Travelling throughout Asia gave Phil Poetker and Barry Belog food for thought.
The Winnipeg entrepreneurs decided to put a western spin on an eastern invention in an attempt to provide healthier eating choices to people around the globe. The result: the Nutrigrill, an Asian-inspired wok-shaped indoor barbecue customized for the western market.
“Health and wellness are very important and food is core to that belief,” explains Poetker. “As we travelled and worked in Asia, including Korea, Japan, China and Thailand, we saw a familiar form of eating that incorporates cooking meat and vegetables at the same time. We also recognized that health and wellness is something that these countries experience as families and where this particular cooking style means that they are able to control the calories resulting in far less obesity.”
Reminiscent of the fondue parties of the 70s, the Nutrigrill is the next-generation social cooking trend.
“Cooking and eating together as a family has been a disappearing custom in North America as most people spend time eating alone, virtually attached to their technology devices and talking to people on social media,” says Poetker, a self-proclaimed lifelong inventor. “The Nutrigrill is easy enough for anyone to use and allows for great family times at the table with everyone active and involved.”
From social cooking to a successful social media push, Nutrigrill has appealed to customers all over the globe – more than 6,000 units sold in more than 10 countries including the U.S., U.K., Japan, Russia, China as well as a few countries in Latin America. Approximately 60 per cent of all sales are from foreign markets other than the U.S.
“We’ve been selling our product to world markets for approximately two years. The digital media world allows us to continuously expose the product to a much larger market for a fraction of the cost,” Poetker says. “It appears that healthy eating and interaction between family and friends is a universal desire.”
And employing a digital marketing strategy has opened many doors of opportunity.
“We spent very little money marketing this product to the world,” he adds. “Digital covers a much broader demographic, allowing us to test other psychographic and socio-graphic market segments. Most customers under the age of 30 don’t watch much TV and respond almost exclusively to Facebook or YouTube.”
While Nutrigrill may not be knocking out George Foreman and his array of grills just yet, Poetker and Belog are working on scaling up production capabilities that could see 25,000 units per month destined to foreign markets, namely the U.S. The increased demand is expected to come from an infomercial featuring an endorsement from celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia. The duo is also creating a lineup of close to 30 accessory products that will enhance the Nutrigrill experience.
Nutigrill’s experience selling to the world has provided many lessons, namely that planning is a critical success factor.
“The world is getting much smaller and represents a great opportunity,” adds Poetker. “At the same time, you must do your homework, failure to accurately plan can result in disaster. Building relationships for business is also critical in developing trust in order to get any business venture started in another country.”
That was crucial especially for developing partnerships in China, adds Poetker.
“Personal relationship building with overseas partners or clients is a process that seems foreign to many Canadian business types,” he adds.
Looking to the future, the focus will be on the U.S. market, but Nutrigrill will be promoted in other markets around the globe. Many retailers have expressed interest in purchasing the product, including the Home Shopping Network (HSN) and QVC, as well as many independent and chain retailers. In addition to the continuous improvement of the product, the company is also in the process of developing retail kiosks that can be positioned in shopping malls and grocery stores.
Poetker and Belog don’t plan on stopping until they change the way people think about preparing and eating food.
“People from all over the world want creativity and they want to share food from other countries. We want to be recognized as innovators of good health and well-being, for family and friends,” says Poetker. “It’s become clear that we have developed a product with Western presentation that possesses Asian soul.”