The idea for HelloFresh’s recipe delivery services was imported from Sweden to Berlin. The startup then quickly launched in London and Amsterdam, and today has over 150 employees in the UK alone, as it stands as a key player in the relatively new world of food subscription services.
Freddy Ward, director of marketing at HelloFresh UK, joined the company as one of its first employees in the London office when the business was in startup mode. Here he shares his thoughts about building a brand and explaining a new offering.
The model comes from Sweden where it accounts for a couple of percent of the grocery market. We related that opportunity to the UK market. There’s more and more cooking programmes, more and more food porn in our lives every day, and there’s a trend of fewer and fewer people cooking. It felt like a problem this product could solve.
Operationally, sourcing was a challenge to start with. We’ve grown with our suppliers and built that loyalty. We have a lot of companies that have grown with us from the start.
The first job we had to do was build the category, not the brand. We found it was difficult to explain what we were trying to do through some of the traditional ecommerce channels like digital marketing. We spent a lot of time at food events and festivals talking to people face to face about the product.
Don’t spend on anything that you can’t scale at an acceptable marketing return. Some people get really excited and buy tube or TV campaigns, particularly when they get their first bit of investment. During the early stages of building the business, we were incredibly disciplined in knowing how much money we put in and what we would get out. And then you really scale and build that up.
When you’re starting out you need to give potential customers a strong reason to purchase, whether that’s a discount or an offer. Something to really engage that user. To get them from consideration to purchase stage.
We have 20 different marketing channels we use now. It’s a much more balanced mix in which digital plays an important role.
We do a lot of content marketing. We’ve worked hard to build an underlying depth of content that can start to engage and take users on a journey. We’re very fortunate to work with food, which is a very sexy and talked about and clicked on topic.
Like any startup, you need to focus on sales at the start. As you grow that funnel becomes much longer. You move from the first movers who are impulsive, to people who are much more considered about their purchases.
We often pick our suppliers on the story that they bring to life. On their ethos, how they work as a partner for us.
When it comes to getting suppliers involved in marketing, it’s just controlling their enthusiasm sometimes! We’ve just got new offices, which is great because people can come and see them and they’re more than happy for us to build content and drive that forward. It’s those personalities and connections that really set you apart.
The growth rate since I've started has been a couple of hundred percent year on year. We’ve just launched in retail with Sainsbury’s. It’s week one, but we’re seeing some great results. We’ve tapped into a demand and, as always in a fast growth business, it keeps us on our toes.
Interested in reading more about building a subscription box business? We've written a Deep-dive piece that includes experts from HelloFresh, toucanBox and Loot Create - check it out here.
Journalist and editor with nine years' experience covering small businesses and entrepreneurship (ChrisGoodfellow.net). Follow his personal twitter account @CPGoodfellow and his events business @Box2Media. He has written for a wide range of publications in the UK, Ireland and Canada, including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and Vice magazine.