More than a ‘glorified TV dinner’: Australia’s The Mad Foodies translates research into low-carb, high-protein RTE meals

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

The Mad Foodies is driven by increasing demand for efficient and value-for-money family meal solutions, and healthy food in sustainable packaging. ©The Mad Foodies
The Mad Foodies is driven by increasing demand for efficient and value-for-money family meal solutions, and healthy food in sustainable packaging. ©The Mad Foodies

Related tags Australia Rte Nutrition

Australia-based brand The Mad Foodies is aiming to satiate growing demand for ready meals that are not only convenient and tasty, but also infused with science-backed nutritional benefits.

Years of extensive research by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, has led to the development of the CSIRO Low-Carb Diet, an evidence-based eating plan that is lower in carbohydrates, and higher in protein and healthy fats.

The findings were published in a book series that serve as a self-guide — including a range of recipes and meal suggestions — for consumers to learn how to implement the Low-Carb Diet in their daily lives.

“While the CSIRO Low-Carb Diet has been clinically proven to be highly effective in sustaining long-term weight loss and blood glucose control, there remained a gap in the market for those wanting a healthy eating option without having to cook from scratch,” ​Xenia Cleanthous, senior experimental scientist and project lead for the CSIRO Pre-prepared Meals Programme, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Recognising this gap, US food innovation consultancy Creative Food Solutions (CFS) applied the nutrient specifications of the CSIRO Low-Carb Diet to create a ready-to-eat (RTE) meal range under the brand The Mad Foodies.

Ian Hill, general manager of CFS and key leader of The Mad Foodies, said that there have been growing consumer interest in science-backed nutrition approaches as a strategy to better manage body weight and reduce the risk and effects of type 2 diabetes, whose prevalence is at “epidemic levels” in Australia.

COVID-19 was a terrible time for everyone, but it had a positive impact on the RTE market. There’s much more awareness of ready meals among Australian consumers than before. These meals have moved far past the perception of being a glorified frozen TV dinner. We’re observing different trends that target different customers — for example, the growth of high-protein ‘gym junkie’ meals.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, retailers are catering more shelf space for ready meals as they try to entice foot traffic back to their stores, and regain the market share lost to the food-delivery category. In a market where there were only three or four major players previously, now you see many new and smaller players offering exciting flavours, which energise and challenge the RTE space!” ​added Hill.

In fact, the birth of The Mad Foodies was also driven by increasing demand for efficient and value-for-money family meal solutions, and healthy food in sustainable packaging.

‘Food as medicine’ approach

The brand’s product development process, which involved creative meal design, rigorous consumer testing, auditing and regulatory compliance, took over three years.

“We worked closely with the CSIRO team to ensure all our RTE meals meet the nutrient specifications of the Low-Carb Diet,” ​Hill shared. 

In addition, the products are made using CFS’ sous-vide cooking technique, whereby the foods are submerged in water and cooked at low temperatures for a long period of time.

This is said to provide “great protein textures” and extended shelf life without the need for synthetic additives.

“It’s a healthy cooking process that allows meals to be kept fresher for longer. The Mad Foodies embraces the ‘food as medicine’ approach. Our aim is to create a RTE range that anyone could pick up and eat, and feel satisfied knowing that the fuel they had put into their bodies is truly good for them.

“It has been a fantastic opportunity to bring together our cooking process with the CSIRO Low-Carb Diet to create a certifiably nutritious meal range, where flavour has not been compromised in favour of health benefits,” ​Hill reiterated.

Currently in the soft launch phase, The Mad Foodies has six RTE products in its line-up, of which three flavours are available at IKEA Australia.

At the same time, the brand has launched a CPET oven- and microwave-proof packaging tray that is made from 80% recycled plastic.

“IKEA Australia jumped on the opportunity to be the first to bring our ready meals to market. They are selling the Chunky Chicken Casserole, Coconut Chicken Curry, and Moroccan Vegan Casserole, with the two chicken dishes performing particularly well. Considering the healthy and sustainable aspects of our products, it is no wonder that the idea resonated so well with IKEA,” ​said Hill.

Along with plans to launch the products in some independent stores, The Mad Foodies will be participating in a trade show in Australia this July, where it targets to introduce the brand to more retailers.

“Exporting our products to overseas markets is on the horizon, but we need to solidly grow the brand in Australia first,” ​he concluded.

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