Over the past 15 years, the market for healthy prepared meals delivered to customers’ homes has mushroomed in Australia, with its most recent popularity surge experienced amid the pandemic. Lite n’ Easy, who largely pioneered the sector in Australia, benefitted from the boom of recent years, even as it brought about a bevy of new competitors. But company CEO Dennis Stark says he welcomes the competition, seeing it as an opportunity to innovate, enter new market segments and experiment with new sales channels.
“The competition was good for us in a lot of ways because it forced us to think about the future and challenge ourselves,” Dennis tells The CEO Magazine. “That enabled us to reinvest and then ended up leading us into the aged-care space, as well as a stronger focus on healthy convenience and fresh meals, having a range of pillars to the business.
“It’s a constant rejuvenation of the product and offering, always looking for what’s new out there and what’s healthy, with a focus on whole food as well. Nutrition’s only good if people actually consume the meal.”
Weighing it up
Lite n’ Easy was founded in 1986 by Graham Mitchell who, wanting a weight-loss program that was effective and offered satisfying food, partnered with chefs and dietitians to create tasty, nutritious and convenient ready meals delivered to customers’ homes. The company has since achieved significant success, winning fans with its focus on simplicity and science, and has become a staple for many Australians seeking convenience and solid nutrition. It’s also a proven customer favourite – Canstar Blue rated Lite n’ Easy as its Best-Rated Healthy Meal Delivery Service for the third straight year.
Dennis says that, with the simplicity of Lite n’ Easy, you get “all the nutrition ticked off, all the food choices ticked off, and then we make it as easy as possible for you to click a few buttons or make a phone call to get your next order delivered,” Dennis says.
Competition was good for us in a lot of ways because it forced us to think about the future and challenge ourselves.
Lite n’ Easy now employs around 1,700 people across Australia. With its headquarters in Banyo, near Brisbane, the company also has five contact centres around the country and meals are “freshly made to order” within each Australian state, Dennis says.
Dennis joined Lite n’ Easy in 2012, bringing with him expertise in consulting and project engineering, at a time when the company was preparing for expansion. “The owners always had a philosophy that we’re here for the long-term, so investments needed to be made with a long-term vision,” Dennis says. “It’s not about short-term profit. With the whole industry changing and growing, it’s about being able to adapt and for the business to be more agile and quick to move on new opportunities.”
Investments in areas such as IT, supply and infrastructure, and in changing the company culture, were necessary to adapt to the company’s growth. “Lite n’ Easy has grown from a very small business to a big one. It has had to transform,” Dennis says.
These investments have allowed Lite n’ Easy to expand its team to six full-time dietitians and has helped the company become an approved National Disability Insurance Scheme provider, meaning people can save 70 per cent on their orders along with Home Care Package customers. “We can provide that home delivery and reduced meal preparation, so real convenience and locked-in nutrition that benefits NDIS recipients,” Dennis says.
We can provide that home delivery and reduced meal preparation, so real convenience and locked-in nutrition that benefits NDIS recipients.
Other product innovations include Easy Bites, a recently launched product line aimed at children that “hides the veg” and provide smaller portions, according to Dennis. Customer feedback led Lite n’ Easy to also launch the My Choice line for seniors, which provides meals higher in protein and with more calories. “As customers were ageing, their appetites were reducing, they were eating half a dinner meal,” Dennis says. “When we’ve done the research into the nutritional needs for an ageing population, there was an opportunity for a different meal – more energy dense, protein first.”
In its most recent innovation, the company has launched its Lite n’ Easy Select line in retail stores, starting with a small pilot project in Queensland. The results appear promising, according to Dennis, who confirms that the sales are not impacting upon its delivery orders. “Some people aren’t going to get home delivery, so having it in that grab-and-go environment is just another way of getting a healthier option to more people,” he says.
Reaching more non-traditional customers obviously increases sales, but it also fits with the Lite n’ Easy mission, Dennis says. “The goal of the business is to create a healthier Australia.”