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Helping the planet during a cost-of-living crisis


Timo Boldt, an Executive MBA graduate of Cambridge Judge Business School (EMBA 2014) who founded meal-in-a-box firm Gousto a decade ago, says sustainability and share of stomach go hand in hand.

Gousto aims to grow its “share of stomach” through using technology to make meals more healthy, affordable and sustainable.
Timo Boldt.
Timo Boldt

Timo Boldt, founder and CEO of meal-in-a-box company Gousto, views his firm as a “data company that loves food” – and he’s convinced that Gousto will grow its “share of stomach” through using technology to make meals more healthy, affordable and sustainable.

Timo, an Executive MBA graduate of Cambridge Judge (EMBA 2014), started Gousto in 2012 and began studying at Cambridge Judge just 2 years later, at a time when “I don’t know if back then I’d call it a real business, it was very early stage”.

Skipping forward, the company became a “unicorn” (valued at more than $1 billion) in 2020, and achieved B Corp certification the following year signifying social and environmental standards. Last year, Timo was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2022 UK overall winner by professional services firm EY.

Timo was interviewed recently by Kamiar Mohaddes, Associate Professor in Economics & Policy at Cambridge Judge, as part of the series CJBS Perspectives – Leadership in Unprecedented Times organised by the Alumni & External Engagement team at Cambridge Judge. Kamiar has done extensive research on sustainability, including a much-cited study linking climate change to GDP which has been cited by members of the US Congress in a letter to the Federal Reserve Board chairman.

Here are edited excerpts of what Timo Boldt had to say about Gousto as it enters its second decade, the skills he learned at Cambridge Judge, sustainability, and “share of stomach”:

Convenience, sustainability and health are the biggest trends in grocery. Our vision is to be the most loved way to eat dinner, but the focus is not just on customers but about the planet. We first focused on food waste, then packaging – making sure it’s all compostable and recyclable, including work on packaging solutions that dissolve. I saw that 40% of food was wasted, so we’ve taken 94% of food waste out of our system at Gousto.

B Corp certification makes people proud that we’re signing up to the world’s leading framework for balancing purpose and profits. But B Corp is the floor and not the ceiling of our ambition. It’s much more important what we actually do to make a positive impact every single day.

We see ourselves as a data company that loves food. More than half the office work in tech, AI, data. The reason we offer customers twice as much choice as the closest competitor, the lowest price point, the fastest delivery is all explained by tech. Our specialty skill is to write software at scale, employ it in a meaningful way, measure the ROI (return on investment) and run this business as a software company, obviously with specialty experience in food and sustainability.

Ten years ago I was handing out flyers at train stations, and I gave customers my mobile number in case there were any problems with the recipes. I took the photographs, and designed the first 50 recipes. Now we have 1,500 to 2,000 employees so it’s very, very different.

The key learning curve for me is that it’s all about people. When I started Gousto I was 27 years old – I had an investment toolbox, I knew financial modelling, I love data, but I had never led people. So coming to Cambridge Judge for the EMBA I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people, and to get a proper education on strategy and think deeply in those areas. I worked crazy hours during the week and worked on the EMBA on weekends, and I met really amazing people I’m still close friends with now.

A key point for me was deciding I needed a leadership team. What is the purpose of that team, what are the red and green card behaviours of that team? What decisions am I taking as the founder and CEO, what decisions are taken by the team? That was the massive unblock – and bringing fantastic talent into that team including someone I met at my EMBA, and being clear on what are the winning behaviours we want to repeat as often as possible.

It’s very important to me at a personal level that Gousto caters to the masses and not the classes. So you can eat for £3, and we ship all over the UK including the Highlands and the islands. Food prices in the UK rose 14% in 2022, but we kept our price increase to 5% as we’re working really hard to absorb cost inflation and not pass it on so we become in relative terms less expensive and help more families.

Our share of stomach today is 0.2% out of the 1 billion meals eaten in the UK each week, based on 67 million people having lunch and dinner seven days a week. As long as we fight hard to keep the price point down, and at the same make it more convenient, better tasting, better quality, then our share of stomach will go from 0.2% to 1% to 1.5% – so that’s kind of our secret strategy in a nutshell.

The webinar

Launched in April 2020 in response to the tumult of the global pandemic, CJBS Perspectives: Leadership in Unprecedented Times is a video series organised by the Alumni & External Engagement team at Cambridge Judge. The series features globally prominent business leaders discussing timely and interesting business topics and themes, as well as a view on how they and their organisations have coped, and even thrived, in challenging times.

Watch the video interview between Timo Boldt and Kamiar Mohaddes