Expanding Ready-To-Eat to Europe: Factor Netherlands & Flanders
HelloFresh is more than a meal kit provider today - we are a fully integrated food solutions group. Having evolved a lot since our founding in 2011, we now offer meals for all kinds of moments and situations in our customers' busy lives. Part of our offering is ready-to-eat (RTE), a segment we have been building out significantly since 2020, when we acquired Factor in the US.
The Chicago-founded business had spent almost a decade perfecting its offering, including how the organization sources ingredients, cooks meals and packages them. They expanded from the Greater Chicago area to the East Coast in 2015 and the West Coast in 2018 to become a major player in the US RTE industry when HelloFresh bought them.
HelloFresh Group on the other hand has developed and perfected an online business model for delivering great meals directly to people's homes. Joining forces resulted in a major growth boost for Factor, quickly propelling the company to become the RTE market leader in the US and growing the Factor team from 35 to more than 400 people by mid 2023.
Soon after the success of our first RTE brand became evident, plans for internationalization were set up and executed in 2023. At the beginning of the year, Factor expanded to Ontario, Canada, and in August it expanded to the Netherlands and Flanders, Belgium. These launches are an essential part of HelloFresh’s goal to support the growth of the RTE category globally. As part of the companyʼs multi-brand strategy, Factor will attract a new demographic of customers who were previously untapped by HelloFresh and the other meal kit brands belonging to HelloFresh Group.
We spoke with Kaylyn Tolzmann, COO and Co-Managing Director for Factor Europe
Bringing Factor to Europe
Someone who has been with Factor since it joined HelloFresh is Kaylyn Tolzmann, the newly introduced COO and Co-Managing Director for Factor Europe. Together with CMO Christiane Schrijvers-von Griesheim, she leads a team of ten people currently located at HelloFresh’s Amsterdam office. We spoke with her to get some insights into her personal HelloFresh story and the expansion of Factor to Europe.
Kaylyn is originally from the US where she started at the HelloFresh US headquarters based in New York in 2017, because she was searching for a high-growth start-up environment after having worked for a more traditional retail company.
“I started in the Procurement team where I developed the packaging strategy. It was my first job at HelloFresh and packaging remains one of my favorite topics to work on to this day,” says Kaylyn. “For example, at Factor Europe we have developed an innovative, tightly sealed packaging solution to help extend the shelf life of our meals to up to seven days after delivery. Our meal packaging is sealed with a process that reduces the oxygen and thus naturally slows the deterioration of the ingredients."
Kaylyn further worked in Special Operations, a team of internal consultants, jumping in wherever they are needed. Be it Menu Planning or the Covid Management Strategy, one of our company values helped her to overcome every problem she faced: “Speed & Agility is one the seven parts of our company DNA and it is the most important one to me. Finding quick solutions to pressing problems is both exciting and challenging, but it’s also very rewarding because you get to help other people and majorly contribute to the success of the entire organization.”
The innovative Factor packaging keeps meals fresh and safe for consumption for up to seven days after delivery.
Living the start-up mode
For many years, Kaylyn has been involved in supporting the acquisition and subsequent transition of acquired companies, including specialist meal kit brand Green Chef in 2018, where she identified synergies in the procurement department, and Factor. Before the acquisition process she helped to evaluate if Factor would be a fitting addition to the HelloFresh Group brand family. In 2020 she transitioned full-time to Factor and helped to integrate it into the existing company structures. That included growing the Factor US procurement team from two to 15 people and contributing to the strategic expansion to Canada at the beginning of the year.
“I originally joined HelloFresh because I wanted to work for a company in ‘start-up mode’ and that’s what I still love about HelloFresh today. My role has always been one full of opportunities and one in which I can take ownership and mold the business.”
When prepping the launch of Factor in Europe, the team had to adjust to a new environment. “It was quite fun to take something that I have been a part of and adapt it to a completely new market,” says Kaylyn. “Working with the International team, meeting lots of people and cultures, seeing the differences in consumer preferences, all of that is new and exciting! For example, one of the first big changes we had to implement was to adjust our recipes for European nutrition and taste preferences, including adding more vegetables.”
But there were are also lots of useful experiences from HelloFresh and Factor US to be implemented: “Factor, HelloFresh and Green Chef have a different product and different customer base. But many aspects of how they are run as a business are inherently similar. They are all tech-driven subscription services with a weekly rotating menu that deliver straight to customers' doorsteps. While meal kits just get assembled in distribution centers, RTE meals need to be cooked by trained chefs in giant kitchen facilities first. But besides that both the product & menu planning process as well as everything after production, the down-stream supply chain, are broadly the same. There is so much similarity that we constantly benefit from leveraging best practices established with HelloFresh and combining forces, e.g. in procurement and delivery. The beginning and the end of the customer journey have the most synergies. That is why in the Netherlands and Flanders we could use the fleet of chilled HelloFresh delivery vans from day one!”