Day 140: How I tried to scale my business, starting by standardising it

“Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.” – Julia Margaret Cameron, British Photographer

In trying to develop a scalable business model, I realised an element of standardisation would be required. At least in the short-term, it would not be feasible to cater for bespoke requirements for every single customer.

This meant Tinkerdash would have to initially target specific demographics and dietary needs but how many people should the standardised meal plans cater for? How many meals per week? What budgets?

To try to answer these questions I began scouring reports from The Office for National Statistics including Families and households in the UK: 2016  and Family spending in the UK: financial year ending March 2016. Here’s what I found out (figures are for 2016 unless stated otherwise):

  • There were 18.9 million families in the UK.
  • There were 12.7 million married or civil partner couple families in the UK in 2016. This was the most common type of family. 7.9 million of these did not have dependent children.
  • 85% of families with dependent children have one or two children. Only 15% have three or more children.
  • In 2013, the average number of dependent children in a family was 1.7.
  • Average weekly household spending remained level at £528.90. £56.80 of this was on food & non-alcoholic drinks and £52.20 of this was on just food.
  • Low-income households continued to spend a higher proportion of their expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks (17%, equating to £40.40) when compared with households with a higher income. Households with the highest income spent 7.5% of total expenditure on this category (equating to £72.60).
  • Patterns suggest that lower income households assigned more of their food budget to basic groceries. In contrast, higher-income households spent a higher proportion of their food budget on vegetables.

Based on this, I decided to focus on households of two to four people, which accounted for the vast majority of UK households.

The month-long pilot had shown that people tended to opt for five to seven meals per week and it seemed reasonable to extrapolate this across the population. Based on this, and by anticipating cost-efficiencies by meal planning across four weeks rather than single weeks, it seemed feasible to meet even the tightest of budgets at just £40 per week. It was worth trying at least.

So 3 questions answered. The standardised meal plans would cater for two to four people, eating five or seven meals per week, aiming to be within a budget of £40 per week or £160 for four weeks.

Next, the question of which dietary needs to prioritise.

The pilot included people with a mix of dietary needs including gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose intolerance, plus a load of food likes and dislikes. This time it did not seem reasonable to extrapolate this across the population. Instead, I went back to Facebook adverts to understand representative market sizes of different dietary needs, using the same method I’d written about in a previous post here.

The parameters I used for the search were location “United Kingdom”, age “18-55” and gender “All”. The variable search term was the diet type. These are the terms I searched and the popularity, measured as “people who have expressed an interest in or like Pages related to <search term>”:

  • Veganism – 98.8m people
  • Vegetarian – 96.4m people
  • Healthy diet – 46.2m people
  • Gluten-free diet – 21m people
  • Low-carbohydrate diet – 12.9m people
  • Palaeolithic diet – 12.1m people
  • Diabetic diet – 1.3m people
  • Atkins diet – 1.0m people
  • Lactose intolerance – 997k people
  • Mediterranean diet – 811k people

Based on this, I decided to focus on the top four dietary needs, which were veganism, vegetarianism, healthy and gluten-free.

Google Trends also suggests that “interest” in veganism has been growing at a rate above many other dietary needs since 2014, including the other three listed here.

So, there it was. The next iteration of Tinkerdash would focus on households of two to four people, eating five or seven meals per week, within a budget of £40 per week or £160 for four weeks. And the meal plans would cater for four dietary needs, which were veganism, vegetarianism, healthy and gluten-free.

That is until we learn more and decide to change the direction of Tinkerdash, again!

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