Today sees the launch of London's latest meal delivery startup, Independence Market, on crowdfunding platform Seedrs. But this business – described by its founder as “Amazon meets Avon” – is not just another Hello Fresh, Blue Apron or Graze replicant.
With Independence Market, Rob Hocking – a teaching fellow at Oxford University's Said Business School, who has previously worked on brand and retail strategy for names such as Asda, Waitrose and Diageo – is aiming to create a new style of retail platform.
There is no subscription, and no traditional advertising. Instead, Independence Market employs socially connected members of a community where there is a high concentration of Independence Market's demographic (young, busy families) to find “mavens”. These will usually be stay-at-home or part-time parents, who can host dinner parties with their friends using Independence Market's products and advertise through word-of-mouth.
“I was doing a piece of research for Unilever, and one thing we discovered is that 98 per cent of mums trust the word of another mum over a brand,” said Hocking. In pre-launch research, he found that most consumer decisions in a family are still made by a woman. But those women are generally finding less time and inclination to prepare meals from scratch.
Independence Market's meals, therefore, are some way between a Hello Fresh-style delivery box and a takeaway. Most can be heated in the oven with minimal preparation.
What's the point?
Anyone puzzled by the concept, and thinking it sounds like an half-finished version of the takeaways Britain has been eating for years, wouldn't be alone.
“When you're pitching investors, they're often young guys,” said Hocking. “They'll say: 'Why don't the customers just get Deliveroo?'”
But having recruited a consumer psychologist from UCL, Hocking believes there is a vital difference between takeaways and the partially prepared products on Independence Market.
“There's a psychology with a mum that she wants to feel like she's had a hand in putting dinner on the table,” he said.
Hocking also makes two more promises with Independence Market: that it won't produce anything which he wouldn't feed to his own three daughters, and that the meals won't contain anything which can't be found in the average kitchen cupboard.
With most of the meals coming in at under £5 per person, they're a fair way cheaper than most takeaways too.
In the Seedrs round, which launched to the public today, Independence Market is aiming to raise a modest £350,000 to fund its expansion.
Since its soft launch in February, Independence Market has managed to get 700 people registered for its service. The immediate plans are to employ more community partners, who will also be able to double up as click-and-collect points along with local schools and independent retailers. But in the spirit of being a full platform, Independence Market is also planning to launch wines on its site in the spring.