Most Creative Marketers
Most Creative Marketers: Anna Greene
Gousto’s marketing leader, VP of brand, insights & strategy, Anna Greene, talks entrepreneurship, sustainability, and why dinnertime should always steal the show
09 October 2023
Anna Greene is fresh from celebrating her fifth anniversary with Gousto. It's been a rollercoaster ride, she says, from a time when recipe boxes were still in their infancy in 2018, to Gousto alone now selling nearly 4 million meals every month.
Fuelled by the pandemic, during which meal-kit delivery brands including Gousto were forced to close their doors to new subscribers due to inability to meet demand, the UK meal kit market more than doubled in size in 2020 alone. Currently valued at more than £1bn, the combined UK food, drink, and recipe subscription box category is forecast to continue its growth, reaching more than £1.5bn by 2025. The surge in demand during lockdowns meant Gousto, which was founded by two former investment bankers Timo Boldt and James Carter and counts fitness coach Joe Wicks - also known as The Body Coach - among its investors, doubled its workforce to 2,000 and opened two further distribution warehouses.
During Greene’s five-year tenure, the Gousto brand has multiplied more than ten times in revenue, from £30m to £325m.
“It’s hyper growth,” says Greene, “and while we continue to invest in and optimise performance marketing, it's really the strong brand, and top-of-mind awareness that's driven long-term value for the business.”
Investment in brand has played a pivotal role: prompted awareness of the Gousto brand was 11 per cent five years ago, and now stands at more than 70 per cent. And it translates directly to sales – in 2018, 80 per cent of sign-ups were generated through performance marketing. Now, 80 per cent of sign-ups are organic.
“Even though it was launched in 2012, Gousto still feels like a young brand from a customer point of view, but also within the company. It still feels very entrepreneurial. It’s a nice place to be. It's a really exciting phase when you're in a high-growth business, there’s lots of energy within the company,” Greene says.
Ecommerce & entrepreneurship
And at the point when she joined Gousto, Greene was no stranger to entrepreneurship, or the kit-box idea. She had previously launched her own concept: an e-commerce brand called Milk & Poop, where expectant parents could get all they needed to decorate their baby’s nursery in one box. The kits included everything from blankets to wall decals, cuddly toys, all styled in different looks. The sets were giftable, with the company selling direct to consumer (DTC).
The idea was born during maternity leave; Greene always knew she wanted to do something different and had long talked about launching a business with her husband. “For some crazy reason we thought doing it while I was on mat leave was ideal,” says Greene. The pair managed everything from designing and manufacturing the products, developing the website, distribution and retail partnerships, marketing, finance, and customer services.
For Greene, it was the single most important turning point in her career, she says.
“It gave me an incredible understanding of how a business works, and made me realise I was capable of much more than I gave myself credit for. I felt really fearless at that time. But I was also incredibly naive. I didn't have a clue how to secure investment, so we hit a point where in order to scale up, I’d need to go and get proper seed investment. That wasn't something I wanted to do, so I knew it wasn't for me anymore. That's when I hit a fork in the road.”
But not for long. Greene wrote down all the things she’d learnt, and a list of DTC businesses she admired. Gousto was at the top of that list, she says.
“And the rest is history. So, I'm not sure where I'd be today, had I not taken the leap and gone on that journey of Milk & Poop.”
Today, Greene is on a mission to build Gousto’s brand equity by connecting with customers on an emotional level, which she says; “comes down to deeply understanding our customers and always doing the right thing by them.”
And it helps that she’s an evangelist for the brand herself. The vision, she says, is to become “the UK’s most-loved way to eat dinner, to create an unrivalled experience that makes dinnertimes really special.” From a communications point of view, the team spend a lot of time understanding the key drivers of consideration for Gousto, and how to bring those to life in creative ways.
Greene has always wanted to avoid the recipe-box trope of treating cooking as a chore to be overcome or a problem solved, which is why the latest campaign “Steal the Show” is her favourite yet. Created in partnership with Mother, the campaign has increased prompted awareness by 14 percentage points. Gousto has led the category on inspiration and excitement – and in doing so, it has increased hard-to-shift consideration metrics by 11 points, explains Greene. The positive shifts in brand perception have inspired “record numbers of new customers to sign up,” says Greene, and ultimately delivered commercial success for Gousto.
“Reclaiming dinner’s rightful place”
“I wanted to start positioning dinnertime with Gousto as something to look forward to. The insight behind the latest campaign was that after a hard day at work, we all default to sitting down with Netflix and eating a bowl of whatever. And so, the idea was that Gousto steals the show by pulling your attention away from the telly, or your phone, and back to dinnertime. It’s about reclaiming dinner’s rightful place as the evening’s headline attraction, by showcasing the range of tasty recipes that we offer,” Greene says.
The idea behind the campaign came from an insight gleaned during research, the kind of flyaway comment in a consumer group that leads to a much bigger idea, Greene explains, adding that you only have to talk to any busy parent to realise “how stretched everyone is, and that they want to eat interesting, nutritious food, but sometimes life just gets in the way.”
“We wanted talk to that, but without making it feel like a drudge, making it more entertaining. The twist on the TV show characters took that insight, but elevated it to a successful creative idea,” Greene says.
In Mother, and creative director Dickie Connell, Gousto has an incredible team, Greene explains: “They are brilliant, creative collaborators, very strategic in their thinking but really ambitious.”
Agency partners like Mother, Greene points out, are “more than just an ad agency” – as a “natural extension” to the team, they’ve become close to the business, learning the commercial challenges, as well as its propositions and developments. Working as a client-agency team, opportunities that could be leveraged for marketing are deftly spotted. Although it's not a formal part of how they work together, the team at Mother, says Greene “input into business ideas, it's very fluid in that way. By ensuring they've got the full business context and goals, we open ourselves up to creative challenge and innovation. And that's quite special when you have agency partners that you know truly care about what they're doing, and really want to make a difference.”
A more sustainable option
And making a difference is at the heart of Gousto’s business model, which they say is all about reducing food waste and helping more people cook healthy home-cooked meals. As a B Corp, the brand is part of the global movement using business as a force for good. Last year it redistributed around 1 million meals to charity through its partnership with FareShare, achieved 72 per cent recyclability across own-brand packaging, and is on track for that to be 100 per cent in two years’ time. It has also publicly committed to decarbonisation targets.
It has commissioned independent research to better understand its carbon impact, which proved that eating Gousto is a more sustainable option, with 23 per cent less carbon emissions than the equivalent supermarket shop. Sharing this with customers, says Greene, has helped them to understand the positive impact that switching to Gousto can have.
Help with food waste would be welcome: in 2018, Wrap research showed UK households threw away 6.6million tonnes of food. This is down from 8.1 million tonnes in 2007, but still there is plenty of room for improvement. Of that 6.6million tonnes, almost three quarters is food that could have been eaten.
With Gousto, Greene says precise ingredients and order forecasting means no food waste in the home and less than 1 per cent in its fulfilment centres.
“It's all about eradicating food waste, and that has such a big impact on the environment,” says Greene, “because it's not just the food that ends up in the bin. It's the entire chain of resources that go into producing, transporting, and distributing that food. When food is wasted, it's all of those resources; water, energy, labour, land, all of that goes to waste as well. By switching to Gousto, people can make a positive impact.”
Is healthy eating accessible to all?
And an upside to working in a business with an entrepreneurial mindset, Greene explains, is that the brand is free to source and scale sustainable solutions that even some of the big grocers aren’t trialling yet.
Greene cites a partnership with Xampla, which has developed drop-in replacements for plastics used in single-use sachets. Produced from sustainable natural feedstocks like pea protein, the material biodegrades completely in both marine and soil environments. “We use this for stock sachets,” says Greene, “so rather than all of the plastic that goes in the bin, you just put the whole thing in the hot water, and it whirls through to nothing. Things like that, we're able to easily prototype through having that direct relationship with the customer. It comes from the top and the fact that everyone's very committed to how we can create a product with a positive impact on people and the planet.”
Since Greene arrived at Gousto, she believes there's been an advancement in how people understand and perceive the connection between dietary choices, the environment, and their own well-being. “There's a lot more richness of information out there, so I think people are much more educated and a lot more motivated to make positive choices. The trends are longstanding and quite systemic. But it's interesting to see how some of the themes change and what's important to people, depending on what's in the public consciousness, what's been written about, what policies are coming out, and how that drives individual behaviour.”
In the UK, the average diet is made up of 57 per cent ultra-processed food, but within the Gousto recipe library, says Greene, around 10 per cent of products are ultra-processed.
“It helps people create positive behaviours that are good for the planet, good for health, and allow people to cook delicious food. I sound like I'm preaching,” says Greene, “but it's great to work somewhere where you really do believe in the benefits of the product and its potential.”
But isn’t there a paradox here, in that the busiest people are the ones that are be the most likely to need a nutritious recipe-box meal-kit in their lives, but may also be the people for whom it's economically viable? So, what about cost – is this way of eating priced out of reach for too many households?
Greene believes it can be justified, arguing that Gousto has worked hard to make its product “as accessible as possible.” Meals are available for £2.99 which has been achieved by driving efficiencies in technology, supply chain and operation, from which savings are passed onto the customer. Last year, faced with the cost-of-living crisis, Gousto invested in a new value range of recipes for 50p less.
Gousto won’t be for everyone, but for those on a fixed budget combined with a demanding schedule, Greene is certain it’s a way to put the heart back into the home – and make sure dinnertime steals the show once more.
Mother is more than just an ad agency. It's quite special when you have agency partners that you know truly care about what they're doing, and really want to make a difference. We both want to produce work that moves people and has a lasting impact on the business. When you’re working in a scale-up, your agency partners really do become an extension to your team, so collaboration is key… and making sure you have fun along the way.
The world according to Anna Greene
Who is your creative hero or favourite piece of creativity?
I have so many but I’m loving the work coming out from Heinz at the moment.
The collaboration between Heinz and Absolut Vodka was just so iconic and brilliantly executed from start to finish. The fact that they were able to turn this around so quickly, really allowed them to tap into the trend for vodka-based pasta dishes and be part of the social media hype. The campaign received over 500 million earned media impressions and established market share in a really competitive category.
Absolutely Heinz. Ridiculously Good. I have so much respect for both brands in making this happen.
What’s been feeding your imagination lately?
I've always been fascinated by architecture. My mum trained in interior design and my brother’s an architect, so I had that appreciation instilled really early on. I spend a lot of time browsing architect websites and magazines. I’m really loving Proctor & Shaw and Studio Bright at the moment. Brilliant inspiration for my someday dream home.
What do you think has been your boldest creative play?
In the midst of lockdown, we wanted to find ways to connect with our community. Everyone was fed up, stuck at home and missing the joys of connection and social buzz, so we developed ‘Table for 1 Million’. The idea was really simple - ‘Why don’t we set up the biggest virtual dinner party that the whole nation can join, hosted by Nick Grimshaw and Paloma Faith?!...We’ll sell the food and bring the entertainment online.”
How did it pay off, and what lessons did that teach you?
Unfortunately for us, Grimmy’s wi-fi went down and our backup server went bust, and we all sat at home watching the whole thing unravel…
But that’s what happens when you push the limits of what’s possible. You need to be willing to take the risk and the downfalls are never as painful as you fear, especially if you have the backing of your team and confidence in your brand to respond. After posting a tongue in cheek announcement on social media, we received hundreds of messages of support. Brand awareness and love hit an all-time high (exceeding our campaign targets) and we recruited a bunch more people to try Gousto. Not bad given the event didn’t even take place.
What do you enjoy most about being a marketer?
Marketing is ultimately about people - understanding people, connecting with people, and solving their problems. I grew up with brands like The Body Shop and United Colours of Benetton. I saw first-hand the impact that brands can have on culture, and how businesses can lead positive change. That’s the stuff that really interests me. I want to create products and experiences that make people’s lives better and have a positive lasting impact.
What makes a good creative marketer?
Great creative marketers are master storytellers that push the ambition of their brand, agency partners and internal teams. They need to have a really strong grasp of customer insight and be able to craft campaigns that resonate emotionally with their audience. They can spot the kernel of a great idea and they know how to stretch and shape it to ensure it delivers results.
What makes a good creative agency partner?
It’s important to have agency partners that share your vision, ethos, and values. Mother is the perfect partner for Gousto. We both want to produce work that moves people and has a lasting impact on the business. When you’re working in a scale-up, your agency partners really do become an extension to your team, so collaboration is key… and making sure you have fun along the way.
And what frustrates you?
Ego. It always gets in the way of effective collaboration, whether that’s working with agencies or with internal teams. When egos step aside, ideas can flourish.
What excites you about the future?
The role of technology in creativity. The fusion of creative skills with emerging tools like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and interactive platforms. I think it will open us up to a more inclusive and interconnected creative landscape, where ideas can be shared, refined, and brought to life in ways we can only begin to imagine.