Becky Erwood co-founder of FED. meal delivery service talks to Rahul Bhattarai about her transition from public relations to the meal business.
What does your business do?
FED. is a meal delivery service that delivers prepared hand-cooked meals by a team of professional chefs to Kiwis in Auckland and across the North Island.
We deliver simple and personalised food experiences by developing original recipes, sourcing fresh ingredients from local producers and partners, creating incredible scratch-made dishes, packing using only environmentally-friendly materials, to delivering fresh meals directly to customers and through selected retailers.
Our weekly food service allows customers to mix and match their meals from a seasonal menu of individual and family-sized meals.
We are also a supplier to the Ministry of Education's healthy school lunch programme delivering lunches to 3500 school kids daily.
What was the motivation for starting it?
From my own point of view I had moved to NZ in 2013 from the UK and couldn't understand why there were so few prepared meal options. As a consumer, I really missed that and thought that If I did, surely others would too.
That had been sitting over me for quite some time when the meal kit phenomena started and I thought, okay, people are obviously open to a convenience product.
At the same time, the other co-founders of FED. David Pilley and Beckie Pilley (also the chef) were running their own catering business and had developed ready meals as a side business to their catering offer.
We got together to map out a new business concept and FED. was born!
What's your background?
I am from a PR and marketing background. Originally from the UK, I had specialised in food and drink working in comms roles for some of the big food retailers in the UK including Waitrose and M&S. When I moved to New Zealand and before starting FED. I worked with Auckland PR agency Pead PR.
Beckie started her culinary life as an apprentice at La Trattoria in Parnell she then learned her craft in some of Auckland's most notable restaurants including Sourdough Restaurant, Sails, Zarbo and SPQR.
Dave is also a former professional chef and worked in some of Auckland's most popular restaurants. They say everybody has a Prego story, and Dave has many, spending time there as sous chef.
How big is the team today?
Today we have a team of 15. Three work directly in our schools business, seven in the kitchen and the rest in operations, marketing and administration.
How was your business affected by Covid-19?
There is a high demand for meal delivery during a level 3 or 4 lockdown and we certainly see a huge uplift in orders.
During Covid-19 alongside our regular customers, we also see a spike in the gifting of meals to others. Those are often vulnerable people such as the elderly, immune-compromised, new parents or those that rely on others (such as family carers) to provide them with food.
We also work closely with DHBs and the aged care sector during a pandemic to ensure those that need our services are able to access it.
Sadly with children not at schools, we are unable to provide lunches to our students so this part of our business falls away.
How long has your business been around?
We started the business at the end of 2018 so we're coming up for our third year in business.
What's your focus for the remainder of the year?
We want to continue to introduce more people to the amazing freedoms of a FED. meal subscription so we'll be investing in our marketing and technology to attract new customers and improve our online customer experience as well as growing our delivery reach.
We're also investing in growing the B2B part of our business.
Christmas will round out the year and we'll be launching our fully prepared Christmas meal boxes in October.
What are your long-term plans, and where do you see the brand in five years?
Our goal is to steal a profitable slice of the convenience, supermarket and takeaway retail market. Ultimately, we want the FED. brand to become synonymous with fresh, high quality prepared food.
How does your business stand out in comparison to other businesses in the market - what makes it unique?
From the start, our focus has been on product quality. We weren't satisfied with the ready prepared products that were on the market and we knew we could create something that would be every bit as good, if not better than a good cook could create at home.
We make hand prepared, natural food free from obscure chemicals and preservatives and that focus on product quality is our guiding principle.
How are you marketing it?
Marketing is a mix of awareness building, lead generation and conversion-focused digital advertising and email marketing. Word of mouth is also a very strong marketing focus for us and much of our organic growth can be attributed to reviews and referrals.
We also try to get in front of our customers as much as we can by exhibiting at shows such as the Auckland Food show.
What does the competition look like in this market?
Some of our more direct competitors in the ready meal space only offer their services on subscription whereas FED. allows you to place a one-off order and we believe that this is welcomed by our customer base.
What advice do you give to people wanting to start a business?
You've got to really want to do it and be willing to commit to it 100 per cent because if you're not committed and you're not enjoying it then you won't make the progress you want to.