The year is 2014. There’s a line around the block for the new iPhone 6, Kim and Kanye are getting married, the ice bucket challenge is in full swing, Sia’s Chandelierrrr is playing on a loop, and Jonathan Ferrari, Neil Cuggy, and Raffi Krikorian are about to make waves in the Canadian grocery industry.
A Gap in the Market
Thanks to Amazon and other innovative ecommerce companies, people were buying just about everything online in 2014 — with one major exception: food. A handful of local restaurants offered delivery by phone (delivery apps weren’t on the scene yet) and a few major grocery chains attempted to unravel the mysteries of online delivery, but options were limited and progress was slow. The gap in the market was expanding as the food industry tried to keep up with shifting consumer behaviour.
Meanwhile, after a long day of work, hungry Canadians had two dinner options: quick and greasy take out or time-consuming meal prep. Cooking at home meant thinking of a recipe, shopping for the ingredients, prepping and cooking dinner, and finding time to sit down and enjoy the meal. Canadians needed a faster, easier, and healthier option.
The Beginning of Something Good
After graduating from university, Jon and Neil began their postgraduate careers as investment bankers at a major national bank. Before long, the duo was ready to take destiny into their own hands and change the world for the better, one meal at a time.
The dream was big but the concept was simple: make weekly dinner prep as easy as possible through a simple online ordering system that delivered original recipes and the freshest ingredients directly to your door. The goal was to create something that looked good, tasted good, and would do good for the world. At the time, the concept was so unconventional that Neil’s mom chuckled when she heard the plan (she quickly realized it wasn’t a joke and was very supportive afterwards!).
With little to no competition in the meal kit space and Canadians hungry for new grocery options, the time was right to enter the market. Jon and Neil knew the key to differentiating from future competition was offering an outstanding customer experience from day one.
The first Goodfood baskets (or Culiniste, as it was known at the time) consisted of 3 recipes filled with top-quality ingredients hand-selected from the Jean Talon market in Montreal’s Little Italy district. The team checked every single piece of produce that went in the baskets to ensure everything was perfect. Feedback was collected every step of the way to constantly improve the service and create the best possible experience for members.
The first week of deliveries went out in September 2014 in Neil’s Fiat 500, which valiantly carried the team all across the city of Montreal. Goodfood was officially a real, live company!
With a growing list of happy customers and a shrinking amount of fridge space, the team decided to move out of the first “office” (AKA Jon’s apartment) and sign a lease for 1500 square feet of working space. Signing a lease that required a stack of post-dated cheques and a large deposit was a big step for a fledgling business, but Goodfood was growing so fast it wasn’t long before another 500 square feet of office space was added.
The next few years were a time of rapid growth for Goodfood. The core team grew and new team members were hired, offices were outgrown (6 times in 5 years!), and services were expanded. The dream of delivering farm-fresh ingredients coast to coast was quickly becoming a reality.
To remain independent and fund a Western expansion, Jon and Neil decided to take the company public with a “reverse-takeover” (also known as a “reverse IPO”). Transparency isn’t a strong suit of the grocery industry, so this was a positive move for the online grocery business and food industry as a whole.
The Team That Started It All
Our team now has over 2000 members and counting, but back in 2014, there was Jon, Neil, Raffi, a Fiat 500, a big dream, and a whole lot of help from friends and family.
Jon, Co-founder and CEO, was the first Member Happiness specialist, the first member of the sales and marketing team, the first website developer, and the first test kitchen chef. Fast forward a few years and Jon is focused on strategy, building the team across the country, and running the board of directors.
Neil, Co-founder and COO, grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and engineers and shares the same passion for figuring out how things work. A natural fit to take care of operations and the financial side of the business, Neil started off in charge of deliveries, sourcing, printing recipe cards, and assisting in the test kitchen. Today, Neil focuses on keeping the business running smoothly and leveraging technology and automation across the company.
Early on, Jon and Neil asked Jon’s long-time friend Raffi Krikorian to join the business. Raffi, Co-founder and VP Procurement, started off researching and developing recipes, picking up materials, and photographing dishes in his half-basement apartment with his dad’s camera on loan. Today, Raffi is responsible for the Eastern supply chain and the selection and improvement of vendors, products, and prices to meet Goodfood’s high standards.
Nearly a year after launch, the team hired the first employee to help pack boxes. Over the next few months, Jon, Neil, and Raffi hired the core team that drove Goodfood’s rapid success, including Jordana Rebner, VP Culinary Development, who helped shape the menus and grow the culinary team; Benoit Girouard-Bond, VP Technology, who built the technology and grew the developer team; Benjamin Burdel, VP Marketing, who built the brand and spread the word; Maxime Lavoie, VP Operations, who keeps things running smoothly; and Mo Awada, Executive VP, Head of Strategic Execution, who almost single-handedly built out operations in the West within a few weeks.
The key to building a successful team is to lead by culture. From the beginning, our founders created an environment where the right decision-makers were trusted to make decisions, where people are excited to come to work, and where team members are empowered to make a difference in members’ lives.
Fast forward a few years and we’re getting ready to celebrate our 5th birthday! What will we be wishing for when we blow out our candles? Another amazing year for our team and members, of course!
This year was one for the record books. Not only did we reach 230,000 members, we also launched innovative breakfast, ready-to-eat, and grocery essential products; a reusable box program and commitment to reducing the use of plastic inside the box within 12 months; developed Canada’s most affordable meal kit, Yumm.ca; and were voted the “Most Trusted Meal Kit Delivery Service” by Canadians across the country. We also opened a new breakfast facility in Montreal, a fulfillment center in Calgary, and signed the lease on a new facility in Vancouver, scheduled to open in 2020. And we’re only just getting started!
Driven by our core values, our number one goal is to make Canadians’ lives better, happier, and healthier every day. This drives us to keep pushing to make the impossible come true, from farm to kitchen. Here are a few stories our members have shared with us over the years:
“Thank you for bringing a love of cooking back to my home. After a year of difficulties and welcoming a new baby, going to the grocery store isn’t as easy as you’d think. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making my life a little easier and helping my family eat delicious food!”
“My 11-year-old daughter is making us supper! She loves following the recipes and is trying many new foods. This is a great way to teach her how to cook. Awesome family time.”
“In college without a car, it’s hard to make fresh recipes that I want to cook since I can’t go grocery shopping very often. With Goodfood, I’ve seen a significant difference in how I feel after dinner and in how much I’ve been saving. It’s been both convenient and exciting to finally be able to cook again and feel healthy while in school!”
“We were in a mealtime rut and Goodfood has changed that. Now my husband and I are cooking together. Couldn’t be happier!!!!”
Even as we write this, our culinary team is hard at work developing delicious, nutritious recipes designed with our members’ health and happiness in mind. Each meal goes through a rigorous testing process to make sure only the best recipes make it to your plate. Member ratings and comments are shared directly with our team to improve everything from ingredient flavour to cook time. Recipes that really hit the spot end up in our Goodfood “Member Favourites” hall of fame.
Here are some of our members’ all-time favourite recipes:
Today, 97% of people still shop for their groceries in person every month. Tomorrow, we’re going to revolutionize the grocery industry and make the future of the digital grocery basket easy, convenient, and affordable for Canadians coast to coast.
We’re continuously investing in our team, our sustainability initiatives, and automation and technology for better fulfillment, faster delivery, and innovative product development to give our members the best possible online grocery experience.
From ready-to-cook meal kits to ready-to-eat meals and all the grocery essentials in between, our members will be able to shop for their entire grocery basket from a totally redesigned selection page this year. We’re cooking up other exciting grocery developments, so keep an eye out in 2020!
“When we started the business, our greatest joy was to show up to work every day with people we loved, in order to share our passion for great food with our members and find new ways to make the impossible come true. That continues to be our reality today, with our family of 2,000+ team members and 230,000+ households across the country that rely on us to feed their families delicious, affordable and hassle-free meals and grocery essentials” — Jon, Co-founder & CEO
The last 5 years have been an incredible journey and we couldn’t have achieved our goal of feeding more Canadians delicious, nutritious, affordable meals without each and every one of our members. From Jon, Neil, Raffi and all of the Goodfood team, thank you.
What will the next 5 years have in store for us? We can’t wait to find out, together!
The first week of deliveries go out (and Jon has his first date with his now-wife!)
Jon doesn’t need to pay the heating bill because of all the fridges
The team signs a lease for 1500 square feet of working space
After months of buying second-hand fridges every Wednesday, Neil secretly buys a much-needed walk-in fridge
The first employee is hired to help pack boxes
The company values are determined and written down
Culiniste rebrands as Goodfood
Benoit Girouard-Bond, Benjamin Burdel join the Goodfood team
Jordana Rebner joins the Goodfood team
Goodfood makes giving back a core part of the business by donating and volunteering at The Breakfast Club of Canada
Goodfood begins trading on the TSX under the ticker FOOD
Maxime Lavoie joins the Goodfood team
Goodfood moves to a new, much bigger Montreal facility
Goodfood reaches 45,000 active subscribers
Mo Awada joins the Goodfood team
Philippe Adam joins the Goodfood team as CFO
Goodfood wins 2018 Mercuriades Award
A new Goodfood facility opens in Calgary, Alberta
Goodfood Breakfast launches with the introduction of smoothies
Goodfood reaches 126,000 active subscribers
Yumm.ca launches as Canada’s most affordable meal kit
Goodfood voted the “Most Trusted Meal Kit Delivery Service”
Launch of the reusable delivery box program
Goodfood reaches 230,000 active subscribers
Raghu Mocharla joins the Goodfood team as CTO
Goodfood celebrates its 5th birthday! Happy Birthday to us 🥳