Scaling up on slim pickings

Sharon Thurin: 'Our philosophy is about finding healthier ways to have everything.' | Photo: Damien Pleming

Sharon Thurin has notched up some big sales on slim pickings, with her nutritionally balanced snacks already selling in 10 countries. Now she’s hoping to crack the big time in the US.

It’s the fantasy of many business owners – one day a rich investor in a foreign land will discover their product and parachute it into the world’s biggest consumer market, the United States.

For Sharon Thurin, director of Melbourne-based healthy snack products Slim Secrets, the fairytale became reality.

That leap into the vast US market of 313 million consumers is expected to boost turnover by 40 per cent in the next year.

Three years ago US entrepreneur Mitch Free, the founder of manufacturing marketplace, spotted Thurin’s products by chance in a supermarket in China and got in touch.

Slim Secrets duly launched in the US in September 2014.“Slim Secrets Australia has licensed the brand to Slim Secrets USA, a newly formed company," says Thurin.

"We’ve backed the horse both ways, which is fantastic, because we get a small licence fee and we’re also a small shareholder in the US enterprise.”

For the first time, Slim Secrets will ship online orders overseas.

“It’s just too expensive to send to other countries from Australia, whereas from the US, it’s a lot cheaper,” she explains.

“While we do export to about 10 countries already, I think once exposure and penetration happens in the US, it will help in terms of global branding.”

Slim Secrets launched in 2005 and now has a range of snack bars, chips, cookies and protein balls that are low in fat, sugar and kilojoules, and some are gluten-free.

They are available at Woolworths and Coles supermarkets in Australia, and smaller stores.

The idea for the Slim Secrets range was sparked when Thurin, working as a health and weight-loss coach, wanted to solve her client’s snacking dilemmas.

“When I looked to see what was out there, there was nothing nutritionally balanced I could recommend,” she says.

Clever celebrity-driven marketing has grown the brand, such as being included in goodie bags at the Oscars and Emmys.

“In terms of PR and marketing, the Oscars was the best thing we ever did. The exposure we got worldwide was fantastic.”

Thurin has co-branded products with former Olympic swimmer Michael Klim’s Milk range, and promoted Slim Secrets snacks at Australia’s Logies television awards and Fashion Week.

Slim Secrets also sponsored the Miss Universe Australia finals this year as well as the current Miss Universe Australia, Tegan Martin.

“Our products have had more interest from Asia in recent years,” says Thurin. “Their eating habits have become more anglicised and they’re more fitness conscious.

“Obesity is one of our biggest killers. I think one of the reasons people are overweight is because they diet. Our philosophy is not about extreme dieting, it’s about finding healthier ways to have everything.”

One piece of advice

When you start a business, it’s daunting. One of the most helpful things is to talk about ideas with experienced business people.

There were times I was ready to give up or didn’t know what I was doing, so contacting people and getting guidance was invaluable.

This article is from the October 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK. 

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