08/01/2018 - 15:55

Perth feasts on food boxes

08/01/2018 - 15:55

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SPECIAL REPORT: Perth's fresh food box market is becoming big business, with global player Hello Fresh launching in WA late last year as more local suppliers plan their launch.

Perth feasts on food boxes
Mai (left) and Bryan Hughes say they’re working with a list of about 65 WA-based producers. Photos: Attila Csaszar

A new local business is preparing to dive into Perth’s fresh food box sector, taking on the likes of global player Hello Fresh and a range of Western Australian operators.

Pitcher Partners chairman Bryan Hughes and his wife, Mai, who will launch My Foodie Box in coming months, are sanguine about the potential threat posed by Germany-based Hello Fresh, which arrived in Perth last November.

“I think the marketplace is becoming educated about the offering, so it’s just a matter of us (My Foodie Box) stepping in and differentiating ourselves from the other parties out there and saying give us a go,” Mr Hughes told Business News.

“People have said to us, ‘who is your market?’ and we’ve deliberately chosen the name My Foodie Box because a foodie covers everybody – a foodie is from a St Georges Terrace lawyer to a student.”

Mrs Hughes grew up in Paris, where her parents owned and operated a number of restaurants.

She said My Foodie Box would focus on attention to detail, with its Japanese chef Yuki Higashi their secret weapon.

Co-founder of 2016 Rising Stars winner, Dinner Twist, Chris Tistrand says Perth is an emerging market for fresh meal-prep services and, judging by Hello Fresh’s recent move, the multinational thinks so too.

Mr Tistrand and his wife, My, pioneered Perth’s fresh food box movement in 2012; the city’s first food box featured recipes and fresh local produce, with precise quantities for convenient cooking.

“It took us quite a while to get the concept up and make sure people understood what it was really about,” Mr Tistrand told Business News.

“It was such a new thing for people that you could have the produce and just the recipes.”

Mr Tistrand said it was early days, but he hadn’t noticed a change in customer behaviour since Hello Fresh entered the local market.

While Hello Fresh emphasised cost and convenience, Dinner Twist focused on a balanced meal with locally sourced produce with an emphasis on serving families, he said.

If anything, You Plate It co-founder Mark Rawlings said, Hello Fresh would grow market awareness for the industry.

“Hello Fresh has got, obviously, the deepest pockets and I suspect they’ll spend a lot of money on marketing and will be able to buy themselves some market share,” he said.

“But as a local Perth business we’re kind of hoping that it’ll really just increase the size of the pie.”

My (left) and Chris Tistrand say the advanced fresh food box market in Sweden inspired them to launch Perth’s first food box business in 2012. 

When You Plate It entered the market, Dinner Twist was one of its only competitors, Mr Rawlings told Business News.

“We noticed we didn’t steal very much (market share) from Dinner Twist at all; pretty much all of the customers we acquired were unique because we’d gone after a segment of the market that they hadn’t really gone after,” he said.

“We started with a strong focus on double-income couples.”

Mr Rawlings said he believed Dinner Twist had the largest customer base in the current market, followed by You Plate It.

“I think Dinner Twist and us have the advantage over Hello Fresh in that we are local and what we source and supply is local,” he said.

“I know that Hello Fresh, because of quarantine, they’ll have to get some stuff here (WA), but also a lot of their other stuff gets fumigated in Sydney and sent all over Australia.”

The operators of another local business, This Little Pig Went to Market, believe education and exposure around meal kits in WA is beneficial for all providers.

Co-founder Jessica Kerr said the business placed a strong focus on targeting two major customer groups –25-35 year olds looking to try new ingredients and learn to cook, and those aged 50-plus who wanted to expand variety and reduce cooking time.

Meanwhile, at Prep’d husband-and-wife team, Kate and Keiran Brain, say their product is focused on families who desire speed, simplicity and convenience.

Business News sought unsuccessfully to contact Hello Fresh.

Expanding options

Launched early last year, Little Harvest Co takes a different approach to most, focusing specifically on vegan and paleo diets.

“Our food is not just about convenience; it is about choosing to nourish your body and mind,” founder Natalie Engelbrecht said.

Mrs Engelbrecht said Little Harvest would be rebranding as Nourish & Flourish Co as the business grew beyond food, with plans to become a lifestyle brand.

According to Little Harvest Co, Australians waste about $10 billion worth of edible food per year, making precisely portioned food box services one way to reduce waste, provided they take a sustainable approach to packaging.

Consumer review publication Choice Magazine compared the price of the Hello Fresh Classic food box ($70 for three meals) and found the cost of buying the ingredients for the three meals from an average supermarket was not substantially cheaper (excluding delivery cost).

In reality, however, shoppers can take advantage of special offers and bulk purchase offers, thereby lowering costs, provided all produce and ingredients are ultimately consumed.  

Fresh food boxes have been just one meal-prep service on the rise in Perth, with pre-made meal businesses in abundance.

Some options on the market include: Lunch Ladies; Kale and Co; Fit Kitchen; The Little Feast Company; Fresh Clean Eats; Home Chef; Poppet’s Pantry; My Fit Lunchbox; Paleo Meals Direct; Wholistically Healthy; and The Daily Bite, which launched late last year.

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