Big Interview: Matthew Corrin, Founder & CEO, Freshii

London's latest health food retailer Freshii has a unique business model which has earned it over 350 stores in just 13 years, calling itself the "Zara of fast-food".

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Freshii

Last year, sales of athleisure wear were understood to have topped £2.5 billion, growing around four times the rate of the wider clothing market.

Similarly, avocados – the “super fruit” that has become synonymous with the millennial generation – remained one of the fastest growing items in 2017, seeing a sales increase of £29.8 million.

The health craze that has taken the world, and the retail industry, by storm over the past few years shows no sign of slowing down and more and more retailers are seeking to cash in on the wellness wave.

Though it offers those who get it right an open door to the lucrative millennial market, this is no mean feat thanks to its persistently changing definition.

We call our menu strategy the Zara of healthy food”

“The definition of health is evolving incredibly quickly, it’s different things to different eras, different years and different seasons,” Matthew Corrin, founder and chief executive of health food chain Freshii, told the Retail Gazette.

Having just opened its first UK store in London’s Chancery Lane last month, Freshii is one of the few brands which has managed to keep with the frantic pace of the health and wellness industry. In fact, its unique business model uses it to gain an advantage on its competition.

“The menu was very different because 10 years ago what people wanted was salads, but now what people want are bowls, largely grain-based, and 10 years from now it’ll be something different,” Corrin said.

“The Freshii brand is not tied to one product offering. We’re not trying to be the hippest coolest place in town. We’re trying to become very much habitual in nature.”

Despite only just arriving in the UK, Freshii is well established in other parts of the world, boasting an estate of over 350 stores across 18 countries through a franchise model.

Interestingly, Corrin likens his business model to the world’s largest fashion retailer, arguing that the health and fashion retail sectors evolve in a similar manner.

“We call our menu strategy the Zara of healthy food,” he told Retail Gazette.

“Let’s think about Zara, they’re the most successful fashion retailer in the world, yet they don’t invent fashion. Zara goes to runway shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris. They go and see what Gucci and Prada and Dolce & Gabbana are walking down the runway.

“Then every 70 days Zara brings that latest fashion trend to the masses at an affordable price point. We do the same thing with food. We go to foody centres instead of fashion centres.

“We look for local food concepts with lots of buzz, who’ve already defined the next food trend, and then what we do is bring that to the mass consumer every 70 days.

“We are the fast fashion of fast food. I don’t think fast food is a dirty word.”

This model has proven successful for Corrin, who founded the company at 23 just 13 years ago in Canada. He believes that it has since grown faster than Starbucks, Domino’s and McDonald’s to become “one of the if not the fastest growing restaurant brand in the world”.

We don’t target markets, we wait for great entrepreneurs to find us and to have a passion for the same things that we’re passionate about and then partner with them”

Although Freshii has a significant presence in the Republic of Ireland, its London store is its first foray into the UK market, thanks to a partnership with the same franchising partner that brought Starbucks to our shores.

“We don’t target markets, we wait for great entrepreneurs to find us and to have a passion for the same things that we’re passionate about and then partner with them,” Corrin said.

“We didn’t target Ireland before London, the only market we decided to start in was Toronto, everything else was through interest.”

Having opened to queues in the heart of the City, and with more stores and “regional development” planned for the future, Corrin hopes Freshii could soon become part of Londoners’ daily habit.

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