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What I've Learned: Marion Grasby, Spice Queen

Jenna Hanson
Business and Technology Journalist

Jenna Hanson covers business news and technology for Smarter Business™

Jenna Hanson
Business and Technology Journalist

Jenna Hanson covers business news and technology for Smarter Business™

Marion Grasby saw a gap in the market and created her own line of quality Asian ingredients and recipes.

After a shock exit from the second series of MasterChef in 2010, Marion Grasby and her husband launched the Marion’s Kitchen range of Asian ingredient kits. With the success of the first products in the range, she then moved on to cookbooks, TV series' and writing spots with Australia’s leading food media. Four years after launching the business, we catch up with Marion to find out what inspires her products, why quality is something she won’t compromise on, and what technology she couldn’t live without.

Marion Grasby eating in Thailand market

JENNA HANSON: How did the idea start? 

MARION GRASBY: My range was inspired by feedback from friends. The problem was that they often ran into difficulty sourcing Asian ingredients and recipes, or were disappointed by the poor quality of ingredients available. So my aim was to create ingredients, sauces and pastes with the highest quality raw materials that stayed true to the flavours I grew up with.

JH: How did you start the business?

MG:  Our business was funded by a mixture of mortgaging our property to the bank and loans from family. It was daunting going into so much debt but we were sure there was a real gap in the market for quality Asian supermarket products. I firmly believe it’s the quality of our products that keeps our customers happy and coming back for more. Cooking and food have been my passion for as long as I can remember. It’s this passion for super tasty food that is at the core of my Marion’s Kitchen range of products. Taste comes first, always, which is why I believe we’ve achieved such success in the past three years.

JH: What inspires you?

MG: I’m constantly travelling through Asia in search of inspiration for more Marion’s Kitchen products. I get so excited about discovering new dishes or ingredients and I simply love being able to bring them back home to Australia for everyone to try them out. I’m constantly developing new innovations and this year I’ll be launching a range of Asian spice rubs, salad dressings and stir-fry sauces.

JH: What about the competition?

MG: We’ve had competitors try and copy our elements. They haven’t been able to replicate or source the same quality raw materials, which has everything to do with why our products work. Each product starts in my very own home kitchen with ‘real’, fresh ingredients. We set ourselves apart from the competition because every product has to deliver on taste rather than on a price point. Anything that can’t be produced to my high standards at the right price point simply doesn’t go to market.

Listen, listen and then listen more. Your customers will tell you what they want, what you’re doing well, and what you need to work on.

- MARION GRASBY, MARION'S KITCHEN
Tips from Marion
1. I’ve learned to trust my own instincts and to stand firm on opinions I feel strongly about. We’ve made mistakes of course… we’ve had products that haven’t quite worked out or were not as popular with our customers but I wouldn’t do anything differently. It’s the mistakes that teach you the most.
2. I’m constantly rethinking. For example, we have made our meal kit sachet system a process that’s fun and easy. Rather than having generic plain packaging for each sachet, we number them and include fun messages about the cooking process. This makes our customer experience far more enjoyable.
3. I am constantly travelling and digesting the surrounds. In fact I’ve just had a six-week period where I only spent four nights at home! My laptop and phone are essential to working on the go. In particular, the use of IMAP email accounts and online data storage systems like Dropbox are vital so I can access emails and files remotely from any device.
4. Listen, listen and then listen more. Your customers will tell you what they want, what you’re doing well and what you need to work on.

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