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From rural beginnings, she has built a multi-million dollar health food company successfully challenging multinationals

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When Narelle Plapp was growing up in the small town of Ballarat she never thought she would one day create one of Australia’s leading muesli brands, Food for Health, with a turnover of over $5 million.

The success of Food for Health is no secret. It is now one of the leading muesli brands in the “health food” category in Australia. The products are sold throughout all the major and independent supermarkets and are currently Virgin Airlines preferred health food partner.

Narelle plans to continue creating innovative products and create a stronger focus on exporting. Food for Health currently exports to 14 countries.

How did Narelle Plapp start Food for Health?

The seeds of her future business were sown from the age of 13 when Narelle she began to develop skin problems and so her mother took her to a naturopath.

Narelle fell in love with the philosophy and learning about the importance of good nutrition and the many added benefits that came with it. As a result she began her path into naturopathy and eventually established Food for Health.

As a naturopath Narelle wrote meal plans for her clients to combat a variety of different digestive disorders. She developed two mueslis for her patients to incorporate with these plans and the results were incredible.

She began to sell the muesli separately until she realised how high the demand was for the product and created Food for Health out of this need.

Food for Health was officially born in late 2005 and the brand has grown to incorporate a range of products including muesli, gluten free muesli bars and muesli pods.

“All the ingredients in Food for Health products are both nutritious and functional. I have always been passionate about creating nutritious food for busy people and when creating new products.

“I always keep my mantra “food is medicine” top of mind. I love that we create healthy products for people and we always find a solution to a problem,” says Narelle.

Ten years after she first began Food for Health and after giving birth to two children, Narelle is a busy woman. Between managing a growing team to breastfeeding and playgroups Narelle still holds that same passion for her company than when she first started.

Tragedies and challenges along the way

However, despite all of Narelle’s success she has encountered some setbacks and tragedies throughout her journey. “About 14 years ago my niece suffered from an allergic reaction to nuts and tragically, due to a lack of knowledge in the community about the issue, she lost her life.”

“This happens more often than people think. I have always been a strong ambassador of allergy friendly foods and this pushed my passion even further.

“I make sure my company focuses on health, functionality and allergy friendly products with a lean towards gluten free. We have improved and developed our products substantially over the years and we will only continue to push ourselves further

Narelle told Anthill that the biggest challenge she has faced so far with Food for Health, which has been bootstrapped throughout its close to decade long life, was when she got the opportunity for my two mueslis to be ranged in Woolworths when she was still hand mixing it.

“The biggest challenge was finding someone to contract manufacture my recipe and then paying for the first run as most manufacturers require first orders to be paid COB and yet Woolworths’ terms were 60 days EOM.

“That leaves a big gap between payables and receivables, and the banks were not interested in helping out such a small business. I was lucky enough at the time for my parents to lend me the money, which was quickly paid back after I was remitted by Woolworths.

What is the biggest business lesson you have learnt from your journey with Food for Health, we asked.

“The biggest business lesson is to surround yourself with people that have the skill set of your own weaknesses. I have some fabulous people on my team now that support my weaknesses, I just wish I had of employed them earlier,” Narelle said.

“I’m a naturopath that loves new product development and bringing life to my brand, I need other professionals on my team to help steady the bus on our journey of growth.

“If you’re just starting out in business, and do not have the budget to employ a team just yet, keep in mind that people love to help out if you ask. I have given many people some advice over the year, I wish I had had the courage to do the same when I first started Food for Health. “

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