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Pandemic-ravaged restaurants spur Auckland startup

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Coeliac NZ is one of the first not-for profit organisations to partner with the startup Grossr, which has entered the meal kit and grocery shopping innovation game but delivers a twist that is designed to save money and provide greater personal choice.

Seeing local restaurants, he grew up with savaged in the pandemic inspired Nick Sinclair to keep going with his dream. The closure of beloved Mt Eden cafe Fraser's this year was a shock to Sinclair but other eateries around the country have folded. And if Covid-19 didn't suffocate business, massive staff shortages presented lockdown survivors with ongoing challenges. Sinclair co-founded a platform called Grossr, which in recent weeks has signed up more new chefs and started catering for more niche dietary requirements.

He's happy about a new partnership with Coeliac NZ, which provides advice on meal plans for the estimated one in 10 Kiwis who are gluten-intolerant. On his own story, Sinclair eschews jargon and doesn't cook up a big deal. The Auckland 25-year-old says he has a "random" background and admits to learning a lot he'd never expected to since setting up Grossr. "I'm not going to pretend I know the ins and outs of being a chef." He studied psychology and learned to code after graduating. Sinclair established Grossr with Wyoming Paul after the two worked together at Kiwi parking app Parkable, where he coded and she wrote copy. "We're both children of Parkable," he jokes.

Over the past few years, the duo have built Grossr and worked with hospo professionals as the industry navigates closed borders, public health challenges and the current labour crisis. He says the most basic way to describe Grossr is to say: "Here's a shopping list for you to shop wherever you want."

Customers pay $4.50 per week or $16 a month for a meal plan subscription. In practice, a current plan includes options such as vegetarian winter dinners with four recipes every Monday. Sinclair says Grossr aims to support chefs, while making mealtime easier for the everyday Kiwi. "It's currently a two-person operation. It started off several years ago but was completely different to what you see now. It's gone through like 10 iterations ... It's a revenue-split model. You don't per se subscribe to Grossr itself. You subscribe to a meal plan by the chef."

Sinclair says his meal plan marketplace pays attention to dietary needs often left out of traditional meal kits. And sort of like trying to make the perfect jambalaya, building Grossr has involved much trial and error. "We found people's shopping habits are a bit stranger and more nuanced than we first thought," Sinclair says.

Grossr lets chefs or foodies create a meal plan, which users can subscribe to. If users suddenly have a change in tastes, or find themselves tolerant of food they once avoided, changes can be made to preferences on Grossr. Users buy ingredients from New World, which Grossr has a partnership with. People who live nowhere near a New World, or just prefer shopping elsewhere, can take the list and get comparable products or similar brands from a different shop. Chefs and meal plan creators can generate monthly income in Grossr's revenue-sharing model. Sinclair expects recipe numbers to increase as more chefs - veterans and newcomers - sign on. Grossr now has almost 400 users signed up and recently rolled out a new active subscription plan.

"We only launched a month ago so we're still kind of finding our feet," he says.

Grossr won't be for every cook in the country, but Sinclair says it isn't trying to be. "Not every chef is going to fit into the ecosystem. Chefs that would be interested, we are keen to get in touch with them." Sinclair says he'd also like to explore charity or non-profit options in future, to see how meal content creators could address poverty, food insecurity or poor nutrition. Imagining how that might work, he says: "Here is a meal plan you can subscribe to that's still going to be of high quality ... the proceeds will go to whatever charity is relevant." The 25-year-old says he'll be open to working with experts in this arena, even taking the lead from them, rather than forcing Grossr into something he's not yet any good at. So although this aspect of the start-up is still no more than an idea, so was Grossr just a couple of years ago.

Article republished here with agreement from Grossr and the Herald.

Coeliac New Zealand’s Sales and Marketing Manager, Dana Alexander, says she’s excited to contribute gluten free recipes from our Coeliac NZ Food Ambassadors for the Grossr’s gluten free meal kit experience, so that New Zealanders living with coeliac disease, and others who must follow a gluten free diet can get inspired in the kitchen. “Grossr is also providing Coeliac NZ with another fundraising channel, so when people subscribe to this gluten free meal plan they are helping us support people with information, education, and advice throughout their coeliac journey.”

The GF meal plans on Grossr have not been reviewed by a dietitian so please seek medical advice if you have an ongoing issue with your symptoms.

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