Delivered ready meal business Parsley Box enjoyed a tripling of demand in 2020 as increasing numbers of older consumers ordered during lockdown. Revenues for the year to 31st December rose to £24.5m, up from £7.4m in 2019. CEO Kevin Dorren said that the business was delivering more than one million meals each month, with online sales accounting for between 40 and 50 per cent of revenues, up from 20 per cent. Customer numbers have doubled to 400,000.
“In the last 12 months there has been an acceleration in the online purchasing behaviour of all consumers, regardless of the demographic,” explained Dorren. “We have seen an acceleration in that, in the last year as well.”
Parsley Box competes with larger rivals like Wiltshire Farm Foods being the best-known in the 60-plus age category for ready meals. A new cash injection of £5.2m has been raised to increase marketing, invest in online infrastructure and extend the product range as the company pursues continued growth.
Investment has been raised from a mix of new and existing investors, with Techstart Ventures and Guinness Asset Management among the former. Existing investors include Mobeus Equity Partners and gaming entrepreneurs Chris van der Kyle and Paddy Burns, the founders of 4J Studios.
Prior to its initial £4.6m funding round last year Parsley Box, which is headquartered in Edinburgh, employed about 30 members of staff. This has since grown to 120, driven primarily by growth in the company’s contact centre, where the headcount has increased from 10 to 90.
“We are still quite an offline business,” Dorren said. “A lot of our customers like to order by phone.
“Our customers, who are primarily over 60, are enjoying freedom from responsibilities, they increasingly want convenience, don’t want to be tied to a cooker and are very much part of the behavioural revolution buying food online for home delivery,” Dorren added.
Parsley Box was set up in 2017 by Dorren along with Gordon and Adrienne MacAulay, who came up with the idea while assisting Mr MacAulay’s mother with care arrangements within her home. Dorren, a serial entrepreneur who began his career in software before moving into food and consumer goods, took up the role of chief executive last year.
The three founders retain around 40 per cent of the business, with the largest external investor being Mobeus.
According to the Office for National Statistics, by 2029 more than a quarter of the population – 27 per cent – will be over the age of 60.
“This is a very under-served demographic, which I think not even we fully appreciated when we started the business in 2017,” he said. “A lot of people are chasing the younger consumers, but this market is growing.”
Parsley Box was named as “One to Watch” in the latest Sunday Times Fast Track List, the annual ranking of the UK’s top 100 companies based on sales growth over the previous three years.
The company has yet to achieve profitability, Mr Dorren said, as it has heavily re-invested in scaling up operations. Along with expanding its contact centre, last year’s fundraising also paved the way for senior appointments including Dorren, and a dedicated marketing director.
“Growth is our core objective, and our investors understand that,” he said. “We want ours to be a household name synonymous with the market we serve.”