One of the most daunting prospects in the business world is to start from scratch. The idea of building something – a product, a brand, a concept – from the ground up and then selling it to an unsuspecting public can be a paralysing concept; often, it’s so much easier to do what has already been done.
It takes fearlessness and a steadfast commitment to a vision to adopt a scratch philosophy. The minds behind Sydney health food eatery Cali Press didn’t just adopt it – they’ve hard-baked the scratch philosophy into their business, and Founder and Director Scott Glasson believes this has helped carve a niche in a crowded room.
“Certainly, from a quality perspective, it’s something that makes Cali Press the leader in the space,” he says. “We make our own juices, marinades and dressings from scratch and cook from scratch too, every day in store. We blitz up kilos of coriander and all sorts of ingredients to create our products.”
In doing so, Scott believes Cali Press is a pioneer in the healthy fast food or health casual space. “And off the back of that, we’re striving to turn Cali Press into a national brand.”
Strategically located in Sydney suburbs renowned for healthy living, Cali Press embodies the values of its leaders: fitness, sustainability and eating well. As it turns out, they weren’t alone in their passion.
“People want to eat quality food that is locally sourced, contains no artificials or preservatives and that’s free of refined sugar,” Scott says. “We were looking for these great things, and we just couldn’t find them out there.”
The team flirted with creating a wholesale berry distribution business before settling on Cali Press after a fortuitous and inspirational visit to southern California.
“Cold-pressed juice was really starting to take off across the west coast of the US,” says Scott, whose background in accountancy, insolvency and management consultancy provided a solid foundation for starting the business. “We thought it was a really sexy, cool product that could work back home.”
After researching the Californian health food market and learning what worked and what didn’t, the team returned to Australia to create their concept. “We built off that Californian healthy, positive energy, but we tailored what we’d learned to the Australian market,” Scott says.
“We took all the best elements of the US approach, but they’re very singular in their offerings. It’s smoothie or it’s juice or it’s coffee. We wanted to combine a few things, to have high quality, cold-pressed juices and amazing smoothies and salads and coffee that’s dairy free, vegan and made from scratch every day.”
As clear as the vision was for what Cali Press could be, the team soon found the market wasn’t quite ready for the offerings they’d prepared. “When we started the brand six or seven years ago, we probably went a little bit too hardcore on certain things,” Scott says.
We’ve worked hard to create health food that tastes awesome, looks awesome and is awesome.
“Spinach leaf wraps just weren’t for everyone! We tried some bleeding edge products but ultimately, they just didn’t meet the market. “The trends coming out of the US always push the limits on health. They’re always generally a little bit ahead of us, so you can’t be too full on in terms of your offering. We had to pull back a little bit, but since then we’ve drilled down on our scratch cooking methods and how to make healthy food delicious.”
The struggle against public misconceptions about health food was one of the Cali Press team’s greatest challenges in the early days. “We did a lot of research around this,” Scott says. “People thought it was not filling, too expensive, you’d walk away unsatisfied. We’ve worked hard to create health food that tastes awesome, looks awesome and is awesome.”
The ability to do so in such a short amount of time was down to Cali Press’s scratch-built business model. “Our biggest point of difference is our ability to innovate and create products without having to find someone to create them for us,” he says.
“That level of quality control really matters in this industry, because much of the time healthy is not that healthy.” This agility kept Cali Press alive through the tough early years when word of mouth was only beginning to spread, but soon enough the brand had a loyal following that allowed it to grow beyond its initial outlets.
“The retail world is brutal, so I think one of our greatest achievements is creating a brand that has so many amazing advocates,” Scott says. “We’ve got passionate people who come to our bars every day. It’s their daily ritual.”
The reason they are able to do so, Scott believes, is because Cali Press’s offerings aren’t sometimes food. “You can come in every day, eat our products and feel great. It’s as simple as that.” As the brand and relationships with suppliers like Morco Fresh continue to grow, Scott and the Cali Press team are eyeing future sites up and down the east coast.
“We’ve just moved north through North Sydney and Mosman, and they’re a raging success, but there are still plenty of areas within Sydney and beyond to explore,” he says. “Health food and the kind of customers that will buy from our brand are growing into some unexpected areas, so we’ll get there.”
As Australia’s nascent casual health market continues to blossom, Scott believes Cali Press meets a need. “We’re pioneering a space that we want to lead,” he says. “We want to be at the forefront of healthy eating.”
To do so, Scott says he has to make his team as strong as possible. “If I can give my team the best chance of succeeding and make sure we’re all aligned, that ultimately makes Cali succeed. To know you’ve created something that’s great for people and that you can see they’re really happy to be a part of, as a business owner, that makes you very proud.”
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