Munk Pack Co-Founders Interview | GuestBox
Munk Pack's maple-pear-quinoa flavored oatmeal fruit squeeze is a delicious, nutritious and conveniently packaged meal for travelers. Whether you are going hiking or driving downtown for business to some new and unfamiliar city, go on, unscrew the cap: you'll find your thoughtful travel host has got you covered!
GuestBox spoke to Michelle and Tobias Glienke, the brains behind Munk Pack, about what differentiates this vegan, gluten-free product and makes it such a wonderful addition to GuestBox's curated list of superfood snacks — and the perfect luxury essential for travel hosts looking to go the extra mile.
GUESTBOX: What's the journey been like?
MICHELLE: We got started, just the two of us, while we were living in New York City and like many people, we were always struggling to be healthy on the-go. We were looking for healthy stuff that would be easy to grab around the time we were constantly rushing out, skipping breakfast. One thing that we did was make smoothies and oatmeal, funnel them in jars that we'd grab-and-go. Nice but of course perishable and messy. We'd go hiking on weekends and the only option was bars. After a while they get tiring and they don't feel like real food. Lots of additives. That's how we got started with the oatmeal fruit squeeze concept. We discovered this amazing packaging format with the flexible pouch, which at the time had only been used for apple sauces and baby food, and we thought what a great opportunity to create an adult nutrition product with that same portability... We talked to a lot of runners, and they thought it was a good idea.
Starting this company was part of a personal journey. I was becoming more aware of a healthy lifestyle. I started studying nutrition and was considering alternate life paths from being a lawyer. It felt like a progression to me to be able to create a career path that combined my personal passions.
TOBIAS: I was always interested in nutrition. When I worked in finance, I was interested in starting my own company. Within a year of meeting Michelle, we started this. It was three years before we got married.
MICHELLE: The date of the founding of MunkPack was our unofficial wedding day. (Laughs.)
GUESTBOX: GuestBox's research reveals travelers want a low maintenance product that won't spill, and can go through TSA. This is a great fit for GuestBox, given the product's quality and packaging. Did you think about travelers as the product came out?
TOBIAS: Nationally and globally, travel is increasing... greater demand for portability. Absolutely, our brand is about on-the-go snacking. All the products we've launched have that direction.
MICHELLE: Traveling is not just limited to going to the airport. It's really in your purse, in your car, on the subway.
TOBIAS: With the pouches it's super easy, you unscrew it, put it in your cup holder. Very clean, not dropping anything.
GUESTBOX: What is your target base, and what segment comes next?
MICHELLE: Our demographic is really millennials.
TOBIAS: Anyone older than millennials, it's hard to convince them to try out the product. Millennials and Generation Z are much more open, that's what we found. Kids have been growing up on these pouches for a decade, they're becoming teenagers, the market is growing.
MICHELLE: We are also diversifying as a brand, not just doing squeeze pack products. We have protein cookies. We really enjoy bringing innovation to different segments. The common ground is healthy nutrition on-the-go. There's a lot of room for innovation in the gluten-free and the vegan arena... not just for people who are vegan, people who also eat meat but are looking for plant-based alternatives.
TOBIAS: We are catering to three core elements: people who need portability, folks who have nutritional targets to meet, like with protein for example, and those who follow dietary restrictions.
GUESTBOX: How can we reconcile the idea of 'clean' food with the packaged food industry? How to reassure customers that this is as close as possible to the luxury of consuming natural wholesome food?
MICHELLE: We started with farmers' markets before scaling up. Most people understand that they're not going to be able to take the time to make their own smoothie or juice that is 100% nutritionally optimal at the time that it is pressed. Our product uses various fruit purees, flax, chia and actual rolled oats. It's a lot healthier than most packaged foods (which taste funny too) and it stays very well preserved without artificial preservatives in this packaging, as opposed to juices where the product deteriorates a lot more. It's impressive that our product is able to last for a long time. Twelve months is the shelf life.
GUESTBOX: What separates you from the competition in such a saturated environment?
TOBIAS: The way we differentiate to avoid the competition, it's shelved in the oatmeal aisle with the oatmeal cups. Some retailers, we are also with the fruit sauce. But even there, our product contains oatmeal. Not just a fruit sauce. Consumers do value that. Pay a little extra to get something more substantial than fruit sauce.
MICHELLE: There are a lot of small players like us in the pouch space and they've all positioned themselves differently. It's really nice when others do products with the pouch because it helps educate consumers. There's a large market to be tapped and there's a synergy there.
TOBIAS: Some have tried to reproduce our products. Every year we wonder, which big company is going to knock us off? Maybe it'll happen this year finally. We don't know. But ours is a nuanced approach, very authentic.
MICHELLE: The big guys try to save half a cent... It takes a lot more time and testing and companies seem unwilling to change processes to get at the subtleties of what makes our product delicious and successful.
Are you thinking of making the product available for travel hosts abroad?
MICHELLE: The product is manufactured and distributed in the US. For a few cycles, we had the oatmeals available in Canada, but we are waiting for now, with the exchange rate being so bad. The product would be especially popular in Europe where they are health-conscious, but typically the barrier is language. The packaging needs to be labelled correctly to meet the regulations. We're open to the idea, but it's for the future.
GUESTBOX: Michelle, how does being a female entrepreneur affect the way you view the world?
MICHELLE: The thing that's nice about the food industry is I wouldn't say at all that it's dominated by men, which is the case in the tech industry. I'm not completely unique (laughs). With all the ups and downs and what we've accomplished, it makes you feel like in life, anything is possible... it's very different from law and finance, where it's client focused. It's kind of problem-solving, and I definitely bring that skill set to working as an entrepreneur, but it's all solutions that we create and we choose, rather than informing other people to make their decisions.