For four months now, there has been a green giant in the kitchen at DCMN’s Berlin office. This giant is fingerprint-triggered and has been generously providing our HQ team with various fresh lunch and snack options. We have asked ourselves: Who is responsible for the revolution of our workplace diet? Who decides what goes inside the giant? And what happens to our fingerprints? Thankfully, Sebastian Hua, Global Head of Innovation at HelloFreshGO, took some time to answer those questions and more. In the interview below, he shares his thoughts on everything from convenient eating at the office to culinary philosophy and marketing.

To set the mood: How do HelloFresh team members eat at your office?

More than 70 percent of the HelloFresh team actually gets a HelloFresh box delivered weekly. Therefore, the team often used to bring their tupperware filled with dinner leftovers to work. The installation of HelloFreshGO revealed our team’s preference for convenience. Many people stopped meal prepping and switched to buying lunch from the machine. With weekly ready-to-eat options like sandwiches and wraps, the queue at the microwave got much shorter.

You mentioned HelloFreshGO. Tell us, what are these green giants of fridges and what good do they bring to wo*mankind?

The green giant is like a supermarket or a mini-canteen – and measuring at only 1.5 sqm it’s actually not that big. The giant’s “belly” is filled with a lot of lunch and snack options. What we know from typical vending machines is that they offer drinks and snacks – food that does not spoil so quickly. The HelloFreshGO vending machine goes beyond that by providing freshly made meals, sandwiches, wraps, breakfast and more.

So the HelloFreshGO fridges do all companies a service. It’s a convenient way to eat at the office. Especially in winter when its cold and stormy outside and no one wants to leave the office for lunch. We found it’s also an appreciated option when it’s very busy at work and there is no time to get food or go to a restaurant. HelloFreshGO revolutionises the way employees eat at work!

And how exactly does it work?

It works pretty much like your fridge at home. The food is placed in shelves, you open the door, grab your item(s), scan and go. The only difference is that the doors are locked and you have to use a self-checkout to pay. Before they can make purchases, employees need to register and add a payment method online in order to access the fridge and pay cashless. You can also register your fingerprint for cardless access. But once that is set up and you know what you want, the buying process takes less than ten seconds.

What’s the culinary philosophy behind HelloFreshGO?

People spend a large chunk of their time at the workplace – and obviously they need food during that time. Not all companies can provide their teams with food options in the office, let alone healthy ones. A fruit basket is a nice treat but does not get you through the entire day. Often, there is no canteen or kitchen on site. In rural areas the next supermarket is far away or delivery services take too long. In many cases, meal planning requires a lot of time that people don’t have to spare. We want to make employees’ lives easier by providing a convenient way to eat healthy for all employees every day.

Who selects the providers, products, and meals that go into the fridge? Which criteria do you apply?

We have a team solely dedicated to the product development of our food portfolio. All new potential products are tested and need to convince us primarily in terms of their macronutrients, consistency and taste. What makes us special is that we are non-stop on the hunt for the latest trends – our team is on a continuous quest around the globe for innovative products for the conscious foodie. Currently, the manufacturers Bauer Funken and Natsu supply us with fresh food and, together with our in-house nutrition experts, develop our own recipes.

For our entire portfolio the motto is “life is balance”. Our ready-meals avoid the classic after-lunch food coma through a balanced diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and a broad variety of our snacks and meals. We try to ensure a balance between veggie and meat options, and when we add new snack items the product needs to contribute to a balance between healthy raw vegan bites and not-so-healthy chocolate bars.

Recyclable materials are a big topic in the selection process. We do our best to act as sustainable as possible. Hence, we try to have as little aluminum and plastic packaging as possible and are investing in more environmentally-friendly packaging.

Do you adapt product range to the tastes of each office? Do you use data to improve?

We try to adapt our product range as individually as possible. Some companies like more wraps and sandwiches, others sell out all ready meals before noon. We take those preferences into account when stocking the fridge.

Our data tracking system allows us to track sales in numbers and therefore we can determine the popularity of certain products. We can see which meals are sold best and which companies prefer which products and when we are running out of stock. We also do regular surveys with our customers to find out what they would like to have in the fridge. To help inform our customers about the current product selection and changes in the portfolio, we send them a newsletter on Mondays with the menu of the week.

How do you market a food as a service (FaaS) product? Which marketing channels are the most or least effective?

HelloFreshGO is a lifestyle product for offices – and word travels fast between them. Many people reach out to us as they have seen the green giant in some other office. Also, recommendations from happy customers to friends and family are quite effective. Besides word of mouth and some online marketing initiatives, offline marketing worked pretty well, too. It is still work in progress and we are testing different things, therefore it’s hard to say just yet which channels have been overall most effective for us.

The payment process seems partly based on trust. How do you track theft or misuse rate and what are the sanctions?

To sum it up: We see, we track and we warn. Due to innovative weight sensors we can sense and protocol all items that are taken out of the fridge. We can distinguish between purchases and “non-purchases” and get in touch with customers with a conspicuous purchase pattern. If that does not work we reserve the right to block customers and demand the outstanding payment.

On a related note: Be honest, what do you actually do with our fingerprints?

We don’t use the fingerprint to collect biometric data. It is solely an extra service to our customers to purchase even simpler. We have taken special precautions regarding our customer data protection. Precisely, the fingerprint is converted into a string that is stored locally in a database together with a QR code. The data is only stored locally on the terminal computer. We don’t make any use of that data.

At DCMN are actively working on what the future of work looks like. What does the future of food at work look like?

Imagine that an autonomously driving HelloFreshGO machine stops at your desk at exactly 10:13 am. It places your favourite breakfast yoghurt with berries and a freshly pressed green juice on your desk. This was exactly what you wanted, but as usual you did not have time to get it yourself. Thanks to explicit data analysis the machine can predict your needs based on your preference profile. We are constantly testing new things to make full use of the technological possibilities – but this will be kept a surprise for the HelloFreshGO 2.0.

Interested in joining the HelloFreshGO green giant force? Hello. Fresh. Go.

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