Online meal prep business in talks with investors as it targets £2m turnover

Michelle and James Laithwaite

An eco-friendly online meal prep business founded by a husband-and-wife team is in talks with investors over the group’s expansion plans as demand for its service rockets.

Warrington-based Fuel Hub was launched by retired professional rugby league player James Laithwaite and wife Michelle, a former global fashion wholesale manager, in 2019.

It aims to help people take control of their diet and nutrition by providing healthy, calorie-controlled meals, cooked by expert chefs.

Catering for many diet types, meals are made from locally sourced ingredients, and delivered in environmentally friendly packaging.

The business, which employs more than 15 staff, has grown significantly since its launch.

Not only is Fuel Hub on track to reach revenues of £2m this year, the business is currently in talks with investors.

James said: “We started the business with the two of us doing everything, but in that time the business has grown exponentially which has seen us outgrow our current site.

“There’s a lot of big players in the meal kit and recipe box business, but in our space of prepared meal there’s so much more scope to grow. We have identified a gap in the market and we believe we are the best.”

As well as supplying meals directly to consumers, Fuel Hub also supplies commercial and sporting clients including the EFL Championship, Team GB, England Rugby, Fulham FC, Blackpool FC, Derby County, Warrington Wolves and Catalan Dragons.

“There’s a lot of room to scale within the sports area and really grow our portfolio of clubs and build on the relationship we have,” said Michelle.

“So, we’re absolutely looking for investment at the minute and we’ve got a few interested parties. As we started to get our brand and name out there people have started to take notice and we’ve had a few conversations with investors already.

“Raising additional funding means we can fund new premises, new equipment and get the best staff to help fuel our growth.”

The enterprising couple were inspired to launch Fuel Hub as they saw a growing demand from busy people who wanted healthy ‘restaurant quality’ go-to meals that they can easily warm up in just a few minutes.

James said: “I was about to retire from rugby and there was a lot of thought about what I wanted to do next. Michelle was travelling all around the world with her job in fashion and it got to a point where we decided we wanted to do something together.

“We were both busy people with a young family and often used meal preps services ourselves but found that they were never that good or tasty and there wasn’t much else in the marketplace that we liked.

“So, I said to Michelle we could do something better than this. We were always into health and fitness and that’s where the idea stemmed from.”

Michelle said: “We wanted to create meals that were better than our competitors and that you can easily heat up in a few minutes so whether you’re a busy professional, a busy parent or just want to eat better, we wanted to provide tasty meals with all the right nutrients.

“We started the business from scratch sending meals out to family and friends. When we first moved into a unit in Warrington, our first order was for 47 meals and now we do more than 1,000 a day!”

Thanks to James’ connection in the sporting world, they soon started receiving orders from sporting clubs and even during the pandemic the business was boosted by an unprecedented spike for home delivery services as people started to eat at home three times a day.

“Like many businesses we weren’t sure what kind of impact the pandemic would have, but we soon found that there was a strong appetite from people for meals delivered straight to their door.

“We also found time to look at our business strategy, our aims for the future and refine areas like our website and create those important relationships with corporate clients.”

Asked about the impact of rising costs on the business and customers, Michelle added: “We’ve got such a great product and we try and keep our prices as affordable as we can while not compromising on quality.

“The message we try and get out there is that we’re an eco-friendly business which means we operate a zero-waste sustainable kitchen. We provide people with all the food and nutrients they need for the week and our customers tell us that they save money because they’re not going out buying items they don’t need and they’re not wasting food.

“And actually, it helps with budgeting so some people might buy six meals a week and they know that’s part of their weekly spend.”