Good news this week for South London-based meal kit delivery service Mindful Chef, which was recently bought by food giant Nestlé. The deal – financial details have not been revealed – is another sign that tech-driven businesses, particularly those which thrive in the increasingly digitalised world, are thriving where others are not.
One of the most memorable aspects of the early UK lockdown, way back in spring, was the mad rush for the supermarkets. For a few long weeks, supermarket shelves were often empty, and stores were forced to ration essential items. It soon eased as we got used to the situation, but the situation may have indelibly altered our relationship with the way we buy food.
Food to your door
Food delivery services – both restaurant takeaway apps, which are obviously huge businesses, but also of ready-prepared meal kits – are a booming industry. They obviously existed before the pandemic, but like with so many other things, many observers are arguing that the virus and the lockdowns it has caused has pushed their adoption forward by a matter of years.
It’s a nascent but crowded market, with various different brands trying to differentiate themselves. As with so many products and services these days, one of the main selling points is convenience – though the meal kits also allow people to try meals that they wouldn’t have before, at the very least because they come with such detailed instructions.
Mindful Chef is one of the players doing well in this area. Founded five years ago by school friends Rob Grieg-Gran, 35, Giles Humphries, 34, and Myles Hopper, 32, the firm received significant investment via crowdfunders – including from big-name sports stars such as Sir Andy Murray, Victoria Pendleton CBE and Will Greenwood MBE.
It later received £6 million in investment in 2018 from private equity firm Piper. Piper has now exited, following the investment from Nestlé. According to industry publication The Grocer, Nestlé found itself in competition with Waitrose for the deal – suggesting Mindful Chef appears a highly attractive prospect for buyers.
And according to Sunday Times research, Mindful Chef was one of the fastest-growing private technology companies in Britain, with an annual sales rise over three years of 136.93%. Its latest self-reported sales came to £14,609,000, according to the Sunday Times. The company is still only small, with 40 staff, but appears destined for big things.
Much of that is driven by its technology. According to the Sunday Times, Mindful Chef built its backend in-house: a gambit that appears to have worked well, given its online platform has since handled more than seven million meal orders to 139,000 users.
Unsurprisingly, the firm received a boost when the lockdown came into place; it reported a 452% surge in demand for its home delivery recipe boxes in March, the Sunday Times said. That surge had to be handled by its technology platform – no doubt a challenging task.
There are other factors, too. Mindful Chef (as its name suggests), tries to do things a certain way. It’s a registered B-Corp, meaning it balances purpose and profit. B-Corps are “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment”, according to the BCorporation website.
The company says it considers issues like responsible and ethical supply chains, recycling, environmental issues, trying to make its food boxes as healthy as possible. It also matches its orders with donations to charity.
This approach is increasingly popular with the younger generation, who increasingly seek purpose and ethical practices from the businesses they buy from and consider those factors as important buying choices, just as much as price or quality.
Good news for Mindful Chef, then, and another sign of how consumer choices are changing in favour of digital and tech companies.