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The words “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” generally conjure thoughts of people riding bikes, saying no to plastic straws, using solar energy and drinking from keep cups.
But one of the biggest environmental impacts humans have comes down to one thing: diet.
The food people choose to eat has a larger carbon impact than the global transport system – and that’s including air traffic – and it’s something Thank Fork co-founder Faith Forster wants to tackle.
Forster went plant-based, or vegan, 12 months ago after consuming a vegetarian diet. She’d chosen to pursue vegetarianism when she became aware of the cost eating meat has on the environment.
Land cleared for agriculture is the leading cause of species’ extinction. And while meat and dairy make up 18 per cent of energy in a diet and 37 per cent of protein on average, it uses 83 per cent of farmland and comprises 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse emissions.
Then, when Forster developed gestational diabetes and insulin resistance, she transitioned to a plant-based diet.
“When I went plant-based I found it really difficult,” she told Yahoo Finance. The ability to use dairy to fill out flavour was gone, and suddenly a lot of creativity was required to come up with meals for herself and her family that were tasty, nutritious, easy and plant-based.
That’s when she got the idea: “Why not make it easier for people?”
Before they launched, they did a series of interviews to find out what people wanted. The results were overwhelmingly clear: customers wanted meals that were quick to prepare, but also featured minimal waste.
“People want the convenience but they really didn’t like the idea of the packaging. We had to solve it from the start,” she said.
Forster has a background in venture capital, and has worked for several years at major consultancy firms including KPMG to help other businesses launch start-ups.
Because of this, she knew what the secret to success was: specificity, and an intimate understanding of who they were selling to.
This was Forster’s biggest learning from her previous experiences: just how much time can be wasted when a business doesn’t know who they’re going after.
So Thank Fork went granular. “You need to be really, really clear on who it is that you’re solving the problem for, and make sure that it is a problem for them,” Forster explained.
“If you don’t have that understanding and it isn’t a big enough problem then it’s not going to get enough attention.
“Everything about your business comes back to who it is relevant to, the way that you design the product, the way you sell it, the way you price it. All of it is about who you’re solving a problem for.”
Forster took this as far as focusing on specific suburbs, to great success.
“When I think back with Thank Fork, we delivered to Sydney and we were doing Facebook ads and different things and posting in different food groups and trying to share our launch with people,” she said.
“Over time we settled and got the business operations working problem, and [then] we just focused on one suburb and did a bunch of promotions in that one suburb.”
They rolled out mailbox drops, did samples with a big sporting group, and looked at local markets on the weekend.
“We signed up more customers in that one suburb just doing those things than we ever did trying to promote to the whole of Sydney.”
And since launching, the product has taken off, with Forster describing Thank Fork as “overwhelmed with orders”.
“We get exceptionally high customer feedback. The challenge is letting people know about it in a relatively crowded market,” she added.
Thank Fork is currently in discussion with meal delivery services, cafes and national platforms to expand the brand, but for now their approach remains local. They’re focusing on the NSW Central Coast and Sydney, and it’s working.
For Forster, the next step is clear – and, in her own words, audaciously ambitious.
She wants to introduce to Australians, and the world, the benefits of plant-based eating. Even if it’s just one or two meals a week that users swap out, Forster believes the environmental and health benefits of the change are huge.
“Our menu has been designed for people who are transitioning, or people who are used to eating meat and are looking for alternatives,” she said.
“It’s designed to show that you don’t give anything up to do this – [plant-based eating] is just as good, if not better than dishes that have meat or dairy in them.
“Our huge and audacious ambition is to have people eat less meat, because they want to.”
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