Becky Erwood, co-founder of ready-to-eat meals company Fed, discusses opportunities in the market and fewer options available in New Zealand.
What does your business do?
Fed is a new meal delivery service that delivers nutritious and delicious prepared meals hand cooked by a small team of professional chefs to Kiwis in Auckland and across the North Island. We have around 750 regular customers.
We launched right at the end of October in 2018 and the founders are myself, and my business partners are David Pilley and Beckie Pilley. David and Becky have been running a catering business, they're both professional chefs. Becky is responsible for all of the product development and the production of the food, and David manages all of our operations and logistics. My primary role is marketing which involves recruiting new customers, getting the word about what we do, coming up with new product innovations and building our brand.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I'd been living in the UK for a long time and I worked for a lot of those big food companies like Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, and I consumed that product a lot – prepared meals are very much the way people live their life in the UK. They buy things on their way home for convenience and they are very used to that type of product so when I moved here in 2013 from the UK, I looked around and I said 'where is the M&S of New Zealand' and people said it didn't exist, that Kiwis didn't consume food like that, which really surprised me.
That had been sitting over me for quite some time and then meal kit companies came out at the end of 2013 and I thought OK people are obviously open to a convenience product. I found David and Becky and they'd been running their own catering business and also been putting out a prepared meal on a very small basis and so I sought them out and said 'look guys, I'm interested in doing this too but need someone with your skills and it looks like you need someone with mine, how do you feel about a partnership', and that's how it all started.
How big is your team?
Me and Dave are office staff and then there are four fulltime people in the kitchen.
How long did it take to develop the new concept before you put it out to market?
It took around 10 months in terms of thinking of the concept, fleshing out what it would be and developing a brand that people would be able to engage with.
Your offering ready-to-eat meals in a meal kit heavy market - do you think there's demand for your product in the food convenience market?
Our research has shown people and looking for greater and greater convenience. Sales of takeaways for example are growing year on year - there's only becoming more and more demand for convenience products. People can really like cooking and be really good at it but they may not have the time or inclination to do it every single day. We have customers that are subscribed to Fed and eat our food every day but we also have those that dip in and dip out when they feel they need it.
What are your long term plans for the business?
We want to grow our customer base and educate people to what convenience and a prepared meal is. As we get more customers we'll be looking to launch more variety, and we're also looking at retail to have an on demand product as well as our e-commerce business, that could even be through Uber Eats in the coming months. We want to get up to 1500 regular customers before the end of the year.
How is New Zealand convenience food category different to that in the UK?
There's something like 30,000 different prepared meals on the market in the UK. There's huge potential in New Zealand. People are not getting any less busy but they also don't want to compromise on what they are putting in their bodies.
What's the biggest challenges that you've had to overcome?
Technology. It can be challenging when you've got a small business and you're completely self-funded to get a technology platform that really works and does everything you want it to do and what customers expect it to do, and that can be challenging on a small budget.
Logistics and people's expectations around delivery can also be challenging. We forget that actually home delivery is still being made by human beings - we don't have drones delivering yet, or robots.
What advice do you give others thinking about starting their own business?
You've got to really want to do it. You've got to be willing to commit to it 100 per cent because if you're not whole-heartedly committed and you're not enjoying it then you won't make the progress you want to.