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EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia
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Find out about the major strategic shift happening at SumoSalad

QSR Media spoke to Luke Baylis, CEO of SumoSalad, to discuss the brand's plans, the healthy food trend, and its new location strategy.

SumoSalad first opened in Sydney, 2003. The brand quickly expanded to over a hundred stores all across Australia and in international locations in New Zealand, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, South America, and the USA.

QSR Media: What’s new at SumoSalad?

Luke Baylis: SumoSalad has been doing a lot of work on future proofing the business. We have been working hard to introduce a more comprehensive breakfast range, which is a significant milestone for us, as we can now target sites that can open early or that can operate around the clock. This means, Sumo customers can go to an outlet and get healthy food for breakfast, lunch and even dinner, as opposed to food courts. At the same time, we are looking at developing a Sumo direct to consumer business, which we will be trialling this quarter.

QSR Media: What can you say about the currently healthy food trend in the industry today? What opportunities does this trend present?

Luke Baylis: There are many “healthy” trends in the market that aren’t what they say they are, and as a result, many consumers are confused by what products are actually good for them. Our objective at Sumo is to simplify what health means, and allow each individual customer to personalise aspects within our menus, so, they can get the best health outcome possible. As a result, personalisation is becoming more prevalent in the healthy food industry, and we are using this to create a more innovative and sophisticated menu.

QSR Media: What have you noticed about the customers of today?

Luke Baylis: Customers today are becoming less driven by brand and more driven by product and value. This means customers are looking for brands to give them reasons to support them over another brand. They are asking, “what benefits do I get out of supporting this particular brand?” Consumers are becoming less trusting of brands since they are more educated around different offerings that are available to them. As a result, businesses need to show the value they can offer the consumer, and the benefits they will receive from supporting that brand.

QSR Media: Can you tell us more about your brand’s ethical and environmental effort? 

Luke Baylis: SumoSalad took a stand four years ago to put high welfare meats into our product mix, making us the first in the industry to do. We also made the move, many years ago, to environmentally friendly biodegradable packaging. At Sumo, our brand purpose is to change the way Australians view healthy eating and to tackle issues such as chronic disease through poor nutritional choices. We want to encourage our customers to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and that translates into some very positive environmental impacts, but also a very important benefits to our customer’s lives. We are very proud of the efforts we have made to improve our environmental and ethical impact. To be able to lead the industry in some aspects is really exciting for us.

QSR Media: What are the challenges you are currently facing now?

Luke Baylis: Sumo’s trade environment has changed dramatically from when the business was established in 2003. Back then, food courts were the only place to go within a shopping centre and that’s why it was such a great opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves by offering healthy alternatives. As the industry has changed over the years, with the introduction of other healthy food outlets, it has seen less distinction between brand offerings, which has been a big challenge for us.

As a result, Sumo is working on a new location strategy. As we announced in late April, we will be progressively moving out of food courts and pursuing more strategic partnerships, like our partnership with Caltex, which will result in being able to open sites in hospitals, universities and other locations where we can service the growing consumer demand for healthier foods.

QSR Media: Any big plans for the year?

Luke Baylis: It is Sumo’s objective to get healthy food to as many consumers as possible. To fulfil this purpose, we have been doing a lot of work to identify a range of channels, including our direct to consumer home delivery, opening outlets in non-traditional locations and new strategic partnerships. We see Sumo’s growth taking a very different path to what it has done previously, so, watch this space!

Photo credit: SumoSalad Facebook page

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