When Gold Coast young entrepreneur Mike Kellett set off on his business journey six years ago, all he wanted to do was ‘make a million dollars’.
But after scaling up his plant-based health food brand Macro Mike domestically to include supplying supermarket giant Coles (ASX: COL) and tripling production capacity with the opening earlier this year of a new manufacturing facility at Burleigh Heads, Kellett is now exceeding that goal every month.
Macro Mike, one of Australia’s fastest growing health food companies, is accelerating that growth following the opening of its new 2,000sqm facility which Kellett says paves the way for expansion in the US, UK and potentially Europe and Asia.
Prior to 2017, Macro Mike was a fledgling startup founded by Kellett with a few mates selling brownies at Circle on Cavill in Surfers Paradise. But in recent years, the gluten-free and dairy-free brand has been frustrated by an inability to fully cater for customer orders.
“The biggest issue for us before moving into our new factory was that we couldn’t keep up production to meet demand,” Kellett tells Business News Australia.
“Finally, after six years we’ve consolidated five different sites into one mega warehouse. We’ve moved our entire production into the new site and tripled our production capacity. Even for Coles alone last month we got over 100 pallets of product out the door.”
It’s a remarkable growth story in an increasingly cost-conscious consumer environment as the company’s core products of plant-based protein bars are largely positioned at the premium end of the market. Kellett, who started the business because he is gluten and dairy intolerant, points to the rising cost of dairy products as levelling the playing field for Macro Mike.
“Our products probably started off with premium pricing, but that has since changed along with the economy,” Kellett says.
“The price of whey protein has gone up so much over the past seven years, so our products are now quite comparable with other products that contain dairy. As we’ve managed to scale, our prices have become very competitive in this space which is why we have seen such aggressive growth.
“Our products are still mid to top end, but so is everyone else now after having to raise their prices due to inflation.”
Kellett says Macro Mike’s formula for success can be found in its ‘unique blend of peanut and almond protein’.
“Typical vegan protein, a pea and rice protein, is very gritty and grainy and doesn’t mix very well or taste very good,” he says.
“We’ve created almond and peanut proteins that are super smooth and creamy. It almost tastes like a milkshake. Once we win a customer, they become a customer for life. They tell their parents and friends about it because they’ve never tasted a plant protein like it.
“For our customers, it is an essential part of their shopping list because protein as a whole, especially meat protein, is expensive.”
Macro Mike has reset its business growth plans in tandem with the new production facility which has already doubled production output in the past few months. Not only has it met a shortfall in production for the domestic market, but it also has given the business capacity to deliver stock to third-party warehouse distributors in the UK and US – a move that was put in train earlier this year.
“We are now shipping quite a lot of orders out of our UK warehouse, and we’ve just sent some stock to the US warehouse where we will start shipping out of 3PL (third-party logistics) by the end of the year.
“This means our customers in the UK and US don’t have to wait for their online orders to come from Australia. We can shift them locally with next-day delivery.”
Kellett sees the company’s warehousing model in the UK as critical to servicing Europe, while the US is primed to distribute to the Americas.
“We’re also looking to expand into the Middle East and Asia, but we plan to service these regions from our headquarters in Australia while using third-party warehouses for the rest of the world.”
While Kellett says the Macro Mike brand has grown organically over the past seven years, he concedes it has been aided by some ‘aggressive’ marketing.
“We’re pretty aggressive in all channels. We sponsored the Gold Coast Titans over the past two years, and that’s been great for brand awareness. Getting the general population across the brand goes hand in hand with our presence in Coles’ supermarkets.
“We’re also using influencers, collaborations and giveaways with other brands. We’re on the front foot trying to get it in front of as many people as possible.”
Macro Mike product range includes protein bars, protein shakes, gut health products and even baking mixes.
“I like to say we are the supplement and health food brand for everyday people who just want to eat better,” Kellett says.
“It started off with this niche product six years ago for people who are gluten and dairy intolerant. The product range has evolved so much since then to the point now that it’s for everybody – for mums and their kids, people who just want to eat a bit healthier, gym buffs and vegans.”
Despite the company’s rapid growth, Kellett sees the new Gold Coast production facility meeting the company’s needs for some time yet.
“We’re probably good for another two or three years because we’re only running a single eight-hour shift, six days a week at the moment. We could easily do a second shift and possibly a third if needed.
“This year we increased our production team by 70 per cent and our warehouse team has also grown. Now that we have the facility up and running, we are also making plant proteins and supplements for some of the big brands in this space.”
After more than six years of exceptional growth, Kellett says his motives for driving forward have matured along with the business.
“My goal as an entrepreneur when I was younger was to make a million dollars,” he says.
“Now we’re making more than that on a monthly basis, but the best part is we’ve grown through COVID, we’ve managed to retain all our staff and we’ve managed to take on more staff.
“The money is great. It pays the bills and takes the stress away, but I am most proud of what we have created – a game-changing range of products in a fairly stagnant market that hasn’t changed for 10 years. That’s what gets me up in the morning, the fact that we’re actually making a difference through our unique, cool products.”
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