A Fresh Start
Founded in 2012, HelloFresh Australia now delivers more than two million meals and recipes each month around the country. We chat to founder and CEO Tom Rutledge about the company’s growth.
AusBiz. - August/September 2018
Words by: Katrina Holden
Growing up on a rural property in the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, Tom Rutledge says the kitchen was the “nerve centre” of his family’s farm.
“From a very early age, I was aware of the seasons and the provenance of ingredients. The blokes that worked on the farm would come into the kitchen every morning — it was where we’d always congregate as a family. It was a place that had very happy associations for me and still does,” says Rutledge.
After graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Economics, Rutledge worked for a number of start-ups, including a human resources company and a wine business, before finding his way onto Network Ten’s MasterChef series as
a finalist in 2011.
“Coming from a farm which is a small business, I’d always had the desire to do something entrepreneurial and to be able to tie that in with food, which is a subject matter I was keen on because of MasterChef but have always loved. It was an obvious place to turn my attention to for opportunities,” says Rutledge, who then founded gourmet food home delivery service Mr Perkins & Co., after taking inspiration from several overseas models.
It was the first meal-kit concept to hit Australia, and it wasn’t long before HelloFresh came knocking. Established in Berlin in 2011, its founders were on the hunt for prime global markets where they could launch concurrently. Australia was on the list of launch markets (along with Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and France) and Rutledge was approached to oversee its launch.
“The blokes behind HelloFresh are very smart guys. We were put in touch by someone who was aware of their plans and what I was doing — and it was a pretty easy decision for me,” says Rutledge.
At the start of 2012, Rutledge set up HelloFresh Australia, initially doing everything on his own and then building a small team, meeting challenges as they arose. Today they’re leaders in the meal-kit market, and their revenue grew by more than 50 per cent year-on-year for the first quarter of 2018, with a current revenue run rate (at May 2018) in excess of A$200 million.
“The biggest challenge to begin with was finding customers. It was a new service and people weren’t waking up thinking, ‘I need a meal kit’. We were having to get out there and explain the benefits of a meal kit as opposed to traditional grocery shopping,” says Rutledge.
HelloFresh Australia creates recipes based on trends, customer insights and seasonal ingredient availability. The company then transports those recipes and the required ingredients to its customers, with the aim of taking the stress out of weeknight cooking.
Rutledge explains the company has a range of customers, from professionals with no kids to families and empty nesters.
“Our value proposition, which is to solve the decision dilemma around deciding what’s for dinner, appeals to a lot of people. The whole conundrum of what’s for dinner holds for everyone and not only ‘What do I want to cook and what do I need to buy for that’, but also the constant refreshing of inspiration,” says Rutledge, adding that the company has a very short supply chain and ingredients are packed and dispatched within a 24-hour window.
Rutledge works with a range of suppliers and has a preference for independently run businesses. “But more than anything, we want to make sure we have suppliers who have a quality product and, on top of that, are able to deliver things to us on time and in full. Getting things a day later may not be super-critical for a supermarket, but with a product like ours, it’s imperative for us it's on time or it won’t make it into the box,” says Rutledge.
HelloFresh Australia is now shipping 600,000 meals a week, and more than two million a month. Globally, HelloFresh has an active customer base of 1.88 million.
Rutledge is most proud of the company’s growth and what that means for its customers.
“What we’re doing is eliminating thousands of decisions every week, and we’re giving our customers and their families the opportunity to still have the fun of cooking without all of the process, decision-making and logistics,” he says.
Committed to further growth, the company plans to add to their product portfolio by expanding the variety they offer customers.
“We also want to continue our expansion into the regions,” says Rutledge. “Last year was a great year for New South Wales and Queensland, and this year we’ve had some good additions in Victoria and Western Australia, with more to come.”
HelloFresh Australia is now shipping 600,000 meals a week, and more than 2 million a month.
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