Food box supplier Gousto plans more automation to cut costs

Gousto plans to open more automated factories to supply its lunch boxes in the UK as it strives to keep operating costs down and offset spiraling food inflation and furniture.

The recipe kit provider said it froze prices last year and had no plans to increase them this year.

“We effectively lowered prices,” said Timo Boldt, Founder and Managing Director.

Inflation is causing some consumers to rethink their discretionary spending – Netflix last week reported a drop in subscriber numbers for the first time in a decade. Consumers also cut back on spending in areas such as eating out and shopping for clothes.

But Boldt, a former Rothschild analyst, said Gousto would continue to benefit from changes in consumer behavior post-pandemic. “Working from home is here to stay,” he said, “it’s a structural change.”

He predicted that trends in the foodservice category toward healthier and more sustainable foods would also support future growth.

Gousto sold more than 90 million meals in 2021, up from 53 million previously, as more people used its services to eat at home rather than in restaurants during successive UK shutdowns.

It offers over 60 meal options, many of which cater to healthier consumers, such as leaner vegan and protein alternatives.

A new production plant in Cheshire will become fully operational in 2022, with two further sites planned.

Gousto’s automated factories use algorithms and machine learning to shorten delivery times and facilitate customizable orders. Other forecasting algorithms predict supply needs: Gousto claims that only 1% of food is wasted in its factories compared to 20% in supermarket supply chains.

The company is growing after raising more than $300 million this year from investors, including Japanese-managed funds SoftBank and Fidelity International, valuing it at around $1.7 billion.

Boldt said the company aims to recruit nearly 1,000 new positions as it seeks to increase market share. Last year it employed 600 more people, many in technology and data roles in its London office.

Group revenue rose by more than two-thirds to £315million in 2021, according to accounts released on Wednesday, which brought underlying profit before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to £20million. Net cash from operations more than doubled to £37 million.

Gousto, which has been making profits since 2019, is linked to a possible London IPO, but Boldt said there are no plans to do so or raise any new funds in the foreseeable future.

He said investors remained supportive of his strategy, raising new funds even as “tech stocks were in crisis” in the early months of the year.

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