Nestlé is expanding its portfolio of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands by welcoming SimplyCook to the family. SimplyCook will continue to be based out of its London HQ and run by the founding team, with the support of Nestlé’s expertise and operations. It marks a scaling milestone for founder Oli Ashness, Octopus Investments that led SimplyCook’s £4.5m series A at the start of 2019 and for And Rising, who took SimplyCook above-the-line in 2019.
SimplyCook closes the gap between recipe content and chopping board with a simple box of pre-mixed flavour pots delivered directly to your door. It works for three reasons. First, it focuses on the trickiest bit—the flavours (some are pre-made using over 18 ingredients). Second, it helpfully reduces choice, offering a maximum of four recipes per box (twelve flavour pots in total). Third, it uses first-party data to inform better product development choices, giving us more of what we want. SimplyCook’s approach has a broader appeal because it solves 80% of the problem most people have most of the time. It also explains why others cancel subscriptions to their fully-loaded Meal Boxes as being too costly or complicated to manage alongside the weekly shop.
The opportunity is ripe. Traditional brands such as Nike see record results from going direct-to-consumer: 2020 was a year of sharp growth for e-commerce penetration for new and classic brands. So far, food and beverage is a category with a much smaller share of direct-to-consumer propositions than many others, meaning lots of headroom for growth. Mega-brands have shied away from ‘going vertical’ in the past, but now they wonder if they can afford not to. Lockdowns have cemented new attitudes towards online food shopping and cooking at home. Nestlé is keen to advance its position in the direct-to-consumer space, and SimplyCook allows them to do so at speed.
Meanwhile, SimplyCook has been heading in the other direction, as have many other born-and-bred DTC brands. SimplyCook’s flavour pots have been a welcome innovation to national supermarket aisles in need of fresh excitement. As the largest food company globally, Nestlé can now put more muscle behind SimplyCook’s retail presence. The future is bright for both parties as they ride mirrored trend lines, each supporting the other with complementary skills and resources.
Launched in 2014, SimplyCook aimed at the false idea that celebrity-chef culture had helped us all become better cooks at home. In truth, it was nothing more than a transfer of cash into the pockets of celebrities for being entertained. Two years earlier, Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute-Meals launch (as the successor to 30-Minute-Meals) was akin to the 7-Minute-Abs parody in Something About Mary. TV chefs were great at recommending fantastic new ingredients with the promise that they’d be easy to find, except they rarely were (beyond that impossible deli in Hampstead). SimplyCook is like other flavour brands such as Old El Paso, Dolmio, Knorr and Schwartz that got millions cooking.
Like other successful disruptors, SimplyCook’s is rooted in the hallmarks of modern DTC value creation: unique product design, seamless user experience, brilliant fulfilment, and a recurring revenue model. It also took care of its brand and marketing investments early, making sure it could scale past early fans who are often over-enthusiastic about subscription-based novelties. By being correctly positioned before day one, SimplyCook has been building brand value from the get-go. SimplyCook does precisely as the name suggests, and working alongside And Rising also lifted growth beyond the glass ceilings of digital marketing.
As an early adopter to TV, SimplyCook developed brand comms with And Rising that reached new audiences and acquired valuable new customers. The creative approach deployed the food cues the mass market had come to expect, kept the brand ahead of a dying ‘stand and stir’ celebrity model and set the pace for an ever-rising Instagram food community. The SimplyCook brand will be a significant new asset with a sizable opportunity for brand-extension within the Nestlé portfolio.
We finally are cooking at home more, having adopted new direct-to-home services for good. It’s not a surprise that celebrity chefs no longer dominate our screens in the way they once did. Indeed, Gordon Ramsay currently hosts a TV game show that faces an unlikely second series. Meanwhile, for all of us enjoying our new culinary skills, SimplyCook can enjoy a well-deserved moment as one of the DTC movement’s successful pioneers.