How Whole Kids founder Monica Meldrum landed a deal with Jetstar to supply healthy snacks to young travellers

How Whole Kids founder Monica Meldrum landed a deal with Jetstar to supply healthy snacks to young travellers

A Melbourne-based health food manufacturer has snapped up a potentially lucrative partnership with Jetstar to provide children with healthier in-flight snack options.

The deal will see Whole Kids’ organic fruit bars available on all domestic Jetstar flights.

Whole Kids was founded in 2005 and has existing supplier deals with Qantas, Coles and Woolworths.

The food manufacturer is on track to turn over $6 million by the end of this financial year.

Founder Monica Meldrum told SmartCompany she has made a conscious effort to partner with the major airlines to tackle what she saw as a gap in the market.

“Because we’re making healthy children’s food, we want to provide options to parents wherever we can,” Meldrum says.

“We’ve been onboard with Qantas since our second year of business. They came to us – people were looing for healthier options and getting sick of the big food companies selling junk onboard.

“I think there was a real lack of healthy options for children and a lot of complaints from parents wanting to see chocolate taken off children’s meal trays.”

There is a growing appetite for healthier snack foods in Australia, with the sector tipped to grow at an annual rate of 3%, according to IBIS World.

This is in comparison to a 1.4% growth rate for the rest of the snack food manufacturing sector.

Meldrum says these statistics do not surprise her.

“Big companies underestimate parents – they’re educated and read food labels,” she says.

“Products are so overprocessed these days and we’re finding there is a rise in childhood illness and allergies. As a result, our range has become really popular.”

Whole Kids now has around 12 employees and is based in Port Melbourne.

However, the company’s growth has also come with its challenges, according Meldrum.

Her advice to small businesses wanting to supply the big supermarkets or airlines is to make sure they can fulfil their promises.

“Forecasting can be really tricky,” Meldrum says.

“With our supply chain, organic apple juice is limited to seasonality, which impacts cash flow. But the airlines have been really good. We provide different options, so if we ever run out we can substitute pretty regularly.”

“With any supply issues you think you may run into, give your customers a heads-up – it’s much easier to work through that than be caught out last-minute. “It’s about having a unique product range, but it’s also about being able to deliver.”

Meldrum also says as a small business supplying to big corporates, it’s important to stay true to who you are.

“There’s always a push to de-specify products or compete on price, but for us it was always about developing good quality foods,” she says.

“Don’t be afraid to say no or walk away if a buyer doesn’t see the same things you do. It can mean some tough business decisions … but if you do it, do it properly.” 

Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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