Small Business: Restaurateurs - My Food Bag

Cecilia Robinson, Theresa Gattung and Nadia Lim of My Food Bag.
Cecilia Robinson, Theresa Gattung and Nadia Lim of My Food Bag.

My Food Bag is a home delivery service, where customers who order online receive food bags containing the ingredients and recipes for a week's main meals. All the ingredients are fresh, free range and locally sourced wherever possible. The recipes have been designed by 2011 Masterchef and dietitian Nadia Lim who also provides nutritional analyses and cooking tips. The business is the brainchild of entrepreneur Cecilia Robinson who is the managing director. New Zealand businesswoman Theresa Gattung is an active shareholder. The Classic bag is designed for a family of four to five and costs $189 for five meals, The Gourmet costs $139 and includes four meals for two people, both with free delivery.

What has the response been like so far to My Food Bag and who are you trying to appeal to?

Theresa Gattung: We had always hoped for wide appeal because it is such a great initiative in New Zealand bringing nutritious and healthy meals to the home. And cooking has become cool. We have been blown away by how well the idea has been received. We receive amazing feedback daily both on Facebook and direct to the My Food Bag office. Common themes are: "I am no longer frazzled about meal planning for the week."; "It is a hit with my partner and children who have never shown an interest in cooking before and now I can't get in the kitchen."; "It saves me time and money.". "I can spend time with my family at the end of the day instead of shopping for food."

How are you managing to keep up the momentum and interest in this initiative?

Cecilia Robinson: What makes our concept so interesting and exciting is that we unveil a variety of delicious recipes each week. Our customers tell us that their favourite days of the week are Wednesday when we unveil the upcoming week's recipes and Sunday - when most of our customers receive their food bags. We have also had some really neat partnerships in recent weeks when we have partnered with the Aromatherapy Company and Dollop to deliver our customers some lovely gifts which add to the My Food Bag experience. This is something we will continue doing as it's a win-win for both the businesses involved and our customers who get introduced to exciting new products. We are also really excited to introduce more of our partners and suppliers to our customers which gives the customers real transparency of the journey the food takes to get to their plate.

What challenges have you had?

Cecilia Robinson: Our team's favourite saying for the first six months has been that: "We don't know, what we don't know". We have taken a new concept into New Zealand and with that has definitely come some challenges, in particular in terms of logistics and distribution. We have also experienced rapid growth which has challenged our systems and processes. A key objective for our team is to continue to work to improve our processes and product offering. It's important for us to not rest on our laurels and to continue to innovative and challenge the way we think.

How much do you vary the menu?

Nadia Lim: The menu is incredibly varied. It heavily depends on what is in season as my cooking is very seasonal - when produce is in season it's at its freshest and tastiest. However every week we have a fish dish (Monday), chicken (or sometimes duck for the Gourmet bag), lamb / beef (or sometimes venison for the Gourmet bag), and a casual Friday night meal (like a gourmet pizza or tacos) or a vegetarian meal (once a fortnight).

Are you prepared for a potential slowing after the first year?

Theresa Gattung: Well, we are not at the end of the first year yet. And there is no sign of it slowing down. In fact, over time we have seen people move from fortnightly delivery to weekly delivery. Every week, without fail, we have people calling to say they forgot to order and is there a spare bag because they can't do without it.

How are you using social media to support the business launch?

Social media has been pivotal in supporting My Food Bag's launch. There is an online word of mouth community where people share their experiences with My Food Bag through twitter, Facebook and instagram. In just over six months our Facebook site has grown to more than 7,500 likes and our customers engage with our brand regularly through both sharing their My Food Bag experience and also posting photos of our meals and products.

How are you planning to develop the brand in the second and third years?

Theresa Gattung: Actually we have a number of ideas around that. We have got an exciting sponsorship coming up with an iconic New Zealand sporting organisation.We are also excited by the concept of partnering with well-known chefs who will contribute recipes.

We think we have only scratched the surface of potential demand for this service. We have lots of ideas we have come up with and customers have suggested for additional bags and additions to the current service. As we have expanded and grown our customer base so we help our suppliers grow their businesses.

In the long run we intend to set up a charitable service because the potential to reach the community and teach cooking healthy, nutritious meals from scratch will benefit the community in so many ways.

Is My Food Bag taking the place of takeaways for some families or eating out?

Nadia Lim: Every week we get feedback from people saying they've been converted to loving a new vegetable, or are eating more vegetables. They're also buying far fewer takeaways because there's no last minute rush to provide a meal and customers are saying their kids are excited about trying new dishes and foods. Kids - and plenty of husbands - are getting involved in cooking too, which is awesome.

Next week: Note that I'm writing this on the morning of race 12 and 13 of the America's Cup and we have just lost both of them but I am confident we will win the next race or the one after that so I am planning to look at the NZ marine industry next week and some of the small businesses who will benefit from our Americas Cup win. Tell us what your hopes are for new business after this victory and what it has done to the reputation of the marine industry here.

- NZ Herald

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