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Europe to Asia: Delivering convenient HelloFresh meals to customers in Japan

A conversation with Won Jeong, Managing Director (MD), HelloFresh Japan

Won Jeong is the MD at HelloFresh Japan, the company's 17th market and first market entry in Asia. Won joins HelloFresh with a wealth of experience gained at international companies in Asia and Europe. In our interview, Won shares insights on his role in establishing HelloFresh meal kits in the country, Japanese food culture, and the future of HelloFresh in Japan.


HelloFresh Japan MD Won Jeong posing in front of a display of various HelloFresh meals while holding a meal kit box at the official launch in Tokyo.


You’ve had the opportunity to study and work abroad with international companies. Is your experience abroad beneficial to your current role?

It most definitely is. I’ve lived, studied, and worked in London, Switzerland, the United States, South Korea, and Japan. Prior to joining HelloFresh, I was the Head of Strategy & Planning for New Verticals at UberEats Japan. This role was preceded by my position at Rakuten Mobile Japan as the Head of IoT Business, Media Services & International Platform Business. Not only has my education and professional experience given me a better understanding of the cultural differences between Asia, Europe, and the United States, but it has also provided me with valuable insights into Japanese culture. I’m able to appreciate the advantages of different work cultures and the benefits of a diverse workforce - all of which I strive to implement in the business. HelloFresh is a globally active company and I immensely enjoy working with people from all over the world.


Could you tell us more about why HelloFresh launched in Japan as the first Asian geography?

Japan has a rich food culture and its people are passionate about cooking healthy meals at home. Our extensive market research showed that Japan was ready for the introduction of HelloFresh and that it has the potential to become a major market for us. The launch marks an important milestone in HelloFresh’s global growth strategy and allows us to significantly expand our total addressable market while delivering our delicious meals to even more customers across the globe.


Can you tell us a bit more about the team in Japan?

At the moment, we have a multicultural team of 31 employees from both Japan and many other countries who are very much in touch with both Japanese and international working cultures. All of our international team members have lived in Japan for many years and are fluent in both Japanese and English.


In the kitchen with HelloFresh Japan team members.


Speaking about different cultures, How is HelloFresh Japan different from other markets?

The key value proposition of a meal kit is convenience. Japan is a highly urbanized country in which people often work long and demanding hours. Consumer research shows that Japanese customers prefer recipes that have a short preparation time because they want to combine a healthy, home-cooked meal with their busy professional life. Therefore, HelloFresh Japan offers express healthy, home-cooked meals within 15 - 20 minutes, which is significantly shorter compared to HelloFresh’s other markets where recipes usually take 30 - 40 minutes to prepare. To be able to meet the customers' demand for convenience and time-saving we are planning to provide them with pre-cut vegetables and marinated foods.


Do customers in Japan prefer local Japanese recipes or are they attracted to the foreign element of recipes from different parts of the world? 

To provide tailor-made products to our customers, we conducted a soft launch in winter 2021 before the official launch in April 2022. Our original hypothesis was to provide customers with mostly local HelloFresh recipes and meals. However, feedback from the initial test phase revealed that HelloFresh recipes from other markets actually received higher satisfaction scores. This led us to the conclusion that customers appreciate the variety of international meals and influences from other cuisines like  French and Italian. During the Covid-19 pandemic, people were unable to travel internationally, but customers still distinctly wanted to experience and enjoy international culinary experiences. In short, Japanese customers are looking for a variety of authentic and fusion Japanese recipes that are mixed with international cuisine that they do not get the opportunity to experience in their daily lives - which is what HelloFresh provides.


HelloFresh Japan employs its own team of chefs with a deep knowledge of Japanese culinary culture.


As a foreign brand, were any adjustments made to HelloFresh Japan to bring it closer to the customers?

Our team has worked very hard and taken the time to identify, analyze and understand the needs of Japanese customers, so as to serve the Japanese market better and successfully. While our customers benefit from a global brand that is backed by an innovative technology platform and a state-of-the-art supply chain network, we have invested a lot of effort into localizing our proven playbook to the specific needs of the market. From our office in Tokyo and our fulfillment center in Zama (Kanagawa province), we will continue to provide meal kits to a growing number of people. Over the coming years, we will also continuously collect feedback from our customers and will improve and adapt our product for an even better customer fit.

 

The HelloFresh Japan production facility in Zama, Kanagawa province where all meals for Japanese customers are strictly checked before being packed and shipped.


Now that HelloFresh has officially launched in Japan, what are the future plans? 

We will continuously work to expand our choice of meals, flexible delivery options, and great customer service. HelloFresh is already available to more than 80% of Japanese households, and we have plans to expand the service beyond the main island of Honshu in the short-term future. 




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