How We Crowdfunded And Validated Our Meal Replacement Product
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello guys! I’m Enric Miquel and am I the Founder of KÜiK Meal, but I am also working as International Marketing Manager in Laboratoires Grand Fontaine. I am a pharmacist from the University of Barcelona and have been working in the pharmaceutical marketing field for the last 5 years.
KÜiK Meal is an answer to the accelerated path we all live in, it is designed for those who lack time to cook or are frequently tempted with junk food. With KÜiK Meal you get a complete and balanced meal with all the macro and micronutrients you need to keep going with your day. It can be taken either for breakfast, lunch or dinner. KÜiK Meal was the first sweet and savoury complete food in powder!
Since we are all concerned about environmental issues, we really paid attention to this subject and this is why we have always worked under the zero-waste philosophy: our packaging it’s minimal as we use just one bag of 1,5 kg of powder that contains up to 15 meals of 100 g. Also, in order to reduce chemical contamination, we only print with one black ink.
To that date, we have already served 14.000 meals throughout Spain, France and Portugal. Besides, this last April, we have gained a new ambassador for KÜiK, Ragna Debats, a world champion leader of running. Until now, she has accumulated titles such as three-time world champion 2018, European champion of sky-running 2017, and recently the absolute winner of the Marathon des Sables 2019, being an ambassador for KÜiK Meal. In this last event, she used KÜiK as her first power supply! We couldn’t be prouder of her and the product.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The journey that drove us through entrepreneurship was natural, because in a way all of the founding members were currently working in a startup environment.
All the founding members were currently working in a fast paced environment at Laboratoires Grand Fontaine, so it seemed like an evidence to them to launch the KÜik Meal project as a startup.
As I used to say in my daily work : “Don’t expect the right answers from your mind, but rather from the market. Listen to it, pay close attention to all the details that your consumers or potential customers reveal in every interaction.”
The inspiration came with my brother’s stay in Silicon Valley at the end of 2017, he was working in an IT company, and went familiar with a complete powdered food called Soylent (something that did not exist at all in Spain at that time).
When talking to him, we realized that my current company (Laboratoires Grand Fontaine -LGF) had the adequate technology to develop such complete food.
Since January 2018, we established ourselves as an intra-startup of LGF based in Barcelona. We started with a team of 3: Albert, pharmacist, and nutritionist to be in charge of the R&D and product development, Roxane, a law student, and myself.
We had a really fast road to market, after conducting a google survey, we realized that 1 out of 4 Spaniards were skipping their breakfast or any other meal during their week. We also confirmed our hypothesis that most of them felt regret after falling into junk food.
All of us had very few savings so we had to go for external funding.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Albert, our nutritionist benchmarked all the existing complete powder formulas in the US, UK, Netherlands... and approximately one month after, we had a detailed form filled with all the ingredients we wanted in the correct proportions.
The main lesson we learned from those days is that an early launch with opportunity to learn is more valuable than a late launch with loads of market research.
Albert found two gaps in the market: on the one hand, no one had the option to prepare both sweet and savory flavours. On the other hand, we could be the only one using whey protein as the main source, while other products were using: soy, rice, or pea proteins, with a lower biological value.
Then we got in touch with a potential manufacturer in the north of Spain, in Asturias, a well-known place for its dairy productions. And there we found the ideal partner: a cooperative that was able to blend all the nutrients! From whey protein, wheat carbohydrates, canola oil, vegetable fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
We then signed an exclusive manufacturing agreement, and only one month after (march 2017), we had the first prototype, it was a neutral powder and when mixed with water, the texture was smooth and creamy.
Our next step was to develop the flavourings, and for that purpose, we created KÜiK Flavour Boost: 8 natural flavourings sweetened with stevia packed into stick packs. You will find here our first flavour testing with students:
Almost one month after, april 2018 we ran the first production campaign.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The first thing we went for was the design of the website, even before knowing about how our formula was going to look like.
For that purpose, we hired a freelance programmer and briefed how our website should look like. At the same time, we activated our social networks presence: Instagram and facebook as a first step, Pinterest and Twitter afterwards.
In order to fund the project, we activated a crowdfunding campaign at Ulule. We mainly get support from our relatives and friends, but also from Barcelona startup hubs such as Barcelona Activa and from some other FoodTechs such as SmartFooding. This is how we aimed 5.000 € to secure the production of the very first 400 units! People would get an exclusive first slot of: 1.5 Kg of KÜiK Meal in bag, one t-shirt and a shaker.
All for 49 $, we reached our goal in less than 5 weeks. The second funding round came from our mother company LGF.
The first batch produced arrived to our office in May 2018, and we scheduled a launching event at Barcelona Activa, a very famous startups hub center. It was a boost of energy when the concept was very well received by all the workers in the hub!
The main lesson we learned from those days is that an early launch with opportunity to learn is more valuable than a late launch with loads of market research - which actually might be wrong.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since our launch, we have tried to reach customers through different platforms. As we are an e-commerce business, we wanted to start our presence in the online market.
We created a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter page, and then we started conducting social and Google ads. In the beginning, all our sales came from these two channels (Social Ads and SEM).
However, we also wanted to conduct offline marketing campaigns so as to be a “top of mind” brand. This is why this year, we have started to do some sampling marketing campaigns in Barcelona and Madrid. This includes: sampling in the middle of the street, in specific spots like sports places or student and business areas, and in specific gaming events.
We combined these street marketing campaigns with traditional marketing campaigns such as small billboards in different stations of the subway of Barcelona.
With our new launch in Europe, we are thinking of starting these campaigns also in the European capitals. One of the things we have learned from this topic is that it is important to not only focus on online marketing, but to get in touch and talk to our potential customers.
In these recent encounters, we learned how we had to communicate to customers and what specific needs we were actually satisfying and which concerns they have: the risk of any digital business is to be far away from your real customers.
Nowadays, I would say we are dividing our effort by 70% in digital campaigns and 30% in offline campaigns. But our aim is to get a more balanced split between both platforms.
We are a company really attached to our clients. We like them to be happy and active, and we always try to make a great experience for them when buying KÜiK products. That is why we put a lot of effort in retaining our clients.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are not yet profitable. Nowadays, we are operating under 25% margins, since we are still manufacturing what seem to be small batches for our factory.
If starting again, we’d probably spend more time in the streets talking to our customers.
Anyhow, our aim is to reduce these costs by duplicating production at the end of this current year and work over 30% margin at least. Our CAC stills high, at around 20 $, since the LTV is only about 45$. Our CR still have room for improvement, we are at 0,64% on average this last year.
We had a 36% growth in revenue from the last 6 months 2018 VS first 6 months of 2019. Also, the users and sessions grew accordingly.
As far as social media, we have quite a balanced distribution among Twitter (1,4 K), Facebook (2,6 K) and Instagram (1,7 K).
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
If starting again, we’d probably had spent more time in the streets talking to our customers in order to address their concerns from the very beginning.
We’d probably also trying fewer things at a time, meaning that at the beginning we were trying to do all at a time: Blog, Social, SEM, Newsletter, Events…
A good decision was to activate segmented campaigns for our target consumers. Creating an adapted value proposition for each group: students, sports, gamers…
It was also a good idea to create a board of ambassadors for every target. Our last brand ambassador: Ragna Debats, got the win in the marathon des sables, probably one of the toughest races on earth: 250 Km in the sand of the moroccan desert.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Prestashop for the design and development of our website.
We love Google Analytics to track our results, because we set goals on traffic for every source (SEO, Direct, SEM, Referal, e-mail) and review it continuously, to see what works or not!
You may all know MailChimp, we also do and we use it for our e-mail marketing campaigns, and SEMrush for our SEO tracking.
No social media tools or any other relevant tools are being used, apart from SocialBlade to watch out if the followers of some collaborations are fake or not: SO important
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Lean Startup is a must. We were definitely inspired to go to market with an MVP, in order to test our assumptions, and to pivot around different targets.
Growth Hacker Marketing, it is a very short, straight to the point book, that would provide us with the “hacker mentality” to be always looking and maximizing opportunities for our promotions.
Shoe Dog is also an always motivating story, since you can notice all the ups and downs Phil Knight went through before Nike became the massive success it is today. It is just and encouraging biography that every entrepreneur must read.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t expect the right answers from your mind, but rather from the market. Listen to it, pay close attention to all the details that your consumers or potential customers reveal in every interaction.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have just hired our new Project Leader, Gilles Touchagues, who will carry out all the Europe expansion, with special focus in France and the UK. He is a former consultant at Deloitte and enjoy an Ambassador status of the French Fitness Leader “Fitness Park”.
We are looking for a new Community Manager, since ours is leaving at the end of this month. He/She will be in charge of organizing and conducting the Organic Social Media strategy, events and influencers management. Good english and french is required. This is a paid full-time job in our HQ in Barcelona. If interested send your CV to [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website: www.kuikmeal.com
- Facebook: KÜiKglobal
- Instagram: @kuikmeal_global
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
KÜiK Meal has provided an update on their business!
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with KÜiK Meal to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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