Meet Melissa Mckerlie, the co-founder of Nuttino. It’s a UAE homegrown local brand that provides delicious cashew nut-based cheeses and spreads that are plant-based/vegan and free of dairy, lactose, sugar, oils, gluten, or additives.
With years of experience in the corporate world, managing various business functions in the B2B space, including online advertising and marketing,
Melissa is a successful entrepreneur passionate about enhancing people’s lives.
In this interview, Melissa shares her passion for healthy, tasty food, how it led her to create Nuttino and the challenges and successes of bringing a new healthy food concept to the UAE market.
Explain the background of Nuttino in detail.
Nuttino is a UAE homegrown local brand that provides delicious cashew nut-based cheeses and spreads. All cheeses and spreads are plant-based/vegan and free of dairy, lactose, sugar, oils, gluten, or additives.
My professional experience spans over 25 years, where I have managed various business functions in the B2B space, including online advertising and marketing. However, my true passion lies in healthy, tasty food that brings people together. I am certified in plant-based nutrition and hold advanced food safety and HACCP certifications, which have allowed me to create healthy and safe products for my customers.
I believe that healthy, tasty food has the power to create important social connections and bring people together, forming the foundation of good health and happiness. This is what drives me to produce delicious, plant-based products that taste great and are healthy and sustainable.
What are your goals?
Our mission is to spread love and happiness one cheese at a time! We want
people to feel good and enjoy delicious products without worrying about any health concerns. Nuttino’s products are healthy and suitable for everyone’s diet, including keto, vegetarian, vegan/plant-based, gluten-free, and lactose-free.
What do you feel is the biggest strength of yourself/your company right now?
“Our biggest strength as a company lies in the diversity and experience of our team, as well as our vision for the future. We have a strong team of advisors, including investors in companies such as Pure Harvest, Beyond Meat, and Impossible Foods.
We are extremely customer-focused and continually adapt our products and services to address the growing demand in the market. In addition, we do this by innovating our products with the customer in mind and obsessing about customer service.”
What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?
“A lot of hard work, perseverance, and determination goes into our success. Of course, nothing would be possible without the support of our amazing customers, business partners, advisors, and friends. There is no way we could do it alone.”
Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?
“After giving up dairy for health reasons, I missed enjoying delicious cheese. I searched everywhere in Dubai for vegan cheese that was high in taste, had a great texture, and was healthy – free of oil, sugar, or additives. However, I couldn’t find anything good, and this inspired me to create a new innovative cheese product.
After hundreds of iterations and attempts, I finally arrived at a cashew nut-based cheese, and Nuttino was born, along with our wonderful customers and team!”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
“We are very fortunate to be based in the UAE and blessed by the ease of doing business here. Our customer base is very diverse, and we are lucky that everyone is open to trying new kinds of foods. The trend for healthier products is on the rise, and we are certainly well-positioned to solve this problem for our customers.”
Give us one word that describes you the best.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
“For me personally, I am excited to get up every morning and make a positive difference in people’s lives. I enjoy providing our customers with healthy and delicious options. Seeing the smile on our customers’ faces when they try our products brings me joy, and I love receiving their amazing feedback. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience this joy and happiness.”
What do you value most about your culture and vision?
“We value our customer-focused approach and uncompromising vision of creating a new market of healthy foods to best serve our customers. We want to positively impact everyone and make the world a better place.”
Melissa Mckerlie, Tell us about a project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
“The launch of Nuttino, for one. Since cashew cheese or even plant-based/vegan cheese is an innovation and a brand-new concept in the UAE market, we found it requires a lot of awareness and information about the healthy food sector and the product itself. We have been creative in coming up with new ways of marketing and talking about the product and brand that resonate and connect with consumers’ core desire for something tasty to enjoy while also being good for their health.”
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
We are not compromising on the quality of our product and the health of our customers. Furthermore, we are adamant about not adding oil, artificial flavorings, or anything harmful to our products that could compromise the health of our customers. We strongly believe that this approach is unique in the market and a relatively new concept.
What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career? Tell us something about your memorable incident in your leadership.
The key values that are important to me are vision, integrity, passion, resilience, and adaptability. It is key to tap into these values in times when challenges and roadblocks present themselves. I try to remember an important saying often: “No problem is unsolvable.”
These same values are also important in any organization, so everyone is working together to achieve an aligned outcome. We strongly believe this is the case at Nuttino.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
A company is made up of people. As a company grows and changes, the people must also grow and change with it while keeping the culture and core values intact. We, as an organization, believe it’s important not to lose sight of that.
As our customers’ needs evolve and change, we hope to grow as a company to accommodate those needs, so we continue spreading happiness and reaching more people.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?
Nuttino is an owner/operated business. We treat our customers as we would treat ourselves. We care deeply about our customers and strive to provide the highest quality, healthy, and tasty food products in the market. In addition, we believe that eating is a deeply personal preference and are so happy to provide plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, and oil-free options from a homegrown local UAE brand for everyone to enjoy.
What are the services/solutions or products offered by your company as par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services.
You won’t find any other vegan cheese products in the UAE like Nuttino; it is a totally new product with clean and fresh ingredients. Give it a try, and let us know what you think! We are quite creative and have lots of new products in the pipeline.
We are now focusing on our core products, cheeses, and spreads and will bring additional products to the market at the right time.
Connect with Melissa McKerlie on LinkedIn.