Interviews

Myles Hopper, Founder, Mindful Chef

The rise of the Mindful Chef brand is a compelling tale of the opportunity for direct to consumer brands to capitalise on the appetite of experience-hungry consumers.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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There is no question that lockdown has had a dramatic impact on consumption habits. It started out with bulk buying loo roll, whole shelves looming empty as bemused shoppers looked on, unknowingly reticent to admit that perhaps a bit of forward thinking was necessary. Fast forward nearly two months later and we’re all learning how to food shop a little differently.

Tesco’s CEO Dave Lewis recently revealed that while the number of transactions in store had nearly halved in April 2020, the average basket size had doubled. While research from Kantar demonstrated that this is a trend taking place across the supermarket industry.

As our food shopping habits shift under lockdown, so too does our relationship towards the kitchen. We look at our saucepans with a newfound respect as they offer us a therapeutic break from the endless news cycle, equally endless questions from children or troublesome flatmates. While for those navigating lockdown solo, the joy of cooking and eating offers a much-needed ritual and comfort at a time of change.

But there can be no doubt that shopping for kitchen supplies in store has not been easy during lockdown. Even if you are able to visit the shops, you face long queues, other shoppers lacking spatial awareness or simply a shortage of what you’re actually looking for. While online shopping slots at traditional supermarkets are few and far between. Of course, it would be crass to view the tragedy of the current situation as a marketing opportunity. But there is no denying that there is a unique opportunity to capitalise on the wave of consumers looking for both alternatives and inspiration. This is where Mindful Chef comes in, an online recipe box delivery service. 

As the business’s founder Myles Hopper explains amidst the ongoing lockdown, “people have more time on their hands and are looking for interactive, fun experiences at home. What is more fun and enjoyable than cooking?”

When you create your own company, you want to ensure you have a positive impact on not only people but the planet around you as well.

Myles Hopper

Making healthy eating easy

Hopper elaborates on why he and fellow founders Giles Humphries and Rob Grieg-Can set up the company back in 2015. Their mission, says Hopper was around “making healthy eating easy.” He tells the story of a fishing trip in 2014 on a friend’s boat that demonstrated to the co-founders how much people actually do want to buy directly from the supplier. “Recipe boxes are a great way of doing this,” Hopper adds.

The reality is though, as we’re all finding under lockdown, that whipping up a bowl of pasta pesto or throwing a pie into the microwave, while easy, are not the healthiest or the most inspiring options available. People, says Hopper, “do find it hard to eat healthily week in week out and keep it varied, delicious and interesting. So, we started Mindful Chef to help.” 

Yet, the brand is innately accessible and inclusive in its approach, rather than marketing weight loss for example. Hopper points to the fact that people should remember however that, “life is all about balance.” There is no point in making drastic changes to your life and eating habits all at once; that is setting yourself up for sure failure. But, says Hopper, “if you can make small, habitual changes to your weekly regime they will have longer lasting positive effects on the rest of your life.” At a time when all too many self-appointed lifestyle gurus are berating consumers if they are not using lockdown as a time of self-improvement, it is a refreshingly realistic approach.

Community matters

It is clear that this approach is rooted in the values of the company and Hopper talks about how the business’s first employees were family and friends. As a result, he says, “we encourage the team to think that way today.” The community spirit of the team matters to the founders; indeed, one of Mindful Chef’s founding principles is putting the community first. This threads through everything the business and its staff do, including the founders still getting involved “as much as possible whether that be hosting supper clubs or fielding customer service enquiries,” explains Hopper.

The community aspect also extends to the social and environmental goals that the business set. As Hopper says, “when you create your own company, you want to ensure you have a positive impact on not only people but the planet around you as well.” The principle programme that Mindful Chef runs is a partnership with One Feeds Two, an initiative which means that when a customer buys a meal, the company donates a school meal to a child living in poverty. This is, says Hopper, a great source of pride for the business. 

Hopper explains: “We are just about to cross through three million meals donated, which we think is just amazing for a company of our size and a fantastic thing for our team and community to be involved in.” He shares the experience of a trip he took with co-founder Humphries to Malawi where they were able to see, he says, “first-hand the positive impact these meals were having each day.” Hopper adds that, “not only does it give access to healthy food, but it also encourages school attendance and education is the only way out of poverty for a lot of these children.”

Hopper is also committed to the environmental projects the company helps to run including a Coastal Clean in 2019 that saw over 1,000 people clean more than 120 beaches in one day. “The clue is in the name really,” says Hopper, who points to the fact that the company is focused on “being mindful in everything we do.”

We'll look back on this period and be proud of how we responded as a nation.

Myles Hopper

Focus on your wellbeing

It is clear this mindfulness extends to how the brand is growing its consumer base in the midst of the crisis without reverting to stereotypical marketing surrounding health food. Hopper is an advocate for taking your time when it comes to your health and wellbeing; “there are no quick fixes,” he adds. Instead, he believes that what the current period of global lockdown has given many people is “a little more time to focus on themselves.” Hopper says if you are able to, use this time to think about your wellbeing and to plan for what you could change.

He talks of how, as a business, they have been incredibly fortunate because, “Mindful Chef has actually benefited during this crisis.” In fact, he says, the team have not only not furloughed any staff but have also been hiring during this period. He acknowledges that there have been challenges for the team all working virtually from home. But, he says, “for the most part it seems to be working pretty well.” 

Hopper’s advice to a nation in lockdown is simple and founded on the community spirit at the heart of the business: “Stay safe and work together.” This means supporting those, says Hopper, “who are risking their own health on the frontlines.” He believes that, when this is all over, because it will eventually be over, “we'll look back on this period and be proud of how we responded as a nation.”

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