In culinary circles convenience food may have got a bad name for itself, but many consumers still seek ways to make food preparation easier – without compromising taste or quality. One innovative London-based company, leapingsalmon, has developed a proposition that does just that – and it’s meeting with popular acclaim.

Convenience food: first and foremost the term probably conjures up images of unhealthy and uninspired ready meals that work-weary, time-pressed consumers sling into the microwave simply to stave off hunger pangs. One alternative to this is takeaway or home delivery food, but many people like to contribute in some way to the preparation of the food they eat, and takeaway food does not provide for this. There is also a certain stigma attached to it. For example, only the most thick-skinned hosts would serve takeaway food at a dinner party, the implication, right or wrong, being that they do not value their guests sufficiently to serve them home-cooked food.

This dilemma opens up a whole new vista of opportunities for foodservice suppliers and food producers. One of the most innovative new propositions in the segment is leapingsalmon, a UK home delivery service which has taken seriously their customers’ desire to have a hand in the preparation of their meal while leaving most of the grind to others. This means that the company does the nitty-gritty of gathering, measuring and preparing ingredients for a meal, leaving their customers the more pleasant tasks of baking, grilling or simply arranging the food on a plate. leapingsalmon handles the dicing, slicing, chopping, washing and grating of the ingredients required for a chosen meal before they are whisked off to customers’ homes or other collection points.

When James Marshall and Peter Kenyon founded leapingsalmon in

“Spending 60 hours on a job but just 60 seconds on a meal”

August 1999, they were responding to their own situation and the wishful thinking of their peers. ” Spending 60 hours on a job but just 60 seconds on a meal” is not conducive to the consumption of healthy or tasty food, and who wants to sacrifice that? They devised a way to help consumers driven more by time pressures than financial consideration – for such luxury comes at a price. Given the service and quality of food provided, leapingsalmon is far from exorbitant, but it’s not for every day. Nor is it intended to be – the idea is to help customers create a special occasion in their own homes.

Spreading beyond the urban metropolis

Meal kits can be delivered the same day they are ordered to addresses or convenient drop-off points in London, or the next day to the rest of Great Britain. With a warehouse in London and a second one in Birmingham, the company finds it can service the country within this promised time frame, thanks to its fleet of vans and use of couriers where required. A significant part of the business is now generated outside London.

Logistics are complicated, particularly given the time-specific and perishable nature of the products, but Marshall and Kenyon put a great deal of thought into that before launching their service. Many deliveries are made to offices, or to agreed drop-off points in the area of the purchaser, for example, the local off-licence or convenience store, if nobody will be at home to receive the order. The food is kept chilled in cool bags or boxes, which inevitably makes for a disconcerting amount of packaging, but keeps the food at a safe temperature.

Targeting a multi-channel market

The brand has grown remarkably in the two years since it was launched, with brand and product awareness up to 70% in target markets. This has much to do with the company’s strategy of encouraging multi-channel sales. Customers can order through the website, but they can also pick up the phone – or they can choose their food on the website but click a “call me” button to prompt an employee at the company’s centre to call them back. This enables the company to reach those consumers not comfortable with purchasing over the Internet, or who require additional information before going ahead with their purchase.

leapingsalmon’s marketing strategy reflects this on- and offline presence. Very little advertising has been done online, although a number of affiliate partnerships have been concluded with complementary sites. Offline the group has deployed a mix of traditional marketing ploys, such as posters in underground trains, mail drops, direct mail and print adverts. Managing director James Marshall told he believes this mix of online and offline activity is key, as it reflects the nature of the company.

“orders are growing fast – things are going extremely well”

“We’re certainly not only an Internet-based brand – we see handling customer queries as an important part of our service as well as making sure the product is increasingly widely available through other channels,” he said.

Since it launched with private funding, leapingsalmon, despite ambitious expansion plans, has been careful not to follow other new economy startups in overspending. The core team consists of just ten employees, with further tasks outsourced as and when required. As if reluctant to tempt fate, Marshall declined to disclose order figures, but confirmed that ” orders are growing fast – things are going extremely well”. It appears the market for top-quality, convenient, fresh food is buoyant and expanding fast.

Recreating the restaurant experience at home

The company partners with some well-known chefs, who lend credibility to the dishes on offer. Aimed at the discerning palate, the menu boasts true restaurant dishes such as Szechuan Chicken, Pork Scaloppine and Wild Mushroom Ravioli. Every two or three weeks a new dish is introduced to try and keep the menu interesting and different, effectively recreating the restaurant experience at home. To complement the food, leapingsalmon also offers wine, which is supplied by wholesalers. As Marshall commented: “Our wine offering is focused – the wine list is not massive but it’s well-matched to the meals.”

High quality ingredients are guaranteed by visits to various suppliers. Many of the ingredients come directly from London’s larger markets such as Covent Garden or Billingsgate. They are then prepared by a number of kitchens to which leapingsalmon now gives “quite significant business”.

“Stress is for the other fish”

To attract its target market, leapingsalmon has worked hard to develop its image. The very company name conveys health, energy and freshness, and the tagline “Stress is for the other fish”

“We’ve come up with a new idea and as such we’re helping to define the market”

furthers the concept of the company as slightly quirky, independent-minded and most importantly anti-hassle.

As Marshall sums up: “The whole category of home meal solutions is growing very fast, and we’re doing well because we have a new product operating in that segment and are getting a good name for it. The Internet has been a great tool to get our product and brand out there and we are now building on that potential as we open up new retail channels. We’ve come up with a new idea and as such we’re helping to define the market.”

As leapingsalmon matures, consumers’ growing fondness for food that is both convenient and good quality, and their increasing acceptance of home delivery services, should benefit a company which is making its mark in that rare commodity: a largely untapped market.

By Catherine Sleep, managing editor,

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

The European Ready-Meals Market

Ready Meals

Ready Meals: The International Market