We gave Becky Erwood a little longer than an elevator ride to pitch FED, a weekly food delivery service that brings nutritious, ready-to-eat meals created by chefs to people’s doors around New Zealand.
As we near the end of 2019, it’s no overstatement to say the world is moving at a frenetic pace. The lines are blurring between work and personal life, and between juggling work, exercise, a social life and running a household, not everyone has the time nor energy to cook a meal for themselves – or their families – each night.
Meanwhile, a UBS research report, The End of the Kitchen, predicts that by 2030, we could see a scenario where most meals currently cooked at home are instead ordered online and delivered from either restaurants or central kitchens.
This was a gap in the market FED co-founder Becky Erwood identified, alongside co-owners Beckie Pilley and David Pilley, and so FED was born in 2018.
The premise is simple: FED delivers simple and personalised, ready-made meals that have been prepared by chefs to their customers. This makes it stand out from its competitors that deliver recipes and ingredients that all have to be prepared by the end user.
The weekly food service lets customers mix and match meals from a seasonal menu of fifteen dishes for adults, four sides and four kids’ meals.
Erwood says the idea came to her when she moved from the United Kingdom to New Zealand and asked, ‘What’s your version of M&S?’ Marks & Spencer is an iconic store in Great Britain that has prepared meals people can order.
“Having lived in a market where prepared meals are very much part of the way people live and eat, I was struck by how poor the range and variety was in New Zealand,” Erwood says.
“In the UK, they spend more than $3 billion per year on them and there are more than 12,000 different products on the market.
“The switch to having to cook again was honestly a shock, so the market opportunity had been on my mind for a while.”
She says inspiration for FED came from a busy life combined with a reluctance to spend an hour or more a day in the kitchen.
“I’ve got two young children and work full time, so I was getting home from work and then heading straight to the kitchen to put a meal on the table for the family,” she says.
“Combine that with the post dinner clean up and then putting the kids to bed and I was not sitting down until about 9pm. I knew there had to be an easier way.”
Erwood is a new business and marketing manager at PHD and the former managing director of Pead PR, where she also led its food, drink and lifestyle divisions. But with no personal experience in food production, she needed to find the right partners.
She met Dave and Beckie Pilley who were both professional chefs running a catering business and a small prepared meal business, and the alignment was right to take that business into something bigger: FED.
The company is one year in, and so far has validated its concept and build a strong and loyal customer base. Erwood didn’t want to disclose customer numbers but says the company has exceeded its own expectations for subscribers and wants to continue this growth in 2020.
As for what’s next, Erwood says ready-made meals have traditionally had a bad rap, so FED is focused on reinventing the category and reassuring the masses that a prepared meal can be every bit as good, if not better, than a homecooked meal.
“This is a growing category and we have entered the market just as the demand is starting to grow, so in the long term we see ourselves as an established and market leading prepared food brand synonymous with freshness and quality,” she says.
She says overall, FED solves the problem of people living increasingly busy lives and the stress that trying to eat healthy can bring.
“Our research demonstrated that even for those who enjoyed cooking, the time element around putting a fresh and nutritious meal on the table each night was a major stress point for those living busy lives,” Erwood says.
“We’re here to make sure that you don’t have to compromise on the quality of what you are eating when time is tight.
“Beyond that, I think we all need to come to terms with the fact that future generations will live very differently. There’s a lot of logic to central kitchens making meals for hundreds of people, rather than all the energy and time consumption that goes into individual people thinking about, shopping for and cooking an evening meal.”
And as for the impact she envisions FED having in the future, Erwood said: “We see ourselves as helping people to eat well whilst liberating them from the daily grind of food preparation!”