Around a third of customers are based in London, with the other 70pc spread across the UK.
Boyes, 24, said: “With shows such as the BBC’s Great British Bake Off continuing to win the hearts of the nation, and sales of physical cookery books increasing, the appetite for cooking is there but the time is not. In fact, the most uploaded pictures on Facebook are of food and cats.”
At £4 a head per meal, the core ingredients for the business are convenience and inspiration. The main subscribers are women between 30 and 50, but a quarter of Hello Fresh followers are men. “We are seeing husbands assisting with the evening meal and families cooking together,” Boyes said.
With a repertoire of 300 main course recipes and plans to launch a line of desserts, Drake learnt his trade in the fine dining kitchens of Goldman Sachs, cooking for Lloyd Blankfein. “Instead of knocking out contracts I was knocking up salmon en croute for clients – all in secrecy of course,” the 34-year-old food fanatic explained. He also worked for the Borough Market-based tapas restaurant Brindisa.
Unlike food subscription businesses such as Abel & Cole, which provides generous amounts of fresh produce to be cooked from scratch, all ingredients in the Hello Fresh boxes are individually packaged to the exact amount, ensuring there are no leftovers.
Drake said: “The customer’s perception of waste is that they are paying for it on some level. But eradicating surplus means packaging is far more complex and demands very tight supplier relationships – I have more contact with my suppliers than my own mother.”
In the early days the challenge was to sell the concept to suppliers. “We were asking them to repackage into much smaller portions – obviously some said no. But those who believed in us are now reaping the rewards,” Drake said.
“We now have personal relationships with our suppliers. This helps us shop sustainably and keep cost down. For example we’ll be told when salmon stock is low and can therefore design the weekly menus around the wider food market.”
The operation was developed in Drake’s kitchen in 2012, with the two men delivering 10 bags of shopping to supportive friends and family. Hello Fresh now delivers 100,000 boxes a month, with growth in customer numbers up 30pc month-on-month. It has 25 staff.
Not only has the menu evolved over the past year, the Hello Fresh marketing strategy has gone from carrots to caviar.
The first PR stunt involved dressing up as a carrot and handing out root vegetables in London’s tube stations with a URL that linked to Patrick making soup. A year later and the pair have created a micro community of foodies, customers and suppliers by mixing online and offline events.
Using Google Hangouts – a multiple user video conference system – the Hello Fresh team and customers can chat and cook from the comfort of their own kitchens. Boyes said: “We had 10 customers all cooking the same recipe and interacting – it’s a deeper attitude than just: here’s a box of food.”
Every few months, Drake cooks for suppliers and customers. This is part of Hello Fresh’s “face-to-face” feedback philosophy. While the company achieves a 60pc response rate to monthly online surveys, a customer service team has been hired to meet subscribers for coffee, eliciting true feelings about the product and service.
Boyes said: “If people feel part of a community they will emotionally invest and refer friends, and we have a very high referral rate.”
Feedback is at the centre of the company’s culture, with all recipes ranked by customer preference. The pair said it is not a unilateral business where a chef pushes out recipes to the home cooks with no redress.
Drake said: “Our biggest learning was to be audacious and ask for what you want. Creating Hello Fresh and having a cooking programme were lofty goals but you have to start somewhere.” As it happens, he now has his own YouTube cooking programme and a TV show based in Milan.
The Telegraph Festival of Business in London on November 12 is free for ambitious companies with annual sales of more than £5m. Secure your place at Telegraph.co.uk/festivalofbusiness