What Luke Marget has learnt from starting up $65 million beverages company MADE Group

Luke Marget, the founder of MADE Group

Luke Marget co-founded beverages company MADE Group back in 2005 after spotting a gap in the market for nutrient water. Today, his business’s products – such as the popular Impressed Juices range – are stocked in national retailers such as Woolworths and 7-Eleven.

If that’s not enough, MADE Group turns over around $65 million annually and employs 90 people. The bulk of its products are produced in Melbourne.

SmartCompany caught up with Marget to find out how he got his start in business and what he’s learnt from growing a multi-million dollar beverages company from scratch.

It all started 10 years ago. 

I launched the business, which then was just our own brand of nutrient water, off the back of seeing the success of a new beverage category between water and sports drinks in North America.

I had two business partners who were school mates. We were all in professional careers, but always looking out for ideas so we could get into private enterprise.

We had lots of ideas and were fairly healthy and active people. 

We had no experience at all in beverages, marketing or sales at all. But we developed the product over about an 18-month period from scratch.

We designed the packaging and before we knew it, we had five pallets of nutrient water sitting in front of us that we had to sell. 

It was pretty terrifying.

So we started selling it ourselves in Melbourne by focusing on the best cafes and shops in the inner-city suburbs. I would go introduce myself to the store owners and try to sell them the product.

We built up a portfolio of about 200 customers over one summer. That’s how we got started.

We now employ around 90 people and have our own manufacturing facility. 

We’ve spent around $20 million over the last six years investing in it. That’s the biggest reason for our success – our ability to innovate more quickly.

We can be first to market with new concepts. That’s been the way in which we can differentiate and compete against the bigger multinationals.

We had lots of product ideas going back six years ago but before we had our own manufacturing capabilities it was difficult to launch new products quickly. Since we’ve got our own product line, we control it 100% and can do product trials and make changes.

There are opportunities to do things more cheaply overseas … but for some of our products we use fresh milk from farms in Gippsland. 

It wouldn’t make sense for us to import a dairy product when we have such great dairy on our footstep. And with our juices, we have made a commitment to use Australian-grown vegetables and fruit.

Customers want quality ingredients they can trust [and] adjacent to that, there’s a trend towards consumers wanting to support local industry. 

In some cases it’s perfectly fine [to use overseas ingredients] where certain ingredients are not available in Australia, as is the case with our coconut water. But it’s about providing more transparency.

We foster a culture of innovation in our business. That means we embrace change.

If you set up your business to set and forget, it’s already good night from my perspective. 

Embracing change is really important and continuously improving is really important. 

Encourage people to make change; innovation doesn’t just come from a few people in a business. 

Our biggest challenge, and what keeps me up at night, is how to choose which ideas are best for the business. 

Like many budding entrepreneurs, ideas are not the hard part. It’s executing it well and making it successful.

We do have a fairly aggressive pipeline of new products. I’m personally quite involved with that.

We have some new flavours and combinations of produce coming out in the next few months. 

One of the best things we’ve done is have a direct relationship with our customers. 

We’re now stocked in 15,000 retailers nationally. 

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