NZ Business: Plating up business success

NZ Business June 2016 Edition: Plating up business success

By Kevin Kevany an Auckland based freelance writer.

NZ Business Blog lay up

‘Crowd-fundable’ World On Our Plate is ‘WOOPing’ it up in New Zealand home meal market. Kevin Kevany has their story.

Thomas Dietz is a fervent believer you learn the most from your own mistakes. He reckons his early career experience in various management positions at the beauty giant L’Oreal gave him the opportunity to make “plenty of mistakes”, resulting in him becoming a better leader.

Under the banner of mise en place (a French culinary phrase which means ‘putting in place’), Dietz and his hand-picked team are on a mission to make home cooking quick and easy, especially after a long day at work.

“We are removing the pain-point of having to plan meals,” he says. “Going to the supermarket, and even more importantly, spending 45 minutes-to-an-hour in the kitchen to cook a delicious healthy dinner.

“With WOOP you know, after a busy day, it will take you 15 minutes to go from the fridge to your plate.”

One of their unique advantages over the competition is they “act like chefs in a restaurant”, preparing all the food in advance — marinating meats, preparing dressings and sauces, and even dicing vegetables.

“So we do the hard work and leave our customers the fun part of cooking. We really allow our customers to cook dinner in 15 minutes and we make it really easy.

“Instead of having to hunt through 12 to 15 ingredients in a bag of 50 to 60 ingredients, we offer a very simple colour-coding system and a limited number of food components. You know that on Monday you can just take the five components with a red sticker and cook dinner in 15 minutes. Easy.”

Dietz believes they are the first company worldwide to have set up such a process, to create a cooked dinner in no time at all.

Another distinguishing aspect of WOOP is exactly that: bringing the ‘world on our plate’ into Kiwi homes. Every week “some of the best dishes from around the world” are adapted through their derived recipes, using 100 percent natural, local ingredients: a source of great pride and apparently customer satisfaction.

And his L’Oreal experience, where every person joining L’Oreal starts by spending three months as a sales rep visiting supermarkets every day and talking to customers, means at WOOP everyone does sales and regularly talks to customers.

“It enabled us to build a very customer-centric business, measuring every week the quality of our recipes, ingredients, service, and distribution, to constantly improve the customer experience,” says Dietz.

He’s quick to point to the depth of his team when it comes to real experience in the top end of the food business.

“Kristen Staines, our recipe development chef, has a huge passion for world cuisine, always finding some of the most original ingredients from small suppliers all around the country. She has a very sound experience, cooking for Jamie Oliver in the UK and the French Café in Auckland. And if that doesn’t ring bells; she was the only non-Indian teaching traditional Indian cuisine for a huge catering company.

“Kamil Splinter, our production manager, is a very talented chef and has led large production teams at LSG Skychef, the Lufthansa catering company, preparing all the business and first classes meals for Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Emirates,”

And, of course, you need a celebrity TV chef too. But with a difference.

Dietz again: “William Lockie, our marketing manager, is a huge ‘foodie’, passionate entrepreneur and extremely talented digital marketer. I met William when he was 22. He had already launched three businesses — one supplying macarons to thousands of customers and running a team of 20 people at the Auckland Business School for their entrepreneurship programme. William also worked for Fonterra and was a finalist in the last season of My Kitchen Rules NZ.”

 

Validating the market

 

Dietz learned the importance of market validation (before launching a business) from his partnership in Tomette, his first venture into the local food business.

“With WOOP we completed 200 customer interviews to make sure we were understanding the ‘pain-points’ around dinners, and ran focus groups to improve the product well before launch. We were the first food-kit delivery company to offer a gluten-free option in New Zealand and have a huge following from gluten intolerant customers.

“There is no contract. You just order your first box and decide to continue or pause the service, with the availability to easily choose, for example, to pause for a few weeks if you go on holidays.

‘All food is packed and delivered to the door in recyclable, chilled containers, ensuring the integrity and quality of the ingredients. Even if customers are not home, the food stays fresh. WOOP can track the GPS position of any courier every 30 seconds, allowing them to offer “an almost perfect delivery service.”

So how are they doing in a competitive market?

“Our tailored package enabled us to have a fantastic start, reaching a S1 million annualised revenue run rate in less than six months,” says Dietz, “and we will soon be producing at an ‘annualised rhythm’ of 100,000 meals a year, delivered in Auckland only.

“We will be launching in Wellington and other cities shortly, and the model will be replicable in other countries.”

 

Crowdfunding success

 

The key to the successful launch of WOOP was a highly successful, initial capital raising via crowdfunding.

“We wanted to recruit our first customers early and were quite successful in recruiting our first ‘evangelists’ at the same time,” Dietz explains.

“It’s probably early days to explain why crowdfunding worked so well. I can say we probably have a ‘crowd-fundable’ product anyone can understand and use. We have put lots of effort into building the right premises for the type of business too.

“Add to that a sound business plan and market validation, backed by having the right team to deliver the product and some credible experience in building a high-quality, exciting product with Tomette.

“All that certainly helped; and probably a ‘reasonable valuation’.”

 

NZB

Kevin Kevany is an Auckland based freelance writer.