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Local Meal Replacement Market Gets A Shake-up

An Australian meal replacement and weight loss phenomenon has launched in New Zealand to take a bite out of the fast-growing weight management market.

Adam MacDougall

The Man Shake is expanding into the New Zealand market one year after its founder, Australian rugby league legend Adam MacDougall, sold a majority stake in its parent company Cranky Health for AU$400 million.

The 48-year-old started the business in October 2013 inspired, sadly, by the tragic death of his best mate from a heart attack. From his home garage, he and wife Belinda started the process of creating a low-sugar, high protein meal replacement shake specifically for men who had traditionally been overlooked in the weight loss category.

With up to three times the protein and one fifth the sugar (per 100g) of other products, and its “real blokes and real results” appeal, The Man Shake is ranked the number one meal replacement product across leading pharmacy and grocery retailers in Australia*.

The success of The Man Shake led to the launch of The Lady Shake in October 2014, as women saw their husbands and partners shedding weight and improving their health.

With more than 500,000 Australian customers, the business has built a large, passionate, online community of ‘shakers’ who encourage each other toward healthy lifestyles, including sharing before and after shots of their progress.

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“For us it’s more than just selling shakes, we're supporting people to kick start a healthier lifestyle and make them feel better,” says MacDougall.

He believes The Man Shake can have a similar impact in New Zealand, which has no products tailored to male weight loss.

“I see similarities with Australia where our target market is men aged 30-55, many of them dads, who love to have a beer with the boys and for them healthy food isn’t always top-of-mind,” MacDougall says.

Kick starting a healthy lifestyle

At 133kg, volunteer firefighter Josh Dobson desperately needed to change his lifestyle. “I tried dieting, and it didn’t work. But I knew I had to change my relationship with food,” says the 40-year-old from Palmerston North.

One of the biggest barriers for Josh was finding a product and a support network that was specifically for males.

“I came across The Man Shake group on Facebook and I started reading stories about guys like me who were having good success with it and sharing their before and after shots. That was one of the biggest things for me – the fact they were all so incredibly supportive of each other.”

Having one Man Shake and some home baking at morning smoko, along with a normal lunch and dinner has helped Josh get down to 117kg.

He admits he still has a long way to go, but he has more energy and, he says, his wife has even admitted he is “looking a bit skinnier”.

Although the New Zealand meal replacement market is not as advanced as Australia’s, the weight management market globally is expected to beworth $405 billion by 2030**.

The Man Shake will be sold nationwide through Unichem and Life Pharmacy and via the company’s e-commerce platform.

The launch in New Zealand will be supported by an advertising campaign worth over NZ$2 million.

A post-NRL career with results

After retiring from rugby league in 2011, MacDougall discovered it was common to meet busy men struggling to focus on their health and fitness, with many overwhelmed by where to start on the journey to lose weight.

“When I was out on public speaking engagements and giving motivational corporate talks, the people I met were too busy to look after themselves,” MacDougall says.

“A lot of these guys were making good money but not eating properly or getting enough exercise. The more I looked into it, I realised men’s poor health had become an epidemic with around 75% of Australian men either overweight or obese.”

Obesity is also a significant issue in New Zealand, which has the third-highest adult obesity rate in the OECD. Based on the latest Manatū Hauora / Ministry of Health statistics, 34.4% of New Zealand adults (over 15 years) were classified as obese in 2020/2021, up from 31.2% in 2019/2020.

“That’s around 1.4 million Kiwis and for many, they will be struggling to find time to exercise properly and eat well. For busy people, diet is the most important thing. Even for people who can get regular exercise, it’s all about what they put in their mouth.”

The MacDougall’s consulted with a food scientist, a nutritionist, and a doctor in developing the formula for The Man Shake and The Lady Shake, that is high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals and low in sugar.

“We designed it so people can have dinner at night with their family, and even the odd cheat meal every week, but still stick to their plan. It takes away the need to think and plan what you’re going to eat during the day but importantly, still leaves you feeling full.”

Cranky Health was valued at AU$200M before the MacDougalls sold a majority stake to Australian private equity giant Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) in January last year. PEP has significant experience in consumer products businesses, including a stake in New Zealand health products company Manuka Health.

Both Adam and Belinda continue to play an active role as in the Sydney-based company.

* Circana MAT 20/8/23, measure – Retail Scan Value Sales

** Facts & Factors, 09/02/23

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