Fruitful investment: Companies such as iHealth Meals and Ucook are catering to consumer demand for convenient and healthy food, while Woolworths is also honing its convenience offerings. Picture: ISTOCK
Fruitful investment: Companies such as iHealth Meals and Ucook are catering to consumer demand for convenient and healthy food, while Woolworths is also honing its convenience offerings. Picture: ISTOCK

Cape Town-based investment firm Silvertree Internet Holdings, which owns Ucook, PriceCheck and other online companies, expects to grow annual revenues to more than $300m (R4.1bn) by 2023 and will consider going public at that time.

Launched in 2014, Silvertree employs 300 people and generates annual revenues of about $40m. It bought online price-comparison platform PriceCheck from its e-commerce rival, Naspers, in late 2015.

Both groups have been investing heavily in the local internet market, partly on the premise that South Africans will start to consume more services online. Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said in March the company would pour more funds into its Takealot business, particularly the Mr D Food delivery service.

Silvertree expected to see compound organic growth of at least 35% for the next five years, and would also make "further investments in consumer and internet entrepreneurs to help accelerate their businesses", cofounder and MD Manuel Koser told Business Day.

"Silvertree Internet Holdings is looking for a liquidity event in 2023, and as part of this we’re looking at an IPO [initial public offering] as an option," he said.

E-commerce interests

Silvertree has majority stakes in PriceCheck and Ucook, a company that delivers meal ingredients and recipes to its subscribers. It also has interests in e-commerce sites Faithful to Nature, CyberCellar and CarZar, among others.

Also founded in 2014, the Ucook business now delivers about 30,000 meals a month to its subscribers across SA.

Time-strapped consumers are increasingly drawn to services that provide convenient and healthy food, according to Ucook’s GM for Johannesburg, Abigail Goschen.

"I think people are driven to services like Ucook primarily because there’s just no time for finding new recipes and traipsing off to the shops and so on – only to throw out half of what you bought at the end of the week," Goschen told Business Day.

"Having fresh ingredients, in the right portions, with easy to follow but delicious recipes delivered to your door at the touch of a button is really appealing," she said.

Traditional retailers including Woolworths, are also cashing in on the growing demand for convenience, while restaurant franchisor Famous Brands is also wading into this arena.

Famous Brands recently launched a unit called Frozen For You in SA, which allows customers to purchase frozen food online.

Vestact portfolio manager Michael Treherne said in May that while Frozen For You would probably take years to build scale, the brand had good long-term potential.

"In time, especially as millennials stop using kitchens, a nice alternative is to buy something that’s frozen and probably healthier than fast food," Treherne said.

"The reason Woolies food does so well is because it’s convenient and healthy. I’m excited about Frozen For You, but it won’t be significant for probably at least the next decade."

Another local health-focused food delivery company, iHealth Meals, has been around since 2009. The company also offers a staff meal delivery service.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za

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