HiLo, the grab and go health pot concept by Chop’d founder Jasper Wight, has closed its single site in the City to concentrate on wholesale, MCA has learnt.
Wight said it was difficult for new entrants to establish themselves without investing large sums of money, and is instead supplying its high vegetable, low meat pots to retailers such as Sourced Market as well as independents.
He said HiLo could return to operating stores and delivery in the future, but said third party retail would be the main focus of the business for now, as it offered the most reliable exposure to target customers.
Wight founded the concept in early 2017 as delivery only, before going on to open a physical site at Broadgate Circle towards the end of the summer.
He said: “The traditional foodservice model has been squeezed with food, labour and property costs going up. It’s a very thin bottom line for operators, and it can end up being all about scale. Whilst our offer is more commercially and environmentally sustainable, it is still difficult for new entrants to get a grip without burning a lot of cash, and it would have taken us a fair while to reach critical mass.
“With a wholesale business we found we could really reduce our cash burn, and we were getting to the right type of consumer seeking healthy and tasty food-to-go, with a lighter carbon footprint.”
Wight said he had not anticipated this direction for the business.
He added: “We thought HiLo would be Chop’d the sequel, with a more nutrient dense product that has a longer shelf life for greater convenience, and that it would be a straight read across and that we’d go into the same districts with the same store formats.
“We expected a foodservice play, with a wholesale and delivery side-line, but instead we’re currently almost 100% wholesale. It’s not how we expected it, but when I launched Chop’d in 2004 the world was a very different place too. Environmental concerns and sustainability oriented business models are much higher up the agenda now. The foodservice business model needs to change.”
Wight said HiLo’s pots, which are rich in brown rice, pulses and vegetables, were attractive to caterers struggling to fulfil niche dietary requirements.
On returning to operating stores, he added: “Our sense is that in the future we may return to an own store estate and to delivery, but at the moment if we had to pick the sales channel we’re having most success in its third party retail. But we don’t want to only be a manufacturer forever, we’d like our own stores too at some point. Right now are midway though a funding round to help us reposition more squarely towards third party retail in 2018, but beyond that, who knows.”