their third evaluation resulted in a jaw-dropping score of 92.3 per cent. (Talk about raising the bar!)

The values cherished by Nourish Foods deeply resonate with their customers. These individuals genuinely care about the world their little ones are growing up in. Nourish Foods’ unwavering dedication to making a positive impact has cultivated an army of loyal and devoted customers. With Millennials and Gen Z carefully inspecting their purchases and scrutinising the companies they support, authenticity is the name of the game.

Confronting industry giants

In the competitive landscape of the food industry, Monica has encountered numerous hurdles posed by deep-pocketed big food companies. She recalls the formidable obstacles well-funded corporations posed in their quest for market exclusion. “One of our biggest challenges has been overcoming the tactics of big food companies that have very deep pockets and have often sought to lock us out of distribution. We remain true to our brand values and keep on!”

As Nourish Foods expands its portfolio with the introduction of two new brands, maintaining alignment with the company’s mission and values becomes crucial. How do they ensure consistency while broadening their product range? Monica explains that the values and purpose of their business remain unwavering across all their brands. This serves as a constant reminder, harking back to the very reason they established their business over 18 years ago. However, the approach to impact and brand positioning may differ depending on the specific demographic targeted by each brand.

For instance, the youth-oriented brand Offbeat was meticulously crafted with Gen Z in mind. It centres around snacking with purpose, challenging stereotypes, and championing causes such as climate action, social justice, social equity, and youth mental health.

Embracing values

“Don’t be shy to toot your own horn once in a while!”

Monica encourages entrepreneurs to embrace their values, passion, and, most importantly, their “why.” She emphasises the significance of taking the time to articulate these elements and envision the future of their business. According to Monica, these foundational aspects should serve as the basis for establishing the business and should inform all decisions and activities along the way. In times of adversity and challenge, they become a powerful guiding light, reminding entrepreneurs of their purpose and driving their resilience.

Furthermore, Monica advises entrepreneurs not to shy away from celebrating their achievements. She encourages them to seize opportunities to participate in credible awards programs, such as the Australian Women’s Small Business Champion Awards, which carry significant merit. These programs not only provide a platform to market and boost the business but also serve as a validation of their hard work and success.

Monica’s insightful advice stems from her own experience in building Nourish Foods, by leaning into her values, passion, and “why,” she has paved the way for the company’s growth and success. She firmly believes that by staying true to one’s purpose and amplifying their achievements, entrepreneurs can navigate the challenges they face and create a thriving future for their businesses.

Nourish Foods is currently conducting its third equity crowdfunding campaign to fuel the growth of its two new brands. One of these brands is Offbeat, which offers plant-based snacks specifically designed for Gen Z (11-26-year-olds). The products are already available in popular retailers such as IGA and Harris Farm Markets. Additionally, Nourish Foods has introduced Just Add, an alternative to traditional pouch-packaged baby food. 

Here’s more on the start of Monica’s journey:  https://www.wholekids.com.au/about-us/

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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