New Zealand business owners Tom Dorman and Luke Cooper are taking on the American market with their healthy snack range, thanks to national product catalogue GS1.
The idea behind Tom and Luke Ltd began when Tom was working as a personal trainer out of a Wellington gym and Luke worked at the café across the road. One day, they got talking about the food available at the gym and decided they wanted to experiment with making an organic-based protein bar.
After taste testing their recipe on willing customers at the café, colleagues, and clients at the gym, they decided to get serious and turned their love for healthy, nutritious food into a full-time business.
Deciding to supply to the American market made sense for Tom and Luke and they say becoming members of GS1 made the process so much easier and enabled them to approach Amazon as well.
Many food manufacturers hit the Asian markets first, but Tom and Luke decided to do things a little differently.
“Part of the reason for us looking to the United States was because some of our products didn’t seem to resonate so much with the Asian taste pallet. On top of that we don’t speak the language, so for us it was about ease of market. It also meant that changes to our packaging design were very minor,” says Tom.
“We just adjusted the nutritional information panels. The FDA have got different requirements for allergy labelling, but it is very minor. From a graphic design and a product description point of view it’s also a lot easier.
“With New Zealand being a western country, a lot of the things that our customers are seeking out – gluten free, vegan, sugar free – are all things coming out of the West Coast of America anyway, so it made sense for us.”
To supply to Amazon and get into the American market, products are required to use a standard barcode.
“Amazon itself requires a unique barcode itself so it knows what’s going through its warehouses and distribution centres. We are able to do all that in house because we are creating our pallet before shipping them off to the Amazon warehouse,” says Tom.
With GS1, the company is able to do short print runs of product which allows the team to get new products up and running quickly.
“The beauty of that is we have access to the American consumer to actually test our products and see if it’s something they like, which is quite an effective exercise.
“It’s part of our background research before we approach brick and mortar stores in the United States which we are currently doing.”
Another benefit of being a member of GS1 is the support says Tom.
“If there are any issues, there is a live chat that’s usually pretty quick. There’s also the ability to test food recalls which is a huge part of food safety.”
Tom says being part of a global data base is very beneficial as they start to set their sights on other markets.
“There is the security of knowing the codes aren’t double up’s because there’s a registry. New Zealand supermarkets such as Countdown and Foodstuffs are starting to get into GS1 so that helps speed up the process of getting products into supermarkets as well.
“We live in a society that wants everything now and doesn’t like waiting, especially when it comes to food products. I think GS1 are working hard in the background to make it easier for small businesses to get their products on shelves as soon as possible.”
For Tom, running his own business with Luke is a dream come true.
“I’ve got the ability to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s awesome. It hasn’t been easy and it’s not to say it’s been a smooth ride but when everything is stressful because you’re taking on all of the workload and you’re creating stress for yourself.
“You can take a step back and look at what you’ve done and start cultivating those feelings of gratitude, achievement and personal pride with the team, and start to pat yourself on the back which I don’t think enough New Zealanders do. If you never let yourself celebrate, you never get that sense of achievement.
“I’m really grateful we have everybody on board, and we have the opportunity for other people to live the lives they want to live as well.”