UK startup SimplyCook is another recipe kit service. However, unlike competitors HelloFresh, Gousto, Marley Spoon, and Shuttlecook, the company doesn’t send you all of the fresh ingredients required to turn its recipes into food on your table.
Instead, the subscription service consists of recipe cards and what SimplyCook calls “ingredients kits,” which are herbs, spices, sauces and other extras needed to cook each meal.
The idea is that the rest of the ingredients are easily obtainable as part of your regular weekly shop, and in turn means that the London-based startup, perhaps smartly and for the most part, avoids being in the fresh food delivery business.
“SimplyCook provides specially curated cooks’ ingredients that provide the flavour, alongside 20 minute recipes giving customers the confidence to discover new meals without the constraints,” explains founder Oli Ashness, who was previously a VC at DFJ Esprit.
“With each monthly delivery customers can cook 4 new meals at their own leisure and the focus on high quality flavour ingredients means the quality is high and results are guaranteed.”
A monthly subscription costs £10 for four meals’ worth of recipe-kit, serving two people per meal. That makes the model potentially cheaper than competitors, since you are left to shop around for the rest of the required ingredients. Although, of course, for some customers that difference may not be worth the hassle.
And like competitors, SimplyCook is also trying to solve the problem of both inspiration — the startup actually pitches itself as a food discovery service — and encouraging people to do more cooking but in a convenient way.
“People have enormous interest, particularly in the UK, but also worldwide, in cooking new meals. However, interest isn’t translating into application in the kitchen, with the average British consumer only able to cook around 7 or 8 meals,” says Ashness.
“Recipe content, well established grocery giants, and charismatic celebrity chefs have all increased in size and prevalence, but consumers are actually spending less time in the kitchen, and less time sharing great home cooked food.”
Of course that also requires a change in consumer behaviour, something that Ashness concedes, but I’d argue is a big ask for a startup to achieve. With that said, SimplyCook believes its iteration of the recipe-kit model has a better chance of success than others.
“Crucially there isn’t an online business trying to solve this problem and change behaviour at a price point that mainstream consumers can afford,” Ashness argues. “SimplyCook has figured out that busy people do need a little help in order to cook new meals, and have spent time figuring out the parts that are easy and the parts that are difficult when it comes to the cooking process.”
The easy part, he reckons, is sourcing the required groceries as consumers aren’t likely to abandon their weekly grocery shop either way. This realisation led to the creation of what Ashness calls the ‘you just add the fresh food’ concept. “The result means a deviation from the expensive and inflexible fresh food delivery service model,” he says.
“SimplyCook customers don’t need to commit £40-50 per week on top of their regular shop on food and aren’t forced to cook 3+ meals within 5 days of receiving the product. If plans change, then HelloFresh and Gousto effectively jump up to £20 per meal if you don’t fit one meal into your week’s plans. That’s very expensive and very wasteful for anyone with a busy lifestyle.
“Understanding that groceries are incredibly accessible, people have to shop anyway, and that consumers care about choice and price when it comes to fresh ingredients means we can focus on all the tricky bits and pressing the right buttons to get people cooking rather than a revenue model.”
Meanwhile, the startup, which until now had been funded by friends and family and subsequently bootstrapped, has closed a $1.1m funding round led by Episode 1 Ventures. It plans to use the additional capital to “drive expansion and further develop its marketing initiatives”.