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Food discovery service SimplyCook dishes up $1.1m funding round

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The business provides what it calls a monthly “food discovery plan”, including gluten-free options to its customers. Each box contains four simple recipes alongside four ingredient kits – to be added to ingredients purchased from the supermarket.

Oli Ashness founded the company after noticing how time-consuming and expensive the process of trying out new recipes was. SimplyCook was the result of his attempts to devise a “simple, convenient and cost-effective alternative” to expensive food delivery services.

He likens the service to “the world of fajita kits, where the flavour elements have made a cuisine accessible for everyone”, and the elements of the dish that customers need to add, are typically readily available.

Ashness noted that while the UK has “a litany of celebrity chefs, cookery shows and Christmas cookbooks”, people generally stick to the same seven or eight dishes, or just settle for a takeaway.

His own experimentation with recipes also prompted Ashness to take action himself. “I tried cooking a Malay Laksa from a cookbook – it cost £42 to get all the necessary ingredients, which is too much for the vast majority of people,” he explained.

The startup was using a freelance chef on board who devised all of the recipes, and compiled the ingredient kits alongside a team of professional chefs. The investment has now meant that Ashness has been able to recruit a full-time chef.

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When looking to add new recipes to its repertoire, the company gathers data from a series of choices that customers make online. The same margin is maintained across each product to try and ensure recipe creation is driven solely by consumer data, as opposed to profit.

The funding will go towards expansion, developing its marketing initiatives and further utilise the data available. Ashness hopes enhancing the data gathering and segmenting processes will enable SimplyCook to cater for the particular tastes of each customer.

“We’ve learnt that some of our customers are using it as an alternative to ordering takeaways while others are using as way to learn to cook. Some don’t want to choose their meals but have individual preferences, while others just want to discover new dishes,” he explained, indicating the range of people interested in his service.

“By learning more about our customers, we can personalise the service and help ensure they keep trying new things,” Ashness added.

The customer retention in product-led subscription has been particularly exciting for the business owner. Ashness believes this is down to “the affordability,” and because it “fits in neatly with people’s lifestyles”.

Adrian Lloyd, funding partner at Episode 1 Ventures, which invests in early stage software companies, mentioned the value being a particular draw for people – its meals work out between £2 and £6 per person. “At this price point of £10 for four meals, the market opportunity is huge,” he said.

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