Former COO and CEO of Cook It
Paul is the Former CEO of Cook It, one of the largest meal kit companies in Canada and a competitor to Goodfood Market. Paul joined Cook It in 2015 and ran operations before becoming the CFO in 2017. He has knowledge of the operational processes of running meal kit warehouses and the unit economics of acquiring and retaining customers. Read moreView Profile Page
Disclaimer: This interview is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. In Practise is an independent publisher and all opinions expressed by guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinion of In Practise.
Paul, can you provide a short introduction to your background, please?
I am the former CFO and CEO of Cook it, one of the largest meal kit companies in Canada. I joined Cook it, back in 2015, when I was fresh out of business school. Judith, our CEO, had just founded the company and was looking for someone to help her manage the operations. I seized the opportunity and joined them and it was an amazing journey.
Can you briefly explain Cook it, today; the size of the business, the subscribers, products offered, the regions you operate in, and so on?
We are the third largest meal kit company in Canada and the second largest in our home market of Quebec. We service all of Eastern Canada, with a focus on Quebec and Ontario. As of today, we have slightly more than 35,000 subscribers and our main product is the traditional meal kit. We will ship all the ingredients and the recipe cards to you and you do the cooking. Over the years, we have added ready to eat options as well as grocery items that you can add on to your box.
Roughly how many menus or options do you offer customers?
Currently, we have about 60 ready to cook recipes per week and we have six ready to eat options. Then we have about 100 grocery items.
How does that compare to Hello Fresh or Goodfood?
Here in Canada, Hello Fresh is quite a traditional meal kit company. They basically send you the ready to cook recipes. On the other hand, there is Goodfood that is moving more and more into grocery items. Currently, Goodfood has about 25 recipes and maybe 200 to 250 add on items.
I think Hello Fresh only offer 25 add-ons in Canada, right now? They are potentially going to roll out their marketplace offering?
They have been quite slow to move. I think they are very cautious in the way they are expanding their product here in Canada, as well as globally; I think they have been quite slow compared to the rest of us. Here in Canada, I think we have been particularly fast in adding more options for the clients.
How would you compare the target customer for the three players in Canada?
I think Goodfood have always been a bit fancier than the rest of us. They always have very niche ingredients. They really target the young professionals with recipes that are a bit more elaborate. One of the customer complaints, though, is that those recipes usually take more time to cook. You have a lot of recipes that take 35, 40 or even 45 minutes. On the other hand, you have Hello Fresh. I find their recipes a bit duller and very basic. They do not take any risks in that area. It is the sort of food that you have been used to your whole life.
At Cook it, we try to be in between the two. Our recipes are usually easier to cook than those from Goodfood, but we still try to have some fancy and different ingredients. We know that, sometimes, it can be a bit difficult having a family so we always include instructions as to how you could adapt the recipes for your kids. Kids don’t usually like spicy ingredients, so put them on the side and add them later.
Do the complex recipes make it much more difficult from an operational perspective, for the likes of Goodfood, in terms of procuring the ingredients? Or is it just that they are targeting a different customer?
I think it is really targeting a different customer. It can add some complexity but it’s not the biggest challenge. I don’t think that using more exotic ingredients is really a barrier to adding new recipes.
How would you compare the price point, in Canada, between Cook it, Hello Fresh and Goodfood?
In the industry, we usually compare the three by two box, which is the box of three recipes, for two people. That has always been the best-selling, by far. Cook it and Goodfood have always been priced about the same. As of today, we are both at $69. Hello Fresh has always been – at least here in Canada – more expensive. They sell their box for $79 which, in my opinion, is not justified. If I was a customer, I would choose Cook it or Goodfood; I do not see the value added of the $10 extra that Hello Fresh is charging.
How can Hello Fresh charge $10 more if their recipes are duller?
I think a lot of it has to do with the way they market the box. They actually market the box at $69, but charge $10 extra for the shipping. One of the particularities for Canada, is that customers in Ontario are less price sensitive than those in Quebec and Hello Fresh has had a lot of difficulties penetrating the Quebec market. That might be one of the reasons they are lagging behind, here in Quebec.