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We sat down with Fabian Siegel, the Founder & CEO of food kit delivery giant Marley Spoon, to discuss how his business model is a benchmark for sustainability and how he’s impacting the environment in a positive way.
What first attracted you to the food-delivery-tech industry, or least, this incarnation of it?
The food industry has always been one that drew me in, and I’ve spent a lot of my career in the space. Prior to Marley Spoon, I co-founded Delivery Hero, an online food delivery ordering platform. It gave me a great understanding of the industry that is changing quickly, but I saw a bigger opportunity in the grocery industry.
At that point, the online sales for consumer electronics, travel and fashion were all growing rapidly, but online sales for groceries remained very small – just 3% of all sales in a multi-billion dollar a year business. The grocery industry was growing in size and revenue without much change in digital sales, so we knew there was an opportunity; we just needed the right business model, which would eventually become Marley Spoon.
What are the key ideas or concepts you’ve learned since your being CEO?
Leading a team means crafting a narrative on what we as are team are aspiring to do. As a team lead you have to give purpose and direction to your team. At the same time, as a team lead, you to work for your team and be able to help each of your team members, by challenging them, providing alternative points of view and encouraging them to take risks to make rapid change.
Next to crafting the story, supporting your team members, you have to set priorities for the team to ensure tangible progress in solving the day to day problems that you face when building a business.
What do you see as the most exciting developments in the industry?
We’re currently in one of the most unique periods of the food industry as consumers start to realize the big contribution our food supply chain has in global warming. The majority of methane emissions are generated by our food supply chain. Our food supply chain accounts for more than 70% of the planet’s freshwater consumption and overall more than 25% of global CO2 emissions are generated by our food supply chain. At the same time, 50% of what we grow on farms is simply wasted, instead of being eaten.
This food waste is a massive problem and the food waste on the shelves of supermarkets are a major part of this problem. Marley Spoon and meal-kits in general provide weeknight-cooking to our customers not only in a way that is much more convenient than supermarkets, but also virtually free of any food waste, as we only source the fresh ingredients on demand specifically for each customer. This is a better and truly disruptive way to bring fresh, perishable ingredients into our homes.
Marley Spoon has the largest range of unique meals per week of any meal-kit provider. We’ve also launched our affordable meal-kit, Dinnerly, which is about half the price of most other meal-kits.
What can you list as being your significant accomplishments this year?
We reached two enormous milestones in Australia this year. The first is we formed a strategic partnership with Woolworths, which included an AU$30.05 million investment from the supermarket network. The partnership and investment validated that the meal-kit delivery market is a growing segment that serves consumers with weeknight cooking without the food waste you would find in supermarkets. The other milestone was that our Australian operations declared profitability in Q2 of this year, making it the first of our regions to reach the milestone. This was an incredible effort from not just our Australian team, but also an investment in new manufacturing technologies in our fulfilment centres that greatly improved quality and labour productivity, as well as further increased our ability to introduce new menu choices and personalisation.
Is the role you have one which has you learning new things all the time? What do you know now that you didn’t know before you took on the role?
Before we started, it wasn’t clear to us how massive global warming is influenced by the way we produce our food and the way we bring it into people’s homes. We’re excited that we’re not only enriching our customers lives with easier and tastier weeknight meals, but that we are doing this also in a more sustainable way.
Yours is a competitive marketplace; brand name recognition is vital given the crowd. What makes Marley Spoon stand out from the pack?
We view anyone providing the ingredients or food for dinner as competition, so where we stand out is the very basics of who we are and what we do, which is offering convenience. Meal planning, shopping and food waste are immediately eliminated, and we always use high-quality ingredients, so our customers know they’re cooking with the best. What sets Marley Spoon apart from other meal-kits is the emphasis we put on choice and flexibility for the customer.
Marley Spoon has the largest range of unique meals per week of any meal-kit provider. We’ve also launched our affordable meal-kit, Dinnerly, which is about half the price of most other meal-kits. With a second brand that runs on a similar model, we’re able to reach an entirely new customer base while utilising our existing supply chain and delivery logistics.
The importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been getting a lot of talk in recent years within the business sector. How important do you see EQ as being within an organisation?
Building a diverse team is key if you want to change the status quo. At Marley Spoon, the building the best team and constantly growing is our most important guiding principle. Therefore, hiring for and promoting emotional intelligence is an important building block for us.
Has promoting or encouraging EQ in staff something you have found to be a challenge, and if so, how have you overcome this challenge?
We try to be consistent in our hiring process to bring on new team members that score strongly on emotional intelligence. This disciplined approach so far allowed us to score well.
What does the future look like for Marley Spoon? What’s next?
Our focus across markets is delivering a deeper and smarter experience for our customers. That means more choice, more flexible delivery options and – eventually – the ability to customise meals, while continuing to benefit from the reduction in food waste for a more sustainable planet.
ushdhanak.com presents this ‘Meet a CEO’ series.
Ush Dhanak is a qualified and certified Executive Coach, Emotional Intelligence Coach, Neuro Leadership and Mediation coach. She has worked with a variety of corporate clients ranging from the Australia Federal Police, Smeg Australia, as well as clients in hospitality and dental. An expert in Emotional Intelligence and how to improve it, she can be found at the link above.