There is a new food subscription box in town, but this one has a difference. It’s a box full of oddly shaped fruit and vegetables, hence the name Wonky Box. With a mission to stop perfectly fine produce heading to the landfill just for looking a bit different, Angus Simms and Katie Jackson started Wonky Box to bring something new to the grocery sector in New Zealand.
After a few years in London, Angus Simms and Katie Jackson moved to New Zealand and travelled across the country in a campervan.
During the summer of 2020 and 2021 both Simms and Jackson worked alongside several orchards and later learned that fruits and vegetables that don’t meet “commercial standards” get thrown away.
“What shocked us was just the sheer amount of waste that was either dropped from the trees and left in the fields to rot or just thrown to feed livestock,” says Simms.
“I was thinking ‘Gosh, there’s so much here that we could still eat’, it’s perfectly fine, it’s just you’ve got a picky export market who wouldn’t have been so keen.”
With the lack of competition in New Zealand within the FMCG industry, Simms and Jackson were quick to think of an idea that could bring something new to the market.
After some thorough research, Simms and Jackson realised the best approach was to create Wonky Box, an alternative to what is in the market while helping farmers and giving Kiwis access to healthy ingredients at a cheaper price point.
“I suppose we did some more research and we figured that how can we make an impact on growers who have got this produce that’s perfectly edible, technically they’re losing money as a result, we can give them a fair price for this,” he adds.
The idea for Wonky Box came along around the same time as when Kiwis were first introduced to the direct-to-consumer subscription model, such as Hello Fresh and My Food Bag. But Simms says they are not a meal kit provider.
“We very much wanted to come through and reduce waste. We will always stand true and call ourselves a food waste business as opposed to a meal kit business,” he says.
“I suppose the difference is that in a time where inflation is increasing and prices of everything is getting so expensive, we figured that one of the solutions was to be able to provide a box with healthy ingredients.”
Wonky Box came into the market at the right time, with Covid-19 boosting the popularity of the product despite only first launching in Wellington.
“We knew that we could go around, continue to do what we were doing and during that lockdown was also a critical time for us because we doubled, tripled, if not quadrupled the size of our business in that small period of two months in the backend I think of 2021 that was now,” he reveals.
Their decision to launch in Wellington was originally because it was the hometown of Simms but later was a challenge for the pair with hard accessibility to farms in the region turning into a hurdle of ensuring fresh produce being delivered to Wellingtonians.
“We figured if we could make it work here, we can make it work in any other city in New Zealand.”
With Simms’ history working in start-ups in the UK, taking risks is engraved in his mind, which resulted in their “leap of faith” to expand further into Auckland.
Right off the bat, Wonky Box’s launch in Auckland was successful, seeing a growth rate of 20 percent week on week.
“We’ve very fortunate to have a really great team around us,” he says.
For Jackson and Simms, they are continuing to look into innovating their product for the market but they say they still have a “huge advantage” with the competition being “fairly slim” in New Zealand.
Simms adds that having their own identity and focus is what makes them stand out from the existing market.
“I feel what we’re doing here is so new and so unique that we’re hoping the growth continues, and the momentum continues,” he adds.
And when it comes to innovation, the pair are looking out for how to grow their business across the food categories.
“The reality is it’s not just growers and farmers that are producing food here in New Zealand that is at risk of going to waste.”
As for other regions in New Zealand, Wonky Box can only tease that they are looking across other metros such as Hamilton, Tauranga and the South Island.