Having launched in 2017, Hunter & Gather have gone from strength to strength. Founders Amy Moring and Jeff Webster created a truly special product range that addressed a need in the marketplace which no doubt led them to being named on the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2021 as the talented entrepreneurs they are.
We’ve sat down with Jeff to understand what their journey of success has been like, how they managed challenges and where they’re at now, along with some valuable advice for other e-commerce businesses along the way.
The growth and success of Hunter & Gather
“It’s hard to pinpoint our five-year journey, but we would attribute our success to first and foremost being our own customer. Being knowledgeable and identifying what we and customers want. Not being afraid to stick out from the crowd with many of our products that are animal-based nutrition as opposed to our peers in the food and supplement market doubling down on vegan and plant-based. Equally, Amy and I have a lot of respect for each other as founders and as partners as we both bring different skill sets to the business.
When we started in 2017, we prioritised our online sales immediately and targeted key retailers such as Whole Foods Market in the very early days,” Jeff said.
“We emphasised Amazon marketplace in 2018 when many ‘advisors’ said it was not a worthwhile channel. We also strategically secured retail accounts such as Selfridges, Planet Organic, Booths, Holland & Barrett and Ocado along the way too. In fact, we’re the third largest mayonnaise brand behind Hellman’s and Heinz in Ocado which is phenomenal.
Our growth has looked like this:
I would say to any other e-commerce business, dive in with a lot of optimism and don’t let perfection get in the way of progress.
Selling internationally and some of the challenges that it brings
“We now sell into the EU and have some smaller wholesale customers in the UAE and Hong Kong. We use Amazon in the EU. The EU has been a challenge since the UK left in December 2021 and resulted in us being faced with a £14k+ bill due to a whole container being held at Rotterdam – this was due to documentation being incorrectly populated by a third party we had engaged (which is still going through an insurance claim).
We’re now exploring other territories with the US naturally being the next point of focus – it seems a natural progression to launch on Amazon to test and learn before rolling out a D2C presence. Amazon is a great platform that definitely has its quirks but it’s highly leverage-able which is a huge advantage for challenger brands with smaller budgets than the big corporates. I would recommend getting someone who is an expert to manage how you use Amazon to save the hassle of trying to do it yourself,” Jeff recommended.
“The challenges with the UK leaving the European Union presented significant uncertainty and constraints in being able to serve Europe. We lost 20% of our business at the time in December 2021.
In hindsight, we also didn’t realise how low-cost Facebook and Google marketing was initially compared to how super expensive it is now comparatively speaking so that’s been a learning experience. Aside from that, all other pain points are par for the course in business so far!
When it comes to our logistics, we use a third-party logistics company (3PL) here in the UK and also in Poland. We’ve worked with the same UK 3PL that we started with in month four of launching the business and they’ve been a key partner in our growing business ever since. They’ve grown significantly as a result of their relationship with us too. It’s been a great partnership and was luckily for us, just a chance encounter.
I would recommend doing your due diligence and research to find a shipping partner that is relevant to your business needs. And, be sure your inventory management system works well alongside it.
The investment journey
“The investment process wasn't all plain sailing. We commenced a funding round in February 2022 which was likely not the best timing! Aside from the huge macro-economic constraints that developed throughout 2022 (inflation, supply chains, etc.), an oversight on our behalf with the investment raise was being so set on one outcome with a particular party.
We naively (arguably) thought it was a done deal way before it was and then as we started to get a sense that something wasn't right, we were already in a stretched position. We then had to make some important decisions to ensure continuity.
This was an intensely challenging position to be in but brought out the best in us as founders and led us to ultimately achieving an outcome for the business that is better than we could ever have anticipated.
In October 2022, we received transformational investment which will now supercharge our growth as we progress. Prior to this, we had received about £250k over the course of the 4.5 years in equity funding and had also relied on innovative funding solutions such as revenue share finance and Amazon Lending.
Previously, we’d had many, many conversations with VCs that we felt a lack of synergy with. We’ve now got an incredible lead investor and non-exec director that has joined our board along with some noteworthy industry figures such as Childs Farm founder Joanna Jensen. We also have several hundred investors via Seedrs which we combined with this funding round.
Our lead investor, Black International Investments, have an abundant and infinite mindset when it comes to business. They’re happy to join us in playing the long game and certainly don't believe in growth at all costs – something that resonated deeply with both Amy and myself.”
Final recommendations to other e-commerce businesses
Jeff added, “We had a lack of experience as first-time business owners so didn’t know exactly what good looks like in terms of metrics in the early days, especially average order value (AOV), customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV). Not realising that focusing on these metrics gives you more understanding than just revenue. We probably didn’t pay it the attention that we probably should have and were arguably side-tracked by speculative retail opportunities. So, understand the metrics that are key to your business from the start. Know what impacts your business the most.
Additionally, we didn't capitalise on performance marketing through Facebook and Google early enough either - we could've been a lot more aggressive in 2019-2021 but didn't have the capacity to focus on it (Amy only left her career in 2020 to join Hunter & Gather full-time!). Equally, email marketing is still so powerful along with product reviews - make sure there is emphasis on these from the very start!
Knowing these things in the early stages could really boost your business.
Finally, I don't recommend going full-time in your business until you know it can sustain you. We've seen so many founders who are so enthusiastic to quit their careers way too early which brings an overwhelming and undo sense of pressure."
Want to know more about Hunter & Gather? Stay connected as we continue to track their journey over the course of 2023 and beyond.