Millennials are more aware of healthy eating, says Kcal founders
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Millennials are more aware of healthy eating, says Kcal founders

Millennials are more aware of healthy eating, says Kcal founders

Mark Carroll and Andreas Borgmann tells Gulf Business about how Kcal has paved the way for healthy eating in the UAE

Zubina Ahmed
Millennials are more aware of healthy eating, says Kcal founder

What inspired you to start this business? 
Kcal is a passion driven business. The way it was intended was to turn our lifestyles as individuals into a business. Healthy eating and living has been in my DNA starting early in life and carried through to adulthood. So in a nutshell, the idea was to take something I was doing already, turn it into a business and see if it could help other people who wanted to do the same. And fortunately for us, when we first launched in 2010, we were one of the pioneers of clean eating back in 2010.

We started at a time when there was a definite demand for healthy, calorie-controlled food in the market but little supply. So this lead us to open our very first restaurants in JLT, then this evolved into more restaurants, then into the meal plans we have today. We’re a very entrepreneurial business and are always trying new ideas. Some have done very well and others haven’t, but we’re always learning and evolving.

What are some of the challenges you faced when starting off?
As in any startup, you can face certain challenges. When we first started, neither Mark Carroll or I had ever been in the food business before so there was a lot of research and studying that went into it. For example, the F&B industry is very people focused on the business side, so you learn to work with people of all levels and need to learn to motivate your staff the right way. But the biggest challenge was definitely that we were brand new to the industry and the learning curve was very steep, but at the same time that was the most fun and exciting part of it. Every problem has a solution, you just need to be willing to put in the effort to figuring it out.

How has Kcal contributed towards shaking up the industry with its healthy meal plans?
While Kcal is mainly a F&B business, it’s important to note that we’re also both an e-commerce business as well as a brick & mortar one. And those are split between our two main brands, Kcal and Fuel Up, in which we also have partnerships with GymNation. Our biggest business is the online portion with meal plans (both Kcal and Fuel Up). So it’s a simple model, serve healthy and delicious food through various methods and give customers the best experience in doing so. Although our main focus is to help people live healthier lives, one of the most important aspects of our business is that we actually create time and give it back to our customers. No shopping, no cooking or cleaning.

Kcal healthy mealWhat are some of the expansion plans you have in your pipeline?
The future of our business definitely relies heavily on ecommerce as with many other business in today’s world. We want to keep listening to our customers and keep satisfying their needs, and keep coming up with new innovative ideas in doing so. We feel confident about our plans and we’re eager to share them with the region. Currently we’re looking at the surrounding countries to the UAE with Saudi at the top of the list.

Shed some light on the evolution, availability, trends of healthy meal options in the GCC.
Back in 2010 eating healthy in Dubai was not as big as it is today. We used to always eat at a place called Zing, as at the time it was one of the only healthy restaurants around, but they’ve closed down. We’ve established a new market segment of healthy eating, and now it’s a much bigger thing than it used to be. Today there is such an abundance of healthy options in the UAE which we’re so happy to see and be part of. It’s a great place to live when you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle and we’re proud to be part of the evolution of that.

Why healthy and better-for-you concepts are successful with millennials and Gen Z?
I think younger generations are developing a growing awareness on the importance of healthy eating and the potential negative effects of not doing so. Particularly in the UAE there is a growing culture and mentality about fitness and healthy living. I think that’s due to the multi-cultural expats located here, the changing weather landscape, the rushed work-life and also simply a growing desire to live healthier and feel better.

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