Mr Lee's Noodles
A few years ago, I was faced with late stage 4 cancer. I knew I had to clean up my eating if I was to survive. So, when I started chemo, I stopped eating junk, including instant noodles, my guilty pleasure. I realised very clearly that we are what we eat and I vowed that once I got better, I’d create a healthy and great tasting cup noodle, without any nasties. I got better and Mr Lee’s Noodles was born. No MSG, hydrogenated fats, E-numbers or other horrible stuff, but full of natural, real ingredients. They have been recognised in the industry… and we now aim to aggressively expand the business to its potential.
And our tech: our interactive noodle kiosk and software delivers a hot noodle meal 24/7 and we intend to partner with catering and retail giants to provide a unique branded Mr Lee’s retail distribution network located in universities, hospitals, defence force bases, travel hubs, high footfall retailers… you get the picture.
We are bringing a better, healthy, authentic, premium product to the global instant noodle market and have designed an exciting retail solution that we are now rolling out.
Mr Lee’s intends to make a significant impact and establish an international presence in the convenience food-to-go and instant noodles markets. We have begun with authentic and pure ingredients to make a great, healthy, re-imagined cup noodle, designed this for multi-sector and international applicability and have received a number of trade and consumer endorsements.
We have developed a novel vending proposition and we aim to partner with owners/managers of high footfall locations where our noodle kiosk can fill a need for 24/7 hot, great tasting meals so that consumers can get something other than junk food or a possibly stale sandwich.
The travel, catering and hospitality sectors have been interested based on the quality, nutrition and convenience attributes of our product and we are now actively engaged in discussions to supply to airlines and train operators, with the first airline already on board. A number of distributors from around the world have approached us validating the global appeal of what we are doing.
Our view is that a premium, convenient and healthy noodle product with a 12+ month ambient shelf life is meeting key food trends and pressures on food providers to offer better and healthier options.
We are offering investors the following discounts for purchases on our online shop:
£300-£1000 - 15% off noodles for a year
£1001-£5000 - 25% off noodles for a year
£5001+ - 33% off noodles for a year
Additional terms and conditions may apply to any rewards offered. Please contact the company to find out more and ensure you qualify.
Substantial accomplishments to date
Since the cravings began for a truly great healthy noodle over 1.5 years ago, we have come a long way.
- Over £500k raised from Founders, employees, and private investors since July 2015. These include value adding shareholders and advisors with unique insight and experience into game-changing vending development (Coffee Nation) and healthy food design (Crussh) as well as building value for shareholders and successful exits.
- Initial soft launch of 6 all natural flavours via online sales and speciality retail. Awards and accolades for first run product range: Lunch! On-the-Go Food: Innovation Award (Silver); Health and Vitality Awards 2017 (Finalist); amazing reviews from over 20 food bloggers and our ambassador/athletes who represent and support our brand and vision (see website).
- Interactive, media rich, cashless, automated, 24/7 noodle kiosk developed; launched with Compass Group. The machine has had strong initial reviews and is nominated for 5 vending industry awards.
- Selected/endorsed by the Parenting Guide project as the ideal healthy ultra convenient ready meal suggestion for time starved parents and only food company involved.
- Travel Sector: Strong traction underway with airlines; first airline order received for 80,000 units.
- Learnings from initial Q4 16 soft launch incorporated for grocery and main global roll out, including flavour additions and enhancements, new packaging and sizing for travel.
- Listed in the Startups 100 2017 list.
Mr Lee's began selling noodles in September 2016. Having refined our product and packaging and defined our sector marketing strategies, we are now planning our rollout through the following sectors: corporate B2B sales contracts (e.g airlines, trains, hotel groups, employee meals); our noodle machines placed in partnership with food service companies and retailers; grocery retailers; international distributors; online/direct marketing.
Income is expected to derive from the following streams: wholesale sales, retail sales (less profit share) from Noodle Kiosks; and, potentially in the future, machine leasing revenue,data subscription and media value of the kiosk screen content.
Our experience is that the B2B opportunity, particularly in the travel sector, can provide higher early volumes at good margins, provides excellent brand marketing value, and is being pursued as a priority. The unique kiosks represent a partnered retailing opportunity and allow models to include kiosk licence revenue and media sales relating to screen content.
Mr Lee's currently uses a lean overhead model with outsourcing of manufacturing and an aim to partner or work with large potential customers/intermediaries to allow for rapid scalability.
Use of proceeds
Funds being raised will be focused on:
- Our next production runs of pot noodles to feed distribution opportunities,
- Our boost range,
- The supporting working capital and marketing to aggressively drive our sales and distribution programme.
- Building out our sales team to focus on the corporate sector and key distribution priorities.
- Both digital and traditional marketing, intending to leverage our product credibility and all PR opportunities, which can reinforce our sales development strategy.
- We also intend to purchase and launch further noodle machines to be placed in pilots across different sectors such as hospital, defence, transport hubs, road travel and destination retailers.
The company currently has £136,550 in debt. None of the funds raised will be used to pay these debts.
Please note that Damien, the founder and Co-CEO of Mr Lee's Noodles, was declared personally bankrupt in 2012. This was discharged in 2013 after the minimum 1 year time period.
Doesn't everyone like a good noodle?
It is estimated that nearly 98 billion instant noodle meals were consumed globally in 2015. Furthermore, the pot noodle and pot rice market is growing, according to Mintel data, from £166m in 2014 to £178m last year.
Healthy and more natural food is a major priority for many people today. And the consumption of convenience food is part of daily living. Mr Lee's will target consumers who want and need both aspects.
We believe that people would eat more cup noodles if they found a healthy but tasty option. We are working to create that option and are finding examples of people wanting a healthier and more convenient option when busy. Travel, hospitality and catering are a few sectors that we believe are in need of a healthier convenient meal option for their customers.
Our addressable market is truly international, with distributor interest having been received from multiple countries.
The 18-25 age group is a key consumer of noodles. While we will target this group, our target market also extends to families, older singles, office workers, convenience food consumers at home and on the go, vended food consumers out of home, those choosing gluten free... All sectors from 18-65+ are strongly represented in our web sales, both male and female, with 35-44 year old females the largest sector of these online sales.
Those interested in health and aspects such as gluten free, low sugar, low salt, low calories, natural and no nasties are natural consumers of our product. The corporate catering sector is particularly concerned with having healthier foods, particularly in the convenience sector, which is why we expect our product to be highly desirable. Busy parents wanting clean but convenient food for their kids are also a focus with Mr Lee's being the only food company chosen in the government's Parenting Guide initiative.
By providing a healthy and ultra convenient light ready meal, rather than just an unhealthy snack, Mr Lee's Noodles signficantly increases the appeal, occasions and consumer access platforms for consuming our noodles.
Characteristics of target market
The UK loves instant noodles and consumes lots of them. The Convenience On-The-Go eating sector is massive and growing. Convenience Foods in the UK are forecast to reach £46bn by 2018. The Instant noodle market in UK was worth £178m in 2015. Both sectors are proving popular. Whether a guilty pleasure or a time pressed eating solution, instant noodles are enjoyed by multiple demographics. 70% of Mr Lee's online sales are to a 35+ demographic, one likely to be making family purchasing decisions and with potentially higher disposable income.
In 2014, it was estimated that there were over 500,000+ vending machines in the UK vending over 7bn items per annum. How many are vending hot healthy ready meals? After hours, vended food choices almost universally offer only junk food options which do not provide adequately for food needs particularly near university libraries, in hospitals, military bases, large offices, industrial estates, govenment facilities... the list goes on.
Leading catering groups have appreciated our approach to this and Mr Lee's has been taken on by Compass UK to pilot our kiosk in their higher education sector with the initial pilot proving successful and initial conversations for a wider rollout being discussed. Large catering, retail and vending groups provide a very efficient B2B market for our kiosks where just a few relationships have the potential to lead to placements of Mr Lee's kiosks in thousands of outlets.
Our product strategy enables the previously humble pot noodle to become an ultra convenient gourmet noodle meal giving great value as a food choice. Using traditional distribution but also driving sales through innovative and non-traditional channels, we are breaking new ground in how we promote Mr Lee's Noodles. We are building a strong and widespread social media and opinion former fan base, including athletes, brand ambassadors, health bloggers and interest groups.
Our approach is to pursue the multiple channels open to us by virtue of our USPs, prioritising the areas with largest initial volume, profit and brand establishment impact and which support the premium and differentiated nature of our products. We are making our products available through retailers, directly through our website and web retailers.
We are working with affiliate groups such as charities, vegan, sports team and athlete networks to promote the brand.
We aim for our noodle kiosks to be sited through B2B partner arrangements in areas of high footfall and with a need for better 24/7 convenience/vended food options, such as universities and hospitals.
Mr Lee's is a premium gourmet product in the noodle sector and is a stand alone convenient ready meal. Its quality is reflected in a 'reassuringly' higher but still high consumer value recommended retail price of £2.99, which is backed by a sample consumer survey. We believe that this is in the sweet spot for corporate purchasing by giving good value based margin results for distributors and retailers internationally.
We see our products as filling a gap in the market for time poor people, noodle lovers and people who crave quick and convenient healthful foods, giving them options to live and eat better. Our 100% tasty 0% nasty noodles benefit from high amounts of freeze-dried meat, seafood and vegetable ingredients making them a much more nutritious meal than other instant noodles. It is believed that freeze drying locks in substantially all the nutrition, flavours and shape and integrity of the ingredients. Dehydrating, a cheaper route, which many of the other brands tend to use, is believed to suck out all or most of the goodness and flavour. Mr Lee's has already received a significant convenience food industry award and other industry recognition as a premium breakout product. Our result is a fresh tasting clean soup with real tasting and looking ingredients.
The health aspect in Mr Lee’s Noodles is very prominent. The Sugarwise certification proving that they are low in added sugar is uncommon across the instant noodles market. They are also certified gluten free by Coeliac UK. Our analysis suggests that Mr Lee's compares substantially lower in salt, fat, sugar and calories than competitors such as Kabuto and Itsu.
It is expected that Mr Lees, while targeting traditional trade distribution where other premium instant noodle brands are also present, by nature of its USPs, will also prove attractive to the B2B sectors which we consider to be largely untapped. Further, our 24/7 noodle kiosks meet, what we consider to be, a currently unmet need for healthy hot vended meals in varying locations (particularly after hours and versus junk food vending choices). Judges from Compass group's The Idea Works pitch saw Mr Lee's products as right on trend and an enhancement to their own customer offer. Our intention is that the kiosks will later vend a range of superfood boosts and condiments to further personalise our noodle experience.