How Sumo Salad Has Adapted in a Changing Industry with Luke Baylis | Industry Change Episode 21

In this episode of Industry Change Richard talks to Luke Baylis co-founder and CEO of Australia’s biggest health food chain: Sumo Salad. At one point for a long time, Sumo Salad had 92% brand awareness in the market as they were the first health food chain in Australia. Now after 16 years Luke Baylis has created Sumo Well which aims to combine fitness and food together.

How did Luke start out as an entrepreneur?

Going back to the beginning Luke says the beginning of his entrepreneurial career was not a ‘glamourous story’. In the early 2000’s Luke and his best friend were living in chicago working for an IT company. He was young, eating all the wrong foods and drinking and within 4 years he put on 50kg. He found that in america when you ate a salad it was almost the size of a table and it wasn’t healthy either! He realised he had no portion control, no healthy food options and was not exercising. 

In Australia he was used to living a fit and healthy lifestyle, so when he went back to Australia he was unrecognisable. Whilst trying to get back on track with being healthy he found it hard to make good nutritional choices as there was a lack of availability and it wasn’t affordable to eat healthy. Luke realised there was no culture in Australia that promote nutritional food as something accessible and affordable and this is how the idea of Sumo Salad was formed. 

Luke wanted to make a healthy food chain that turned salad into a big healthy satisfying meal. He wanted to change Australia’s perception on healthy eating. They knew there was a demand for this and despite being shut down by investors they persisted with this idea to change the way Australia eats and create a better option for people. In 16 years Sumo Salad grew to over 100 locations and was the first fresh and healthy food chain to make its mark in Australian food courts. 

As a self-funded business they faced many challenges but they had to focus on getting good locations and trading in local communities to establish a following. They had $90 million in turnover and no real competitors because this was at a time before the wellness lifestyle was popular. However as the business grew, the competition grew at the same time. For the first 10 years they withstood competitors and food courts were the main place they were franchised. However over time the food court became less relevant for the consumer and cafe culture was adopted. Instinctively luke thought that if Sumo Salad did not adapt the business would die. 

Change had to be made in order for Sumo Salad to sustain itself. Hence they took the move to shift their whole strategy and create Sumo Well that provides fresh and healthy grab and go options for Aussies. Luke strived to adapt to the fitness and wellness industry and he did so with a series of tests, a broadened network and thinking holistically about what the customer journey is now. 

Most Sumo Salad customers were active in gyms or using personal trainers and Luke realised that Sumo Salad couldn’t grow if it was just a salad bar in shopping centers. In order to progress Luke need to collaborate with like minded brands and surround the customer with better options, hence Sumo Well was created to be the partner of choice for gyms, personal trainers and fitness leaders. This has broadened their network and sphere of work to partner with fitness professionals who care about their clients health and wellbeing. 

What is the one thing that made Sumo Salad change? 

Luke said that constantly asking ‘but why’ was what helped him reframe the business. They kept asking this to refine their purpose to the point that they realised they don’t have to focus on a small niche. They can branch out to a bigger audience and the purpose is more powerful because it changes the way people eat and how they consume nutrition. Through reframing their purpose they were able to advance their strategy and pivot their business to maintain relevance. 

What is Sumo Well?

Sumo Well is a new digital system where the customer can select their goals (e.g. shred fat, put on muscle mass or optimise nutrition) and they create these outcome based diets so then nutritionists and dietitians create these meal programs for people to get the results they want. Luke says it is an easy toolkit Sumo Well can provide trainers to increase their income and give their customers better results. 

Sumo Well’s objective is to supply 50 million meals per annum to Australians. By doing that they can have a much bigger impact to the wellbeing of Australia. Their on-the-go healthy meals allows them to scale up and have a stronger impact because they aren’t restricted to shopping centers and airports. Sumo Well is accessible for anyone and everyone. Sumo Well is more about holistic wellness. It is more than salad, it is about meals and snacks and smoothies, they are no longer restricted by the word salad. 

They want to empower the customer to make the right decisions for themselves. By giving them a good nutritional solution they can determine the rest and have the ability to customise their own meal. For example, protein and carbs can be mixed and changed by the personal trainer or the customer. The Sumo Smart Plate is a new eating system, that allows you to combine lean protein, micronutrients or vegetable mixes depending on what you need. 

You can create your own meal to achieve your personal outcomes, this framework provides a very good meal solution because not everyone has the same biological needs. This gives people the ability to make the right decision about what is right for them. When people are training and eating well the outcomes are exponential hence Sumo Well gives personal trainers the option to work with sumo well so their clients can get the best results! Sumo Well recently launched in Fitness First and strives to partner with more like minded professionals in the fitness and wellness industry. 

Sumo well wants to make it really easy for personal trainers to provide a holistic solution and the ability to make money from it. So when you’re advocating the Sumo Well food every time you sell it you can make money and the more people that are eating the food the more of a business you can create.

You can market as much as you want but if you don’t get results it’s not worth it. Luke stresses that you can’t be superficial in the fitness industry, you need to provide an authentic, credible solution and this diet and movement  has spent $500 000 to scientifically prove the program works, and it does! It makes it easy and the meals come through to your home and it’s so simple to get the results.

What to do in the tough times? 

The tough times are what carve you to be resilient and become a better person. It allows you to dig deep and have inner strength to keep fighting to find solutions to enable you to advance, otherwise you will combust. 

  1. Have a healthy routine – Luke has an incredible morning routine where he wakes up at 4:30, mediates for half an hour, jogs to the gym and does a workout, then has a steam and an ice bath while listening to audiobooks and podcasts. These tasks make him feel like a super human so he can tackle everything that comes at him that day. He also credits a healthy eating routine to being physically and mentally switched on. 
  2. Understand your customer – Luke says that the things that help you overcome yous business challenges is to understand your customer. It is important to figure out what it is that they want and to make good business decisions that are risky. You must be bold to make change and be open to doing something completely different that may disrupt your business. You need to evolve otherwise your business will die 
  3. Have passion and purpose – You also need the passion and purpose to run your business. You need to get through the tough times and have the resilience to get back up and know that you are doing well for your customers. You need to rely on that to motivate you to keep going!

To learn more about Sumo Well visit their website here https://www.sumowell.com

To learn more about Fitness Australia or to become a member click here.

This article first appeared on richardtoutounji.com

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