Lollipop AI launches online grocery marketplace where you can build your own recipes

Lollipop Online grocer
Lollipop Online grocer

As I’ve taken to online grocery shopping over the pandemic, I’ve always wondered why supermarkets didn’t offer simple ‘recipe’ features that would have automatically collected items for a homemade meal. It seemed an opportunity missed. But it is missed no more.

 

British online grocery marketplace

Lollipop AI, the new British online grocery marketplace, is launching its public beta today to do that, and it’s been created by a serial UK entrepreneur who was there at the start of successful UK startups Osper, Monzo and Curve.

Founder and CEO Tom Foster-Carter has envisaged a platform allowing people to build meal plans from recipes, assembling the ingredients automatically into their shopping baskets, and suggesting remaining household essentials. He says the Lollipop could well help with health goals, improve culinary skills and minimize food waste. Built as a marketplace, it will be partnering with Sainsbury’s and BBC Good Food with more partners, and fulfillment will be completed by retail partners. The business model will be taking a small commission from retail partners, allowing selected advertising, e.g. from CPG brand owners.

The site will be free to use, while a premium tier is planned. The first 10K beta testers to sign up to the waitlist will be offered access to premium features “for life,” says the startup, which will offer prices at the same rate as normal supermarkets.

Foster-Carter, who had the idea after having a baby and realizing he was spending hours trying to use a normal supermarket, says the approach will save several hours a week for the average household. (We will briefly note the fact that a man had to create a site like this after doing the weekly shop…). Lollipop claims 80% of households spend over a

The founding team includes former employees of Monzo, Farmdrop, Amazon, Sainsbury’s and HelloFresh, such as cofounders Chris Parsons and Ib Warnerbring.

Although Foster-Carter is coy about how much he has raised for this approach, he says he has raised a pre-seed round backed by JamJar Investments, Speedinvest, and a “raft of grocery/technology big hitters” including Ian Marsh (former UK GM of HelloFresh) and former leadership and founders of online grocers in the U.K. and abroad plus ‘super angels’ Charles Songhurst and Ed Lando.

In particular, the site is likely to appeal to people looking to lose weight, as meal planning would be simpler and may even have an impact on recipe-box startups.

Lollipop is not alone in its ambitions. Jupiter.co in the U.S. bills itself as “groceries on autopilot”; Jow is recipe-led shopping, as is Side Chef; while Cooklist is a meal-planner + cooking support, also in the U.S.

Foster-Carter told me: “It’s a marketplace so we could partner with traditional supermarkets (Sainbury’s, Tescos, Waitrose etc) + online retailers (Ocado, Amazon), direct to farm / organic (Riverford, Farmdrop), mission-led single component (Oddbox, Milk & More, etc); recipe boxes (Gousto, Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef etc); and rapid delivery (Gorillas, Getir, Weezy, etc).

“This is just the start… The plan is to be the single place you go to for all your food needs – we’ll enable you to order your Deliveroo or restaurant kit (e.g. Dishpatch) from us. Groceries are delivered by our partners, and then when it’s time to cook you’ll be able to use a cooking companion app (due out next month). In the future you’ll be able to improve your cooking skills through Lollipop.”

Few players have nailed the ability to buy a lot of items (50-100+) really fast, not even Amazon – this might be Lollipop’s USP, if it can crack it.

 

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Lollipop: The Monzo of supermarkets?

 

Grocery app Lollipop wants to be the Monzo of supermarkets | Sifted
It would be hard to come up with a startup that’s more zeitgeisty than Lollipop.

The grocery shopping app’s founder wants to use his experience in fintech to do for supermarket shopping what digital banks did for financial management: make it quick(er), easier and perhaps even a little bit fun. If it can pull that off, it might just create an investor’s dream.

“If Monzo did supermarkets, what would that look like?” says Lollipop founder Tom Foster-Carter, the former COO of Curve and Monzo.

“If Monzo did supermarkets, what would that look like?”

His answer: Lollipop, which launches today. The free app helps busy families plan their weekly meals, meet their health goals, find a bit of menu inspiration and save time by automatically sticking all the ingredients needed in a basket — and getting them sent to your door.

Investors are interested. Foster-Carter has raised a “sizeable pre-seed round” from investors including VC firms JamJar and Speedinvest and angels like Ian Marsh, former CEO of HelloFresh UK, Roger Egan, founder of online grocery RedMart and Kai Hansen, founder of food delivery company Lieferando.

The next question is: will customers bite?
Grocery mania

Foster-Carter is far from the only entrepreneur eyeing up the brave — and fairly brutal — new world of digital grocery. Europe is awash with startups offering super-fast grocery delivery, while several more online grocery players like Oda and Rohlik are attracting serious investor attention. Takeaway food delivery giants like Wolt and Glovo are also increasingly pushing into other areas of food ecommerce — and have already built up big brands and customer bases.

He’d argue that they’re not tackling one of the biggest pains about grocery shopping though: the decision making.

“Over 40% of people spend over two hours meal planning and shopping every week.”

“There’s so much activity around delivery speed — but that’s not the only need out there,” says Foster-Carter, who’s surveyed over 1,000 UK families about their shopping habits. “Over 40% of people spend over two hours meal planning and shopping every week — and we want to help them get it sorted in record time.”

Kitchen companion

With Lollipop, users can set health goals or dietary requirements — ‘I want to eat less meat’ or ‘I’m gluten-intolerant’ — and plan meals for the week that fit the bill. Once users have selected recipes, Lollipop automatically fills up their shopping basket with the necessary ingredients.

In the “near future”, customers will also be able to personalise their buying and cooking preferences, opting for organic over non-organic veg, the sustainable option or the “lazy option” of pre-chopped ingredients, says Foster-Carter.

Later on, Lollipop could also help users with a health plan — for example, taking them through a programme to help them turn vegan in three to six months — or help them learn how to cook. Those would likely be premium features, for which customers would pay a monthly subscription.

Lollipop also wants to help customers make sure they always have the basics in stock. Based on past shopping habits, it plans to figure out when you’re about to run out of loo roll, for example, and then ‘magically’ add it to your basket.
Taste the difference

Partnerships will be key to making that all work — and there, Lollipop is off to a good start.

It’s signed UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s as its first grocery partner and recipe site BBC Good Food as a recipe partner. Over time, Foster-Carter hopes to partner with plenty of other food businesses, including recipe kit providers and veg boxes.

“We want to build a marketplace,” he says. “We see [online grocers] as partners, as well as the likes of Gousto, HelloFresh and Oddbox. Ultimately, if we get this right, we should be the single place to go for all your shopping needs.”

For now though, all the ingredients ordered via the app come from Sainsbury’s. Lollipop takes a platform usage fee — “a small slice” — in return for hooking these grocers up with customers who might not otherwise shop with them.

One interesting finding from Lollipop’s earliest test users is that they seem to “become less price sensitive when looking at meals”, rather than ingredients, says Foster-Carter; something that could prove pretty useful for supermarkets in the midst of an ongoing price war with one another.

On the recipe front, Foster-Carter also wants to use smart software design to take away some everyday frustrations, like helping people avoid flicking back and forth between an ingredients list and recipe instructions on a website.

“It’s a UX exercise,” he says. “Can we make what happens in the kitchen feel frictionless?”
Lollipop’s waitlist
Social shopping

Today, Lollipop is opening up a waitlist to join its beta app — taking more than a healthy dose of inspiration from Monzo, which grew hugely in its early days via its waitlist — and is offering the first 10k people to join access to premium features for life.

But Monzo isn’t the only business Foster-Carter is taking a few ideas from. On the community side, he’s looking at Spotify.

“We want you to be able to tell your friends when Magnum ice creams are on offer.”

“We have a feature called playlists, where we group up items to make it faster to add things to your shop,” he says. “We want to make that social, so you can pick from your friends’ playlists.”

To make that take off, Lollipop will be asking users for access to their phone contacts when they sign up. “We see it as being a core part of the product,” he says — and hopes that as a result, the request won’t “feel creepy”.

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