The recipe box delivery company was prompted by customers to cut its plastic packaging.
When customers began to shut the door on Gousto due to the amount of plastic in its packaging, it was time for the recipe box home delivery brand to take action. In August 2018 it pledged to reduce 50% of plastic packaging by the end of 2019. So, what progress has been made?
When Gousto started out in 2012, its primary goal was to provide delicious recipes, sending out exact ingredients that help cut food waste. The business uses forecasting to buy fresh food from its suppliers based on the number of customer orders, explains Timo Boldt, founder and CEO.
“Zero food waste has always been at the heart of our business,” says Boldt. “It takes 10 times more resources to make and distribute food than to make the packaging [according to packaging council INCPEN].” But six years on, customers had started to comment on the amount of plastic used in the boxes. This prompted the brand to take action.
“We have also pledged to reduce plastic in boxes by 50% by the end of the year,” he adds. “Some plastic items will be eliminated by finding alternative materials and when this isn’t possible, we’ll reduce the amount we use and ensure we use the most easily recyclable plastics.”
The brand set up a dedicated sustainability team to work alongside procurement in summer 2018, tasked with finding new suppliers and achieving the best ways to reduce plastic in boxes, while offering more recyclable and sustainable packaging.
One of the first changes was to switch tomatoes from plastic to cardboard punnets, which means tomatoes are now delivered with 79% less plastic. Next, the Gousto team reduced the size of its sauce and liquid sachets. “We’ve switched to new suppliers,” says Boldt, “that use less packaging. This results in a smaller sachet, with the same amount of liquid.” This switch has cut the plastic used to make each sachet by 50%, says Boldt.
All the recipe instructions delivered in Gousto boxes are now printed by supplier Seacourt, on recycled paper using a waterless process, in a factory powered by 100% renewable energy.
“They go beyond a carbon-neutral impact on the environment,” says Boldt. “They not only offset their operational footprint – they add an extra 10% back through supporting regeneration projects.”
The sustainability drive has also led to tailoring the size of the boxes used. “We can now calculate the right box size for every delivery,” says Boldt. Introducing this intelligent packing method has resulted in taking one sixth of its lorries off the road, he says.
“We’re proud to say we’re on track to meet our plastic reduction pledge by the end of 2019.”
Recipe for growth
The Gousto brand, according to its CEO, is currently achieving 170% year-on-year growth and delivering more than 1.5 million meals to customers each month, two-thirds of which are families. The company says it is ahead of its target to help families serve up 400 million home-cooked meals by 2025.
In January, Gousto raised £18m from investors, attracting new investment from Instagram health and fitness influencer The Body Coach Joe Wicks (above), along with existing shareholders Hargreave Hale, BGF Ventures, Unilever Ventures, MMC Ventures and Angel CoFund. Boldt says this round of funding will help improve its automation and machine learning capabilities.
Investing in technology has already allowed the brand to launch a customer-facing AI recipe-recommendation tool, through which half of all customer orders are now placed.