As part of our popular Aussie Made Mates series where we chat with other businesses that manufacture in Australia that are in the hiking and outdoors space, we recently spoke to Ian Lumb, Chief Operations Officer, at On Track Meals.
Ottie Merino [OM]: Tell us who you are and what On Track Meals is all about?
Ian Lumb [IL]: I'm Ian but all my mates call me Lummy. I proudly operate and part own On Track Meals, Australia's only maker of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). We believe that eating outdoors, in any environment or activity, should be done with highly nutritious chef designed foods. Our meals are MREs which is a meal ready to eat so it's not dehydrated or freeze dried but a wet meal that can be eaten straight from the pouch. The versatility of having a 3 yr shelf life means our meals can be taken anywhere, with or without water access, and can be enjoyed with ease.
OM: What led you to founding On Track Meals? What was your mission at the start?
IL: We started On Track Meals to fuel our own global expeditions for our sister company On Track Expeditions. Having high quality food for arduous journeys can be hard to find and make in places like PNG and Africa and we didn't want to serve our clients dehydrated meals the whole time. One of the On Track founders, Andrew, and current employee Eric, are both veterans so they know the pleasure and pain of military meals. They are easy but often taste ordinary, so we decided to turn a great food solution into a culinary delight. After serving our meals on expeditions, many clients asked where they could be purchased. This was the start of our retail arm.
OM: Why do you make your product in Australia?
IL: There are no makers of MREs in Australia with anything sold in Australia comes from NZ or the USA so we wanted to change that. We have the best produce in the world so why not use it? The obvious benefits to the market is a steady supply, Australian jobs and for our veteran members of the On Track Family, a further sense of giving back.
OM: What's your favorite meal in your product line, and why?
IL: Hands down it's our 100% Slow Cooked Australian Steak [Paul, Ottie Merino's Chief Merino Fanatic can vouch that this steak is the real deal!]. It is truly delicious and our chef team is amazing for making it possible. You could be halfway walking Kokoda, hiking with mates in Australia, fishing, 4WDing or just camping and you break out the steak and it blows people's minds. It has reinvented what you can eat in remote locations without compromise.
OM: What's the best selling product in your store?
IL: It varies month on month but our regular top 3 are our 100% Slow Cooked Australian Steak, Apricot Vegan Summit Bar, and the All Day Breakfast.
OM: What are the challenges of manufacturing locally?
IL: Getting started. Once we were established we have had a great run with suppliers and relationships that has helped us make our products.
OM: What do you think the future is for Australian manufacturing?
IL: I think it has to be more self-reliant. We need to move towards using our high level of education and ability to research and explore to increase our manufacturing capabilities. The flow on into all parts of the community will make for a stronger and more resilient economy.
OM: What's one thing you wish you could buy locally made?
IL: Outdoor ethical clothing range that covers streetwear through to mountaineering clothing.
OM: Would you rather go camping by yourself with gourmet food or go camping with friends and canned food only?
IL: Solo with one of our steaks anyday 😂
OM: Vegemite - yes or no?
IL: YES! On everything please...