Road to Challenger Brands: Freshly’s Mayur Gupta on the Keys to Growth for Disruptors

Chief marketer shares his insights ahead of Adweek's summit

a headshot of mayur gupta
Mayur Gupta joins Gannett as chief marketing and strategy officer. Freshly

As more people seek to take control of what they eat, there’s room for meal delivery services to become part of that solution—provided they know what consumers want and listen to their ever-changing tastes.

That’s the tall order facing Freshly, and CMO Mayur Gupta will discuss how the prepared meal delivery company is meeting it at Adweek’s Challenger Brands summit, taking place March 4-5 in New York. Gupta is among the dozens of industry professionals who will explore 12 top-of-mind topics impacting the brand marketing ecosystem, from ecommerce to live marketing to UX.

Ahead of the event, we asked Gupta about how the service uses data to stay competitive, the most important quality that Freshly looks for in new hires, and how he applied his experience at Spotify to another disruptor brand.

The following has been edited for length and clarity:

Adweek: Freshly is about creating positive, healthy change through what we eat. What’s the most effective way you send that message?
Mayur Gupta: At Freshly, we believe that people cannot live their best lives without good food. But eating well can be hard to do when life is full on. It’s time for new rituals that are flexible and fit our daily lives. And that’s our mission—to break down the barriers to healthy eating by challenging conventions and creating such effortless rituals.

Our purpose is to reinvent how people nourish their lives to unlock their potential to thrive. And we do that by offering “Life Ready” solutions (meals, snacks, bowls and more) that are craveable, healthy and convenient.

How do you use data to deliver the best Freshly user experience?
Data is core to Freshly’s DNA and growth. By the end of 2019, Freshly will have delivered roughly 35 million fully prepared meals across the country largely influenced by data-driven insights. Insights shape and inspire everything from rapid product iterations based on consumer feedback to agile experimentation strategies across all functions.

For instance, we get close to 40,000 ratings and reviews from our on a weekly basis, out of which 15,000 are open text responses. We use NLP (natural language processing) to analyze these responses on a daily basis and generate key insights. Our team of expert chefs on the production floor ensure culinary technique is resonating on a mass scale by making live adjustments to meals based off that insight. With that rapid feedback loop, we can modify our products in just the second week of their launch, which is next to impossible for traditional CPG model.

What’s the best way (KPI?) to measure Freshly’s success?
We have our North Star KPI and a few contributing KPIs across the business. From a growth standpoint, the North Star KPI for us is our 52W stack, the number of boxes ordered by a Freshly consumer within a year. But to ensure the overarching growth in today’s economy, we also need to focus on top line growth in terms of gross revenue as well as profitability KPIs.

You’re one year into your role as CMO. What do you think is your greatest success story so far, and what still needs work?
It has been a combination of small wins and a few fundamental shifts for longer-term success. As Freshly, we spent the first four years of our existence to build a strong business, with very strong unit economics. We feel proud of that. We are now entering our second innings, where we need to build a purpose-driven iconic brand on top of a strong profitable business.

What are one or two big takeaways from your time at Spotify (as global vp of growth and marketing) that you put into practice at Freshly?
There are quite a few, especially when you work on an incredible brand and product like Spotify. The three that stand out for me have always been:

  1. The only moat any business has today is its ability to move faster than the competition. Everything else is a commodity.
  2. Year-on-year exponential growth requires companies to harness chaos and not kill it—the era of clearly defined swim lanes, RACIs, five-year strategy or annual plans is behind us.
  3. Culture can eat your strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To maintain and thrive within that chaos to deliver speed, your biggest asset is your culture. If that’s weak, no strategy is good enough.

What do you look for when you’re building a team?
Fundamentally, we look to hire cultural adds and value fits, and not cultural fits and value adds. We look to hire diverse people who evolve our culture and not keep it static. However, the values we have should not change. A lot of times you find leaders who are extremely strong in their core skills, they have strong values however they may still NOT be a strong match because their values do not match our beliefs. And while people can build skills and leadership qualities on the job, your values are who you are. Alexa Comeau is the programming manager at Adweek, where she works on event curation while dabbling in some writing.
@thisiskis Eva Kis is the online editor at Adweek.