Growing remotely, sourcing locally: Meet the food delivery company Mindful Chef

Giles Humphries is the co-founder of Mindful Chef, a UK-based company offering recipe boxes filled with healthy ingredients for people to cook nutritious, delicious meals at home. He sits down with the Whereby team to talk about the changes in motion in the online groceries industry and what inspired him to start a food company.

In the summer of 2014, the idea of Mindful Chef came to life when the founders were on a friends fishing boat, just off the coast of Devon. “We watched the fish being landed and the amazing produce being handed to the local villagers on the dock, and asked ourselves ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could replicate this nationwide and make healthy eating easier for people?’” said Giles.

The founders grew up in Devon, on or near farms, so being familiar with nature was, well, second nature. As they began to grow their idea they spent hours in the countryside learning about the amazing produce the United Kingdom has to offer. “We drew early inspiration from these suppliers, working with the likes of Eversfield Organic farm in Dartmoor to supply our boxes.”

As the pandemic hit, the Mindful Chef team, like many others, went remote-first, using Whereby to help keep everyone connected. Though a difficult year, the team has found a better balance by working from home. “It's been tough, but remote working! For me, the one positive to COVID-19 means we'll hopefully all have a more balanced way of working in the future.” says Giles.

“We have always been interested in being balanced. Balance is the key.”

As many things in life, balance is a key value at Mindful Chef. “Being outdoors, playing sports or generally exercising is fundamentally important. Taking 30 minutes to an hour each day to focus on yourself and be active allows your mind to take a break from everything else that may be going on - we encourage our team to do this with a sunshine hour every day where they need to down tools.” says Giles. “That and spending time with family and friends allows you to put things in perspective and find that balance that we all need in order to really thrive and enjoy life. We have also offered our team Calm app and FIIT app memberships to help them live a mindful life alongside their busy jobs.”

In a crowded market, the key to Mindful Chef's success has been to create a differentiated product and staying focused on that throughout their journey. “We made the whole proposition around health which is a booming trend going only one way. Sticking to a balanced healthy diet, regularly, is what many people want to achieve.” says Giles. “However, in the modern-day, this is exceptionally hard. We exist to make healthy eating easy. We do this by removing all of the pain points for consumers. We do the recipe creation, the meal planning, the nutritionist checks, the sourcing of the fresh produce, the packing of it into exact ingredients and delivering it straight to your door. The customer simply cooks and enjoys healthy delicious meals.”

Unlike some industries, the pandemic has positively impacted the online groceries sector. “Online grocery penetration was just 7% pre pandemic, it is now 14%.” says Giles. “We are in the middle of a revolution.”

“The industry has doubled in the space of 9 months and by some estimates has been fast forwarded by 5 years. Just think what it will look like in 10 years time.”

With these fast developments, new challenges came on board for Mindful Chef, including growing their business. “About a year and a half into Mindful Chef we needed to raise money in order to continue growing the business. None of the institutional investors wanted to invest in us - they couldn’t see how Mindful Chef was different from other companies. We went on to overfund through two successful crowdfunding raises which allowed our customers and community to become even more of a part of the journey with us. It’s funny because now we have a lot of investors approaching Mindful Chef - all speaking of how we’re so different and have managed to set ourselves apart from the competition. Not much has really changed to the core product or belief since those early days.”

Giles only sees the future of the food industry go only one way. “People will continue to buy more food online and they will continue to focus on healthy nutritious food.” says Giles. “We are excited by what is ahead. £220bn a year is spent on groceries in the UK.”

When Giles isn’t working, he can be found playing sports such as rugby and golf whilst enjoying running and cycling.

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