It started with just two brothers, Tushar and Nishant Menon, who wanted quality nutrition for their workouts, but My Muscle Chef (MYMC) has now grown into a leading functional food company delivering over 3 million meals, snacks and drinks per month direct to consumers in over 4,000 suburbs across Australia and via distribution in 3,300 retail stockists.
Since 2013, MYMC has thrived on the ethos that healthy eating doesn’t have to compromise on taste. You can have the best of both worlds.
Their menu of 80-plus fresh meals, snacks and drinks is meticulously crafted and regularly updated as a healthier, higher-protein option for consumers looking for a high quality nutrition solution to meet their needs, from convenience, to fueling active lifestyles, through to weight loss and calorie control.
Thoughtful use of data helped the company transition from a food and beverage business with a website to a data-driven company that leverages customer insights to continuously improve and scale user experience, new product development, operations and logistics, marketing and communications.
This strategy has enabled MYMC to scale, winning them a loyal, and fast-growing, customer base buying from directly via its website, its newly launched app, as well as through retail stockists.
When MYMC was first established Nishant Menon, CTO and Co-Founder, assumed their target market was purely bodybuilders and athletes.
But after five years of steady growth, they realized there was an opportunity to expand beyond their original target market to a much larger addressable customer base.
“2018 was a pivotal year for us. That was when the penny dropped that My Muscle Chef’s customers were much more aspirational. They are anyone who is health-conscious and looking for high quality functional food to achieve their total self-fitness goals, and a healthy body and mind. Our focus is to support Every Body and Every Goal," Nishant explained.
MYMC’s team first went to the data, conducting focus groups, developed customer segmentation and reviewed everything about their current and potential customers.
They discovered their body builder focussed product was only targeting a small niche and that there was a massive opportunity to get their much-loved products out to a wider audience. And if they were to really scale and grow, then a lot needed to change – from the marketing and packaging, right through to the data management and infrastructure that powered the business. Everything needed to be ready to handle increasing complexity and massive scale.
Nick Love, Chief Customer Officer at MYMC
Nick Love, Chief Customer Officer at MYMC describes this point in time as the moment they realised they had the potential to “create an infinite customer ecosystem” using data.
"When you adopt a data-driven approach to rethinking the customer and data infrastructure, you create an ecosystem unleashing the potential to appeal to an infinite number of customers around the world,” Nick said.
However, the massive opportunity in front of them was not without its challenges. Along with scaling manufacturing and advertising, the technology and infrastructure had to be ready for the next giant leap for the company. In 2020 the team got a harsh lesson in availability when their existing cloud and infrastructure provider had a world-wide outage that lasted for six hours.
“Nothing could be done. We couldn’t take orders. We were a very lean team. It was huge for us and a real wake up call,” Nishant said.
Nick Love, Chief Customer Officer at MYMC
My Muscle Chef is on a mission to inspire, encourage and fuel Australians leading active healthy lives.
From its earliest days, MYMC relied on MongoDB to build fast and scale its business.
“Obviously there are tons of databases to look at but the reason I went with MongoDB was purely because, from a startup’s perspective, it was the easiest one to architect with and get started quickly. We put together the first iteration in less than two weeks,” Nishant said.
“In hindsight, MongoDB was a great choice compared to the other RDBMS options, it is highly performant and flexible given it’s dynamic schema. I definitely saved time avoiding complex joins and dealing with any major architecture issues which could’ve been a real roadblock,” he added.
Nishant and his team chose to use a managed service for MongoDB, to keep management overheads low and ensure their team could stay lean. Initially they ran MongoDB on IBM's Compose service.
However, following the increasing data complexity stemming from the company's pivot in 2018 and culminating in the outages in 2020, it became clear the organization needed to continue to evolve its data layer. Nishant made the choice to move from Compose to MongoDB Atlas, the managed cloud service from MongoDB Inc.
MYMC was motivated by a number of key factors. They wanted a more feature rich service which could take advantage of all the latest enhancements in MongoDB as well as support from the company that actually builds and maintains the database. Crucially MYMC were also looking to a multicloud future and Atlas's ability to run natively across all major cloud providers simultaneously was a big draw.
“Previously the volume of data wasn’t a problem for us, but now we’re talking millions of documents and indexing and caching and all of those things have real performance implications, so it was quite timely to move to Atlas," explained Nishant.
My Muscle Chef has now completed an 18 month data transformation project to enable its next phase of growth, driving efficiencies in its operations and materially improving customer engagement and lifetime value. The company can now use its analytics capabilities to better understand and predict customers needs, informing strategy across food and beverage product development, operations, logistics, ecommerce user experience and retail distribution.
For the migration, MYMC’s tech team engaged with MongoDB’s professional services which, according to Nishant, “was a good exercise for the team helping them upskill and brought a lot of efficiencies into the business in terms of how we structured or indexed some of our collections.” With the help of the services team, the process of moving cloud provider and service provider was straight forward and completed in 2020.
As part of MYMC's multi-cloud strategy MongoDB Atlas runs it's operational instance on AWS, with its backups going to Google Cloud. The data then moves from the transactional databases into Google Big Query where the team do their analytical work. MYMC even has a small quantity of Heroku Cloud servers in the US for activity that is less performance demanding. Atlas provides a data layer that combines and simplifies this potentially sprawling estate.
Nishant Menon, CTO and Co-Founder, MYMC
It took MYMC six years to grow its revenue to over $20 million a year. Testament to the quality of their products, coupled with deep customer insights and their data infrastructure investments, MYMC scaled from $27 million in 2018, accelerating to a run rate in excess of $200 million this year, with ambition to grow even faster into the future.
Data-driven insights have enabled MYMC to expand their product range across a wide spectrum of categories – vegan, breakfasts, snacks, beverages. They’ve more than proven themselves, emerging as a nutritious food and beverage brand leader in Australia with plenty more scope to continue growing.
The impact of My Muscle Chef’s data driven culture is best evidenced by rapid uplift in business performance and customer loyalty over the last two years. This includes explosive revenue growth: with a more than 7x improvement on its FY18/19 revenue run rate of $27m.
Over the past year, repeat customer orders have surged 49% and there's been a double digit increase in purchase frequency. Finally, on top of all that, the average order value is now +50% higher than its largest competitors.
“MongoDB powers everything we do, from an e-commerce perspective, all the way to back-office operations," explained Nishant. "We found, over time, working with MongoDB also helps to attract the right talent, given there are a lot of engineers and resources out there in the market, who are very well versed in MongoDB and especially keen to work in the startup sphere.”
MYMC’s leaders no longer fear outages and moving to MongoDB’s fully managed Atlas service has enabled the tech team to remain lean, shifting focus away from DevOps towards greater innovation in the frontend with a new emphasis on mobile, having recently launched their mobile app.
“We’re focused on growth using data, personalisation and being channel agnostic as well. We’re going through a process of how we re-architect data between different channels. Because when it comes to customer experience, we want to provide a personalized experience at scale, regardless of channel" Nishant said.
MYMC has plans to supercharge its mobile app to streamline workflows for users so they don’t have to go back to the server for every action to pull information, and is exploring Realm, MongoDB's mobile database, to build and evolve the mobile app. Nishant explained his team’s “plan to use Realm to do most of the heavy lifting so they can focus on the front end, which is our skill set.”
In early January 2022 the team also relied on MongoDB Atlas again to launch the first iteration of its Weight Loss Program that uses simple inputs from customers alongside advice from health and nutrition experts to help build a customised meal and exercise plan.
This is a natural step in the company's journey to being a complete self-fitness service helping customers with everything from fitness, right through to mental health.
“From receiving an order into the system, all the way to delivery, Atlas really powers the business. The data platform has played a crucial role in supporting and scaling our growth and I'm excited about what we can do together as we take that growth into overdrive,” Nishant said.
“Our analytics capabilities mean we can now have access to deeper insights into our business and what our customers want. This will continue to inform our diversification strategy and personalisation efforts, ultimately guiding our customers to the best outcomes possible when it comes to their health and wellbeing.”