This column has been quite successful with our most recent smaller company reviews. Webster, which we suggested was a buy at $1.60 received a takeover offer of $2.0 per share, whilst iSentia is up from 25c in August to 42c today. This week we take a closer look at meal delivery app, Marley Spoon (MMM).

Who is Marley Spoon? MMM is a recipe and food deliver service. This means that the company delivers a box of fresh food, including vegetables, meat and snacks, along with a recipe to its customers on a weekly basis. It is the primary competitor to Hello Fresh in Australia. Many may of heard of Youfoodz, which is a prepared, re-heat meal deliver service, Marley Spoon is the complete opposite. It’s customer receive the exact amount of food they require and cook fresh meals using the contents of their box.

The offering has become increasingly popular with millennials and busy professionals alike as it provides a lower cost and generally healthier alternative to the options available on Uber Eats and Menu Log. With a young child, I’ve been recently converted to the recipe and meal kit delivery, buying as many as three to four meals per week. It allows my family to avoid the regular trips to the supermarket but most importantly minimise the amount of waste that typically comes from this.

The company operates across 6 different countries, including the US, UK, Belgium and Germany. It was listed in 2018 but founded in 2014 in Germany, where it is also listed. It operates in a fast growing, but incredibly competitive sector and hence regularly posts large losses. Into 2019 the company has delivered 25 million meals across the world.

What happened? 2019 has been a busy year for MMM. The company reported 54% in revenue compared to the previous year and importantly forecast that they would deliver their maiden operating profit in 2020. For a technology company just 5 years old this is a remarkable result. To add to this good news, earlier in 2019 the company announced it had entered a strategic partnership with Woolworths. The deal involves Woolworth’s investing $30m into the business and both teams working together to learn from each other. The investment means WOW will own 9% of the equity along with preference shares. On the one hand, Woolworth’s world leading supply chain will be invaluable for MMM in their fight for market share with Hello Fresh. On the other hand, Woolworth’s will gain valuable insights into the meal delivery market and if the company is particularly special, just buy them out. MMM has a market cap of just $60m.

Financials: The injection of capital from Woolworths and later Silicon Valley-based Union Square Ventures has let the company focus on improving their product and not about raising more capital. The results are already being seen by investors. Net revenue increased 55% from $39.5m to $61.4m euros, whilst active customers hit 172,000 after increasing 38%. The fastest growth is coming from the US, which saw revenue double (98%), Australia was also strong at 44% and Europe just 20%. The benefit of the business model is that it is based on repeat orders and loyalty, with 91% of revenue coming from repeat customers. The company focuses on its contribution margin, being the profit before market and administration fees, where it leads its competitors at 33% in Australia and 24% globally. This improving contribution margin has resulted in the EBIT margin, or earnings margin, reducing from a loss of 49% in 2017, to just -28% today, with the likelihood of a profit in 2020. Following the capital injection the company has limited debt but still relies on further equity raises in to continue expanding it’s business. As with most fast growing technology-based companies, the biggest expense is marketing and advertising.

Our view: The experts say you should buy shares in companies you know and understand. Having used Marley Spoon, I would have to agree. The company is one of just two real competitors in the sector in Australia and both are growing incredibly quickly. That being said, it is very much a microcap company that will rely on further capital injections to remain viable and is therefore not for everyone.

The reasoning is simple; the company provides a service that makes people’s lives easier. But it doesn’t end there. It offers people healthier and highly cost effective options that allow them to continue cooking their own meals, but in a substantially shorter time. The company is acutely aware of the huge amounts of waste that occurs in the grocery and restaurant sector and is focused on minimising this via portion control and a ‘source-to-order’ supply chain. This means they only buy enough ingredients for their current customers, no more no less. So you can eat well and feel good about your impact on reducing waste. In our view, the partnership with Union Square and Woolworths has taken Marley Spoon to another level and represents an exciting opportunity.