Author: Francesca - Mr Lee's Team
We are not going to lie, this 2021 has been a challenging and busy year for us at Mr Lee’s. Although we’ve experienced some very difficult moments, it has also been a transformational year with a lot of positive moments which have helped us grow, change and learn. From new product launches and price adjustments to publishing our own Noodle Cookbook and expanding even more in the USA, here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to at Mr Lee’s in the past 12 months.
At the beginning of the year our founder, Damien Lee, sadly passed away. This had a huge impact on us, not only as a business but also as a team. Strong, cheerful, upbeat, positive, creative and resilient, Damien was an inspiration to us all. Although his passing was a shock, his legacy still shines bright and helps us to continue working hard every day.
This 2021 we’ve achieved major milestones which we are sure he would be proud of and this 2022 we are committed to continuing his mission of offering healthier food options to society.
Two new product ranges - porridges and congees
Mr Lee’s has launched not one, but two new product ranges in the UK during 2021. Our team worked really hard behind the scenes on our gluten- free vegan breakfast Porridges and our scrummy Congee Savoury Rice Porridge and we couldn’t be prouder of the results.
Launching congee was an obvious step to take as it had been very well received in the USA, and the idea of launching a range of breakfast oats not only supported our vending machine plans but also made sense considering we were launching a savoury porridge.
With the launch of both Mr Lee’s Porridge and Mr Lee’s Congee, we were able to expand into new territories and add a breakfast and lunch time snack to our product catalogue.
New rice noodle price
As the company continues to grow, we saw fit to bring down the price of our delicious rice noodles. Our expansion into the USA as well as the launch of new product ranges in the UK meant, we were able to offer our customers a better price.
The recipe and ingredients are exactly the same, but the price of our 6-pack of Noodles has been lowered from £15 to £13.50. With this, we’ve been able to make Mr Lee’s Noodles more accessible and offer healthier food options at a lower price.
Launch of The Noodle Cookbook
We also published The Noodle Cookbook, a project our late Founder, Damien Lee, and our Executive Chef, Andy Chu, put a lot of effort and work into during 2020. The cookbook is packed with 101 healthy, delicious noodle recipes from a variety of different regions in Asia. This book contains everything you need to know about noodles and how to make them taste amazing!
As well as the 101 amazing recipes in the book, you will also find a handy guide to over 20 different types of noodles and over 30 'hero' ingredients including; miso, lemongrass and plant based milk!
If you’d like to find out more about what goes into writing a cookbook, check out our blog post where we talk you through our cookbook writing experience, from creating recipes to taking photography.
Expansion in USA
We landed state-side in April of 2020 and we’ve expanded significantly during 2021. We are now available in over 1,000 stores across the USA and have a strong presence in the major regions of the country with both our rice noodles and congees.
You can now find Mr Lee’s stocked in Whole Foods and Harris Teeter as well as HEB Central Markets, Schnucks, Pete’s Markets, Skogens and many more!
At Mr Lee’s we have always believed in helping those in need in whatever way possible. Earlier in the year we teamed up with Pavegen and Emma Sinclair from EntepriseAlumni to donate 20,000 meals to struggling food banks and children’s organisations across the UK.
We’ve helped out by contributing to food parcels for vulnerable people self-isolating, provided warm meals for the homeless and we also supplied some of our noodles to Base and Roses, a food bank in Bristol which supplies over 100 homes with free vegan food every fortnight.
This Christmas we also wanted to help out and we have made donations to Hackney Christmas Dinner 2021 to help young care leavers without a family to spend Christmas with and contributed a few boxes of noodles to the staff at the Lewis-Manning Hospice Care.
Mr Lee’s Kiosks
For the past few years we have been working really hard to develop our Mr Lee’s Kiosk. During 2021 we were able to finalise all the details of our cutting-edge healthy hot food kiosk and successfully introduced this solution at Vendex North 2021.
We have also been running a trial of one of our machines at the Cherwell Valley Moto station which has allowed us to see how Mr Lee’s Kiosks perform in a service station setting. We have been very well received by travellers who have mostly been picking up noodles in the evening.
The coronavirus pandemic has made meeting up a bit more complicated but, despite these difficult times, the Mr Lee’s team has managed to get together quite a few times.
At the beginning of the year, we got together via Zoom calls and celebrated Pancake Day and Easter and we also enjoyed a few lunchtime meals online with our colleagues. Once restrictions were lifted and we were allowed to meet in larger groups, we had a few BBQ’s in the office yard, nice walks down the beach and enjoyed some breakfast outings.
We also got the chance to celebrate a few team achievements and we recently got together for our Christmas do. Let’s hope this 2022 we are able to meet up more regularly and continue to create team memories!
Our love for healthier food options has no bounds and we wanted to share more of our passion with all of you in the form of blog posts.
We published a total of 55 blogs across the year, covering a range of different topics, from business updates and nutrition-centred posts to Asian food guides, a variety of different recipes and influencer interviews and we received over 10,000 unique pageviews. Our most popular posts were "Tom Yum Soup: 'The Miracle Soup'", "Damien Lee: Mr Lee’s Guiding Light" and "Why you need to spend more than £1 on instant noodles". All in all, it has been a great year of blogging!
What’s next for Mr Lee’s?
Big things are coming this new year! One of our main objectives is to expand our brand even more by adding new products to our catalogue. The Mr Lee’s Food Team have been working on some very exciting new products which we can’t wait to launch very soon! We’ve also been working extremely hard to get ourselves in UK supermarkets and other locations, so stay tuned for more! Of course you can still get us on Ocado, Amazon and our web store.
Regarding Mr Lee’s Kiosks, we look forward to a range of successful trials with a view of offering our Hot Noodle Bar to the market in the first half of 2022.
Of course, we can’t forget our plans for the USA market. This year, we're looking to expand into at even more stores and we’re also beginning to plan the possibility of launching a new product range by the end of the year!
We wanted to finish off this blog post by thanking all of our customers and supporters. We wouldn’t be here without all of you and we are honoured to be able to continue offering you healthier food options which are quick and easy to make.
Our team is really excited about what’s coming next and from all of us at Mr Lee’s, we wish you an amazing 2022!