A HEALTH foods manufacturer has capitalised on winning an international award in Dubai earlier this year to secure two new distributors in the Middle East.

Morlife employs 32 staff at its 3000 sq m Arundel factory and is making international waves with a range of superfoods that provide antioxidants, essential nutrients and balance acid and alkaline levels in the body.

The UAE is the latest export market to emerge for Morlife, which also wholesales to health food outlets and supermarkets in New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore.

In February the company beat 50 entrants from 23 countries to receive the award for Best Newcomer at the Gulfood Awards. Morlife was also named retail, wholesale and distribution business of the year at the 2010 Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards annual gala.

“We were approached by Gold Coast City Council and Austrade to travel to Dubai to take part in these international food awards but were hesitant at first,” says founder and research nutritionist Warren Stewart.

“From this we now have two distributors lined up to import our chocolate-coated snack range and the muesli and fitness supplements,” he says.

“We are designing these primarily for their needs including altering the imagery on the products. The standard packaging features a female fitness model and had to be tamed down for that market.”

Morlife’s goji berry products, which the company claims to contain around 50 times the amount of antioxidants to a comparable volume of strawberries, have emerged as the most popular. Its goji-based toasted muesli is also a big mover, having also been ranked a finalist in the Best New Functional Food category at the Gulfood Awards.

“We’ve successfully exported functional herbal tea beverages, some organic and other boosting powders to Singapore and Malaysia for several years,” says Stewart.

“Just recently we’ve done a trial shipment of our Goji Antiox muesli to Singapore and also to New Zealand through health shops. We also export to several European countries and send large quantities of goji berries to Reunion Island.

“Currently we’re presenting some of our range to an American supermarket chain. The advantage there is the consumer market is much more aware of the benefits of these products.”

Stewart has been in the vitamin production industry for almost 30 years, but it was 2004 when he identified the opportunity in ‘functional foods’ and founded Morlife.

The company sold close to $5.5 million of products in FY11 and is confident that streamlined processes and the larger premises will boost sales to around $8 million for FY12.

“The biggest ongoing difficulty for Morlife, both domestically and internationally, is communicating our point-of-difference to the various markets that we aren’t an ordinary health food company,” says Stewart.

“The market is so confused about the real benefits of functional foods, and there are far too many ‘health food’ producers that over-exaggerate the real benefits of their products or inflate their prices.

“We were just another health food company until around six years ago when we focused very strongly on developing true functional food products.

“The real challenge is for us to get the consumer to understand the vast possibility to change their wellness level by greatly improving their nutritional intake. We need to get the market much more focused on organic food and to spread a lot more knowledge.

Morlife is planning to invest in a widespread educational marketing campaign that includes producing a DVD.

Stewart is confident that a successful communications strategy coupled with a strong product offering can produce future sales growth for Morlife.

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