2020 has brought an onslaught of coverage about the food economy: from empty shelves in grocery stores across the world to thousands of Instagram posts about banana bread, social distancing has brought people closer to their kitchens. A renewed appreciation for family dinner time has been expressed by many, while others have documented the trials and tribulations of testing their cooking skills for the first time.
This seismic shift in the way people shop, prepare and consume their meals has had a significant impact on direct-to-consumer food (DTC) delivery meal kit services, like Goodfood. As of September 2019, Goodfood had 200,000 subscribers in Canada. That’s a large portion of Canadians relying on their breakfast, dinner and family-size weekly deliveries to stay fed.
So how did a thriving organization like Goodfood adjust to the massive disruption ignited by COVID-19? In anticipation of the first edition of our COPING-19: A conversation with resilient retailers webinar series, we sat down with Goodfood’s Director of Product Management, Howard Chan, to learn more about how they dealt with surging demand, consumer habits in flux, and how they’re future-proofing their vision to ensure Canadians keep cooking great recipes from Goodfood well beyond the next (ab)normal.
1. Your latest letter from the CEO notes that you are hiring 2000 positions in Canada in the near future. Was intense growth always in the roadmap for 2021 — or was it accelerated due to COVID-19?
You’re right, the growth has been incredible recently. As of June 3rd, Goodfood reached 272,000 active subscribers and added 26,000 net new subscribers since May 31. COVID-19 certainly accelerated the growth, but Goodfood has already been planning for continued growth in the online grocery space. Part of the plan has always been to grow the emerging categories such as Goodfood branded products and ready to eat meals so that the customer can skip a trip to the grocery store. The ambition has been to help our members fill their boxes with staples along with their meals.
2. People have been cooking at home more than ever. Your recent testimonials show the power of cooking to connect, entertain, and provide comfort. How do you expect this trend to evolve with consumers in the next 1-2 years?
Like everyone else, I’m spending way more time at home. At Goodfood we feel like the meal solutions space has the ability to offer restaurant-quality food that can be prepared in your own home with the family. We expect this to continue to grow as customers become more comfortable with online grocery. At Goodfood, we’re looking at ways to make this even more convenient to our customers, whether that’s through improving the ordering experience, to offering more Goodfood branded items that you can use during the week as well as ready to eat meals that you can easily pop in the microwave or oven.
3. Panic-buying and stockpiling food was one of the earliest markers of changing consumer behaviours in light of COVID-19. This undoubtedly disrupted the food supply chain and impacted your business. How did you respond and adapt?
I was not directly involved with managing the complexities and disruptions associated with the supply chain. However, I know the Goodfood team worked tirelessly to find suppliers to ensure the least disruption for our customers. There were also challenges with hiring enough employees to face the demand and increase the already strict hygiene measures to ensure safety for both our employees and our members.
4. With the rise of contactless commerce and a renewed focus on helping locally-owned businesses, DTC food companies like Goodfood have an opportunity to win new customers. How are you responding to this?
Goodfood is certainly in a great spot when it comes to helping locally-owned businesses. As you know the company itself is based in Montreal, and by the summer of 2021, we will have 6 fulfilment facilities across Canada. I also learned recently from a podcast that featured Jonathan Ferrari, our CEO, that we are sourcing produce from 53 farms in Canada, which also helps us provide the freshest ingredients to our members.
5. Before joining Goodfood, you were Head of Online Grocery Shopping at Loblaws. Were grocery stores equipped for this sudden shift to online shopping? What can they learn from digital-first companies like Goodfood?
At Loblaws, the aspiration for growth was also always there. Although the team was already planning for major growth heading into 2020, COVID-19 for sure accelerated the demand even more. Looking from the outside, the company was able to quickly add more time slots, capacity and labour to handle the spike in demand. Certainly, Loblaws is doing a lot of things right in the digital space, having the perspective from Goodfood, it’s incredible to see how quickly decisions are made and executed on here.
6. In times of uncertainty, customer reassurance is critical. How did your digital, product and marketing efforts coalesce to turn consumer insecurities into new customers — and ultimately brand advocacy?
This is an important time to win the trust of our members. As an example, during this time, we were transparent with our customers in terms of our service offering, communicating any changes to recipe ingredients or shipment delays. Goodfood did a stellar job ensuring ramping up operations to meet the increased demands given how essential the service has become to many of our members.
On the product and tech side, we have been going through an evolution to provide a more customer-centric experience. We just recently started building out the product management team a few months ago. We also added our first product designer. With the expanded team, we’ve been able to better focus on our members and understand their pain points to deliver experiences that help them find what they're looking for more easily. In addition, the team is committed to helping transform Goodfood so that it can achieve the next stage of growth and reach even more customers across the country.