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Raising the Muesli Bar

Image source: Carman's

How many muesli bars would $1,000 have bought in 1992? Well by 2019 its bought a breakfast and nutritious snacks market leader exporting to 35 countries world-wide.


That modest beginning was behind Carman’s Muesli and chief executive Carolyn Creswell never imagined it would be as big as it is today. But she’s adamant a couple of embarrassingly simple principles led to Carman’s success - starting with good quality ingredients.


“10 years ago, no-one had ever heard of a chia seed” Carolyn says. The humble chia seed, now a staple of the good eating movement, is found in a range of Carman’s products.


Carman’s is always alert to emerging trends and – as long as they are legitimate – is agile enough to rapidly move with them. Whether chia seeds, low fat, low sugar or no carbs, Carman’s adapts its range to meet changing consumer habits, critical Carolyn says to the success of the brand today.


The good stuff


The fundamental commitment to creating food that tastes good and is good for you relies on using the best ingredients possible. While other brands may have a large focus on marketing and exposure, Carolyn has always come with an approach of “can we afford to put a few more almonds in that muesli bar?”


“I was - and still am - always focused on good quality ingredients and I think people respect that,” she says.

Carman's muesli bars have become a staple in many households.


The key is staying close to the customer and keeping up to date with what they want now and what they will want two years down the track while providing them with exceptional, fast service when they do have feedback.


When looking to shake things up, the Carman’s Kitchen online community of more than 3,000 consumers plays a pivotal role, providing thoughts on a variety of aspects from taste to packaging, helping the company decide which direction it should go.


When wanting to introduce a new product, Carolyn says the company contacts its Carman’s Kitchen community and says “Hey, what do you think about this flavour or what do you think about this packaging?” bringing in on average around 1,500 responses overnight, helping Carman’s steer in the right direction.


“For us there's this deep loyalty to our products and to our brand,” Carolyn says.


All these things keep their customers coming back week after week.


“There's only one stakeholder here and that's our customers. We are constantly thinking about them and how we can deliver the best to meet their expectations.”


Culture is queen


The backbone of Carman’s success is a very engaged, passionate workforce, one Carolyn is extremely proud of and works hard to maintain.


With an impressive 94 per cent engagement rate, Carman’s clearly got the memo.


Carolyn has a double-pronged and simple approach – hiring the right people and treating people the way she would like to be treated.


“I'm really careful about who we hire,” she says “and making sure they're actually the right people”.


“Additionally, I try and make sure I treat people like I would like to be treated. When I'm making a decision, I think ‘well if that's what I would like, I think that's what they would like as well’,” she says.


Making life easier for her employees is also a passion. By using mobile app ‘Skip’, staff can sit at their desk and order a coffee from the company’s cafe and have it delivered to them at work.


Carman's Communcations Manager Aimee La Rocca says “Our office environment makes coming to work every day a really nice experience. Not only do we have the most amazing team, but to be able to use facilities like the gym and yoga room means you have no excuses.”


“I’m quite obsessed with the coffee concierge (where we can get barista-made drinks delivered to our desks) and absolutely love being able to grab a meal from the fridge downstairs when I don’t have time to cook. I feel super lucky to work at Carman’s, we’re truly appreciated and cared for,” she says.


Onsite facilities like these makes working at Carman’s more than just a job for its employees.


Carolyn believes this all contributes to building a culture that's about how you make people feel.


“It's actually saying you deeply care about me as a person. And that's how you get employee engagement and staff retention, because people genuinely feel passionate about working at Carman’s. And I'm very proud of that,” she says.


Carman’s forever home

Carman’s ‘forever home’ was founded around a year ago, and the space lovingly renovated by Carolyn. Boasting a yoga room - where meditation classes are run - a massage room, a studio and a ‘conservatory’ - a large space rented out to other corporates and people for functions - the new premises makes great use of the space.


For the 40 strong Carman’s workforce, these facilities enable them to have a holistic approach when it comes to balancing work and their personal needs, allowing them to be happy and healthy; something that’s reflected in its employee engagement score.

Image source: carmanskitchen.com.au

While some may look at Carman’s and think it’s been an overnight success, nothing could be further than the truth. It’s been a long journey – 26 years in fact. From humble beginnings, highs, lows and everything in between, hard work and persistence have paid off.

Carolyn laughs “people look at Carman's now and think ‘oh my gosh that's such an overnight success’. And I say, ‘since when is 26 years overnight in anyone's language?’”


Carman’s exports to 32 countries, predominantly through markets in Asia where there is an abundance of opportunity for westernised products, particularly for the Carman’s brand given it’s an Australian brand that brings a premium nature to the food sector.


Solid and long-term partnerships with airlines, such as QANTAS, provides exposure for the Carman’s brand Carolyn says.


“It helps consumers in overseas markets identify our brand and here's to hoping it helps them when they see us in these markets they know a little bit about the Carmen's business.”


While exporting presents a wealth of opportunity, Carolyn concedes the Australian market is its number one priority and she sees continued growth potential locally.


In it together


Having had a relationship for more than 10 years, the journey for ANZ and Carman’s is centred on honesty, transparency and integrity, identifying the ways in which each partner can help each other out.


“We're all in this together,” says Carolyn.


ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott agrees: “It’s so fulfilling to see Carman’s go from strength to strength, and know we played a little part in their success”.


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