Freshly, the meal subscription service, has a new marketing leader with aspirations that sound a bit lofty.
“We believe that meals is what books was for Amazon,” says Mayur Gupta, who joined the direct-to-consumer service as chief marketing officer in January.
Freshly delivers prepared, gluten-free meals at around $9.99 per serving, making it pricier than microwavable meals from the grocery store but generally less expensive and more portion-controlled than restaurant takeout. Freshly recently added snacks in a pilot and is plotting further expansion in “concentric circles around the core meal” aimed at consumers looking for better-for-you options and convenience.
The meal kit and meal delivery space expanded over the past few years with success for the likes of Hello Fresh, but some brands have imploded, including Munchery, which abruptly shut down in early 2019.
Freshly, which counts Nestlé as an investor, is focused on delivering prepared meals rather than shipping ingredients and recipes for people to prepare at home. It now offers delivery to the 48 contiguous U.S. states and says it delivers 600,000 meals a week, which equates to an annual rate of 31.2 million meals.
On the latest episode of Ad Age’s “Marketer’s Brief” podcast, Gupta discusses recent changes at Freshly including hiring agency Wolff Olins. (The first agency Freshly worked with was Partners + Spade.) Internally, recent hires include Meghan Taylor, VP of brand and creative, who was a planning director at Grey Group; Creative Director Clifford Borress, who held the same title at Thinx; Cristina Tudino as head of content, who was previously with Ollie Pets; and Claire King as senior content manager, who was head of culinary at BuzzFeed.
Gupta, who was most recently VP of growth at Spotify, says he was drawn to Freshly because of its mission and purpose.
“I think what Freshly is trying to accomplish is going to fundamentally change people’s lives,” he says. “Because we believe eating healthy is a fundamental right, but it’s full of barriers and obstacles in the world today.”
Gupta, an engineer by training, is relying on the data at the fingertips of the d-to-c brand but does not want Freshly’s marketing to be entirely data-driven, which has the potential to lose sight of creativity, he says.
For example, while paid media with offers drive people to brands such as Freshly, Gupta argues that promoting the brand’s purpose with the right content can also draw people in, perhaps even without the introductory steep discounts that are standard across the industry.
“We’re constantly testing and seeing users who come with no discount at all have a much stronger affinity to stay with Freshly,” says Gupta.
Meanwhile, some industry watchers, such as Bob Phibbs, CEO of New York-based consultancy The Retail Doctor, suggest grocery chains will offer more of their own meal kits or give d-to-c brands another way to reach customers.
“Millennials grew up on The Food Network, so the whole image of having fresh food looks great, but let’s face it, they don’t want to cook,” Phibbs says. “Freshly, to me, does have more of that interesting side because it’s already made.”
Whether Freshly goes the retail route remains to be seen. (Investor Nestlé, of course, could advise it on working with retailers.)
While Freshly is testing a variety of things, Gupta said at its core it will always be d-to-c. “We believe that is the model for the future,” he says.