‘We have not seen the full potential’: Online recipe firm Northfork discusses UK expansion plans
Northfork, founded in 2016, is a personalised shop-by-recipe platform for grocery retailers. It works by integrating grocery retailers’ websites and apps with recipes. This enables shoppers to automatically fill their online grocery cart based on selected recipes and up-to-the minute store stock.
The idea was inspired as way of allowing bricks and mortar supermarkets to repel the threat posed by box delivery companies and online-supermarkets.
The Northfork technology is already widely used in several Nordic countries, where big clients include Coop and ICA. Northfork also recently claimed an impressive scalp in the US, revealing it is the technology behind the new Walmart and Buzzfeed Shoppable Recipes feature within the Tasty app.
The online personal assistant for groceries
Now it has its sights set on the highly competitive UK market. Its philosophy is the belief that the most advanced technologies can deliver superior simplicity that increases growth, margins and revenue while enhancing the shopping experience. This is especially suited to the UK, where Northfork believes by simplifying the shopping experience grocers can attract a new type of customer segment that historically have been limited to meal-kit services.
Market data from Mintel, meanwhile, suggests retailers are struggling to entice new shoppers online, with the number of online grocery customers dropping from 48% to 45% between 2015 and 2018. Despite this, those shopping online appear to be spending more. Mintel figures also show that in 2018 sales of online groceries in the UK hit £12.3 billion, up 9% from 2017. It predicts the rise of online is set to continue this year with sales expected to reach £13.6 billion.
"We have just scratched the surface in Europe. The UK is one of the most competitive markets in the world so if we can make it there it will show that recipe shopping is important to shoppers,” Erik Wallin, co-founder of Northfork told FoodNavigator.
“Being such a competitive market, it will be a very good stepping stone for product development.” For example, the firm is developing the concept of adding promotions within recipes to place branded products in them, therefore “increasing the revenue stream for retailers through deeper partnerships with CPGs. That's a very good opportunity in the UK.”
Retailers doing deals with CPG brands in recipes makes sense, according to Wallin, as recipe card shoppers are more likely than not (by a whopping 98%) to replace the brands in the particular recipe. “It’s a very small number of users that actually swap and will actually go into the recipe and swap a product in the recipe,” stated Wallin.
Untapping the potential of recipe card shopping
A big drawback, up to now, surrounding recipe card shopping is that consumers, traditionally, can find it a ‘broken’ experience, and find particular ingredients missing, for instance.
Northfork has been particularly keen to address this issue. For example, say you are logged into the Coop’s platform, “we will directly match which of the 7,000 recipes that Coop has with the current assortment they have in stock. So we only present those recipes that we can fulfil,” explained Wallin.
The technology also scales recipes to any portion and optimises product combinations for minimal waste, organic options or the lowest price and recommends products based on an analysis of historic purchases.
"We try to use that smartness in the system and that has been very well received by users so when Coop launched shoppable recipes, a recipe card consisted of 1.4 recipes and that's increased to 2.8 recipes per recipe card.
“So we can make things faster, easier and more convenient for the consumer but also we add a value for the retailer because when you buy those 2.8 recipes in your recipe card the customer will go back close to three times during the week… with that frequency you can build loyalty in the long term"
Northfork has also seen a higher basket value for recipe cards - close to 4.8% higher for a recipe trolley than a non-recipe trolley.
That’s why Wallin reckons the market, especially in the UK, has untapped potential.
"Consumers are focusing so much on getting a helping hand and striving to get more convenience. If you do that in a truly helpful way, you (the retailer) will win. And I believe online grocery shopping is enhancing the shopping experience… we know you what you want to have for breakfast; we know what food preferences you have, if you have food allergens or follow a particular diet.
“A lot of retailers have tried it, but may not have seen the full potential of what recipe shopping can be. I think it is really an untapped potential looking at how you can sell recipes on your own domain as a retailer.”