The deal follows Nestlé's acquisition of a majority stake in prepared frozen foods and recipe box company Mindful Chef in November last year.
Robert Lawson, chief executive officer of Food Strategy Associates, told Food Manufacture: "This represents another move by Nestlé into the D2C [direct to consumer] market following Mindful Chef, Tails and arguably [petfood firm] Lily's [Kitchen] too.
"It reflects a strategy of building capabilities in this area by acquiring different business models ultimately to extend both geographically and across a wider range of the Nestlé portfolio. For more traditional spice players like Fuchs (Bart spices in the UK) and McCormick, this may be a wake up call that a gorilla, Nestlé, might be entering their markets through the back door.
'Channels which have experienced accelerated growth'
"With a business as large as Nestlé, this isn't so much a part of a business transformation in the sense of revenues, but more about learning and understanding about channels which will become more important in the future and which have experienced accelerated growth through COVID."
SimplyCook’s founder Oli Ashness launched the business in 2014 to offer pre-portioned blends of authentic flavours, combined with simple recipes designed to help consumers cook delicious dishes from around the world. Since its launch, the business claims it has helped households across the UK to cook more than 20 million recipes.
SimplyCook will continue to be led by its founding team from its base in London with the support of Nestlé’s expertise and operations. Shoppers can sign up for a £3 trial to pick four recipes ranging from Thai Basil Pork to Louisiana Linguine, to which they can add four to six easy-to-find fresh ingredients. Blends, spices and pastes together with recipe cards are then delivered to their door. Subsequent boxes can be bought for £9.99 each.
The move would bring together Nestlé’s extensive expertise in nutrition and extensive research capability with SimplyCook’s entrepreneurial vision to make cooking more accessible. With the increasing interest of consumers in food as well as subscription services, Nestlé’s investment in this digital-first business offers significant growth opportunities.
'Make cooking more accessible'
“I am delighted to welcome the SimplyCook team to Nestlé," said Stefano Agostini, chief executive for Nestlé UK & Ireland. "We share an ambition to make cooking more accessible by offering delicious, nutritious and convenient solutions. This is an ideal partnership for both parties as Nestlé continues to transform its portfolio and SimplyCook accelerates its growth.
“There is a growing demand for great tasting, nutritionally balanced food and this move underlines our focus on investing in businesses with attractive growth prospects and acting on current trends.”
Oli Ashness, chief executive officer, SimplyCook said: “The more we got talking to Nestlé, the more we realised that our ambitions and vision for the business aligned with what Nestlé sees as the right path for the SimplyCook business.
Expansion 'in UK and beyond'
"Nestlé’s experience, operational expertise, and international know-how gives us the opportunity to expand further in the UK and beyond, making cooking more accessible for millions more consumers in far less time than we previously imagined.
“We already have a great team with a very diverse set of skills which will continue to run the business with the same entrepreneurial spirit and data-driven approach, putting the consumer at the centre of everything we do, and I look forward to seeing what the team can deliver going forward with some exciting doors now opened to us.”
SimplyCook sells more than 130 chef-designed recipes drawing on up to 18 different ingredients, delivered in recyclable, letterbox-sized boxes to consumers’ doorsteps via the postal service. The company boasts one of the highest rated recipe kits in the UK according to independent review site Trustpilot.
The acquisition further expands Nestlé’s portfolio of retail and direct-to-consumer businesses at a time when dining at home has boomed due to the pandemic-related lockdown and shut down of the out-of-home food channel.
Recipe box and meal suppliers such as Gousto and Mindful Chef have reported huge uplifts in demand since the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 fuelled a surge in interest in scratch cooking.