MeatMail delivery service expanding

MeatMail managing director David Booth doing a delivery round in Dunedin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
MeatMail managing director David Booth doing a delivery round in Dunedin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

''Like bringing back the milkman.''

That is how David Booth describes the expansion of subscriber-based home delivery service MeatMail.

The Dunedin-based company has moved from solely providing meat for Dunedin students to catering for a wider range of households' fresh produce requirements both in the city and other parts of New Zealand.

Mr Booth (25) and Harrison Uffindell (24) were students at the University of Otago when they launched MeatMail in June last year, having identified a market for quality meat at an affordable price in North Dunedin.

They initially saw it as an opportunity to become involved in a small business and to make some pocket-money.

But it had evolved and their plans had got more ambitious, and there was now the potential to eventually have a nationwide franchise business.

MeatMail was now aiming to provide fresh solutions for busy households and had added fruit, vegetables, milk and cream to the range.

While the short-term focus had been the student market - and they were looking forward to launching back into that market in February as the support from students had been ''incredible'' - there was increasing demand for such a service nationwide among time-poor families, Mr Booth said.

MeatMail now also operates in Christchurch and Wellington and ''next on the hit list'' was New Plymouth, a city with a demographic similar to Dunedin's, he said.

A trial was launched in Andersons Bay two months ago and the Dunedin market had now been ''opened up''. Students were employed over the summer as salespeople.

This weekend, MeatMail will make 130-odd deliveries and Mr Booth, who is managing director, now has three fulltime staff working with him from an office in Clyde St.

Mr Uffindell, now working at an Auckland law firm, was still involved with the business and did a lot of administration work from home.

The company has developed and implemented technology-driven systems to ensure the sign-up and ordering process was simple and flexible for clients.

Deliveries were made at the same time every week by refrigerated truck and delivered in chiller bags.

While the business model had done very well around the world, that had not previously occurred in New Zealand, Mr Booth said.

Home delivery was a growing trend around the world and consumers were interested in shortening the distance between ''the farm gate and their front door''.

Increasing demand from consumers wanting to see a traceable supply chain was the reason the likes of farmers markets were ''going through the roof''.

''Families in particular are signing up for the service, which provides those high-quality weekly essentials and saves them time.

''Everyone used to know the local milkman - now technology has got to a point where we can bring him back,'' he said.

While wanting to provide high-quality products at competitive prices, which were sourced in New Zealand, an advantage was their ability to make strong, ongoing relationships with their customers.

Their products were all sourced from New Zealand suppliers, including Silver Fern Farms, with a focus on keeping supply as locally sourced as possible. The company saw its capacity to work directly with farmers further evolving with expansion.

MeatMail convert Helen Hunt was thrilled with the service, saying it had made her life ''so much easier''.

''I can already see the difference in my food and petrol bill, and having our staples looked after makes it so much easier to budget for our weekly food shop,'' she said.

When it came to adding to the available range, Mr Booth said product requests were being received all the time and a tally was kept, so the more votes a product received, the more likely it was they could fast-track it.

Servicing the South Island was MeatMail's immediate ambition and it ''really does have to be Dunedin first'', Mr Booth said.

The company intended to keep the support team in Dunedin at this stage. The city was the right place to base such a business, as it had the right-size population and attitude. Mr Booth was also grateful for the support of the university's School of Business.

MeatMail was second in last year's Audacious student business plan competition and the $6000 prize was put immediately into website development. Mr Booth was pleased to see the continued growth of that competition.

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