Online ordering platform Fresho raises $14 million as it looks to re-enter the US after COVID-enforced retreat

Fresho

FRESHO CO-FOUNDERS HUW BIRRELL AND JAMES ANDRONIS. SOURCE: SUPPLIED.

Online ordering software platform Fresho has raised $14 million in a Series A capital raise, as it sets its sights on re-entering the US market after a turbulent pandemic withdrawal. 

The new funding brings the startup to $30 million in raised capital, with the recent round backed by investors like Andrew Sypkes, Capital Zed, Second Quarter Ventures and Salta Capital.

Fresho is an online ordering platform that connects suppliers to venues, whether it’s restaurants, hotels, hospitals, cafes, schools, quick-service-restaurants or independent retailers like IGA and Sciclunas. Venues can use Fresho to browse supplier lists and base their decisions on real-time availability of produce, while also using its payment platform to make payments and generate invoices.

More than $1.2 billion is currently processed through Fresho annually, and the platform is used by more than 38,000 food service venues across Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US. 

With the latest capital raise, Fresho is hoping to get back into overseas markets the pandemic temporarily closed. The business had launched in the UK and US “literally four weeks before Australian borders closed” in early 2020, explains co-founder and co-managing director Huw Birrell, who says the onset of the pandemic forced Fresho to pull out of those regions. 

The startup relaunched in the UK in May of 2021 and now has a 13-strong team in the region, with a total employee count of 60.

Fresho now has its sights set back on the US, and already has a number of users based in Los Angeles. Funds from this round of capital raise, Birrell tells SmartCompany, will be used to relaunch in the US and further expand the team. 

Making food supply chains sustainable 

Fresho started in 2016 as the brainchild of Birrell and co-founder James Andronis, the latter coming in with 20 years of experience in the food industry.

“A lot of people don’t understand how quickly the food industry moves,” Birrell notes. “They operate at night when most of us are asleep, and previously relied on an antiquated system of phone calls, SMS, voice messages, emails and even fax.”

While business owners and chefs were often previously ordering blind, says Birrell, a platform like Fresho allows them to browse through products for menu inspiration, order based on specials, excess stock and so on.

“Suppliers, in turn, can use it for warehouse management, invoicing and payments. It’s a shared platform for both parties.”  

But Birrell and Andronis didn’t just want to automate this process; they also want to use it to eliminate waste and inefficiencies, whether that’s time wasted processing and interpreting orders or making sure the right amount of produce is bought.

“The food industry is relatively efficient, but even so, there’s around 30 to 40% wastage from farm to plate. It’s the small inefficiencies that need tweaking,” Birrell said, adding that Fresho users are already seeing the benefits.

“Most businesses end up saving 40 hours a week. That’s a lot of hours being saved,” he adds. 

Time is of the essence, more so in the food industry which works at a frantic pace. In this, Fresho wields the advantage of data and, with data, insights.

“We’re in a position to help the food supply chains become more sustainable. Around $500 million of fruit and vegetables are sold through our platform and we have the data on which varieties are increasing or decreasing in demand. This data is fed to growers, helping them understand long-term trends, how to improve, get better pricing and even when they can export to other markets.” 

And what is the latest, surprising food insight Fresho can direct us towards?

“It looks like Granny Smith apples are in decline,” Birrell said. “Whereas newer apple brands are increasing in popularity.” 

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