Manuko: Blending Impact and Efficiencies

The idea for Manuko was first conceived when its founder, Matt Hardie, saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the market for healthy and organic food. By 2012, he had turned a passion for health and wellbeing into a start-up enterprise making and selling organic food products from his apartment in Melbourne.

Today, Manuko manufactures premium organic products and cacao treats from its factory in Torquay. Throughout the journey, Matt has been unwavering in his vision of making extraordinary products that deliver moments of joy while fostering a healthier life and a more sustainable world.

From his first delivery and farmers market appearance to securing a maiden stockist, Matt grew the business incrementally and steadily. Experimentation was important to find the best product-market fit, extended to testing different production methods, from contract manufacturing to using commercial kitchens.

As the business grew its wholesale customer base of cafes and other stockists, it had to scale up its operations to meet demand. This included investing in new equipment, expanding capacity and warehouse space and improving processes to drive efficiencies.

Automating processes to build capacity

Matt says that Manuko strives to stay ahead of demand and meet customers’ expectations for fast delivery. This relies on operational efficiency and having stock on hand to ship orders quickly.

To achieve this, Matt says the team always looks at where the bottlenecks are in Manuko’s production process and operations. “In the beginning, there were bottlenecks everywhere,” Matt says. “But as we have sought to increase and maximise output, it justified investment in new equipment to level up efficiencies and team productivity.”

For Manuko, this included simple steps like moving from handwashing dishes to a commercial dishwasher. In its production line, the business also acquired far larger food processors and replaced labour-intensive hand-dipping and cutting of chocolate with specialised machines.

Matt points out that the shift from manual processes extends beyond manufacturing to sales and marketing. “Our ordering and sales process was previously manual, with emails, checking bank accounts, and then shipping orders, but that wasn’t scalable.”

“We changed our system and began using a platform, Ordermentum, which streamlined our wholesale ordering process. It has automated steps like payments, which has saved us time in the delivery cycle.”

Manuko has also begun using generative AI tools to support new product development, helping with legal questions and production plans. Matt says that while tools like ChatGPT and Canva don’t replace food technologists, lawyers, or graphic designers, they can be very helpful in providing ideas that the team can build on.

Blending impact and efficiencies

Matt notes that the business’s ability to increase capacity relies on more than process efficiencies. He believes that organisational culture plays a significant role in supporting the team’s productivity, including a focus on wellbeing and work-life balance.

According to Matt, employing Manuko’s philosophy that business is a force for good also has dual benefits. “We’re not just creating a great product for customers; we’re also looking at the supply chain and our other business activities to make a positive impact on the environment and the future.”

“We source certified organic ingredients for our products and support sustainable agriculture.” This approach was informed by his earlier years growing up on a biodynamic dairy farm in Victoria, acquainting Matt with the sustainable agricultural practices he would carry through to Manuko.

“From an efficiency and impact standpoint, we seek to minimise food waste to zero and reuse the cardboard packing we receive from suppliers as cushioning in the boxes we ship to our wholesale customers,” Matt says.

“For example, in our production, we will get rough or underweight products that don’t quite meet the grade for our café customers. We created a ‘rough cuts’ box that is 25% cheaper for customers, which is good for waste, more affordable for customers, and provides a unique and saleable product.”

“Alongside many others, these initiatives have a positive impact and are smart business practices. When you’re minimising waste, you are also cutting costs, and it’s clean and healthy for people and the planet,” Matt concludes.

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  • The information and statistics in this article have been obtained from Manuko. The Bank believes that the information in this article is correct and any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made, based on the information available at the time of its compilation, but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made in the article. Any opinions, conclusions or recommendations set forth are subject to change without notice. The Commonwealth Bank does not accept any liability for loss or damage arising out of the use of all or any part of the article.