Youfoodz CMO takes up CEO role at Garden of Vegan

Simon Jarvis talks to us about why marketers can make great chief executives and the explosion of the plant-based food category

Simon Jarvis
Simon Jarvis

Former Youfoodz CMO, Simon Jarvis, has realised his dream of becoming a CEO and joined Aussie plant-based food meal delivery service, Garden of Vegan, as its chief.

Jarvis took up the Garden of Vegan reins on 17 March after two years as marketing chief for Youfoodz. His work as CMO earned Jarvis a place on the 2021 edition of the CMO50 list.

Prior to this, Jarvis spent several years building his senior marketing credentials in the sports and wagering space with brands such as Ladbrokes Australia, TheScore and TAB New Zealand. His resume also includes GM marketing at Australis College, extensive brand and marketing consulting work and account management at MBF Advertising and Lowe London.

Garden of Vegan was established in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast in 2019 and offers more than 50 meal options for delivery nationally. These include ready-to-eat, organic produce boxes and snacks, accompanied by an expanding list of meal plans based on specific health goals, such as weight loss or fitness and performance. All products are made with 100 per cent certified organic produce and are free from oil, gluten and refined sugar. 

Notably, Garden of Vegan also taps into the exploding plant-based as well as wellness trends. Jarvis pointed out research has shown a wholefood, plant-based diet has been proven to reverse, prevent and manage lifestyle diseases and illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity.  

“We want to introduce far more Australians to this way of eating and improve the nation's health,” Jarvis told CMO.

“As a type 1 Diabetic, since adopting a 100 per cent plant-based diet towards the end of last year, I have seen enormous improvements to my own health and wellbeing with my HbA1c [average blood glucose] improving out of sight, as well as my cholesterol and blood pressure. My muscle recovery after working out and energy levels remind me of when I was in my early 20, not my early 40s.”  

What’s also clear is the fast-growth of the plant-based food industry since Covid’s arrival. According to Jarvis, alternative sources of protein especially are gaining popularity due to global supply chain issues and border closures that have forced consumers to look for more sustainable and healthier alternatives.

“Based on current global trends, we would need two planets’ worth of resources to meet the world's projected demand for meat by 2050,” he continued. “Furthermore, plant-based meat is projected to be a $3 billion market in Australia by 2030. And this is only a part of the plant-based food category; there are also ready-to-heat meals and meal kits in the area Garden of Vegan currently operates, and plant-based nutritional supplements, another vertical growing rapidly.”

As a result, Jarvis said Garden of Vegan’s customer sweet spot is not just the 10 per cent of Aussies who identify as vegan/vegetarian, but the 42 per cent who indicate they are eating less meat and increasingly interested in alternatives to animal products in their diet.

“I have been interested in plant-based nutrition for a long time and I believe this is an organisation worth getting behind because it has such an unwavering social conscience and a truly exceptional product,” he said. In 2021, Garden of Vegan donated over 5200 meals to those in need along with 15 tonnes of organic matter to animal sanctuaries.

CMO to CEO

In making the switch to Garden of Vegan, Jarvis joins the small group of marketers who have been able to step up to CEO.

“I've always wanted to be a CEO and this opportunity is giving me the opportunity to scratch that itch,” Jarvis commented. “I remember writing it down as a goal when I finished University that I'd be a CEO by 40. I'm three years late, but better late than never.” 

What’s also clear is Jarvis is a firm believer in marketing professionals having the skills, aptitude and experience to make them great CEOs.

“Too few marketers end up being CEOs, which has never made a whole lot of sense to me given CMOs can affect financial and customer transformation in a business better than any other department,” he said.

“I’ve always felt marketing is fundamentally about business growth. Long gone are the days of marketing as a series of campaigns.

“And if you are a CEO, you are responsible for attracting new consumers to your products and services, growing revenue by acquiring new customers and getting the customers you have to order and participate more frequently.”

The more we see CMOs going into CEO positions, the better off the professional will be, Jarvis agreed.

“Most CEOs recognise marketing as the public persona of their brand. The work marketers have done should make them feel more confident of putting their hat in the ring. Marketers are the engine room of these businesses. They should be driving revenue, not be a cost centre.”

As to highlights from his marketing efforts over the past two years, Jarvis pointed to the Youfoodz team being recognised as national winners for acquisition marketing at the AMI Awards in 2021 as a major milestone. The team delivered a 34.9 per cent year-on-year uplift in new customers, “the equivalent of filling the MCG with Youfoodz customers on Grand Final day”, Jarvis said.

Another favourite moment was working with Natalie Gruzlewski and Daniel Riicardo to grow the Youfoodz brand to be the most recognised in the fresh ready-to-heat category with greater than 60 per cent of Aussies knowing the brand.

CMO understands Youfoodz has no plans to appoint a new CMO in the short-term and will restructure the position once the business has been fully transitioned into HelloFresh. Youfoodz was acquired by HelloFresh, a meal kits supplier, last July for $125.3 million, seven months after its IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Check out some of CMO's in-depth profiles of marketers who have made the leap to CEO:

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