Starting with the Fresh Fish Co (Fresh Fish from the Deep Blue Sea) in 1989, Thoby Young delivered an expanding range of organic and wild harvested ingredients straight to people's doors nationwide from 1989. It was the very first genuinely nationwide delivery service for fresh organic and wild harvested food, and that was due to Young's vision.The fish came from little boats off Cornwall, the organic produce from a cooperative in East Anglia, the meat from Wales.
I left a successful career as a features writer and commissioning editor for Country Living, the Telegraph and other glossies and broadsheets to do the marketing and PR in 1995 as Young's original ideas began to catch on and he launched a very early but elegant website. I had already fallen for the internet the year before, and began to swim through already shark-infested waters, learning as I went - all extremely useful in my subsequent digital career.
When something like the internet is completely new, there are always plenty of unscrupulous people claiming to hold the key to success and offering to sell it to you for a great deal of money. Luckily I was highly sceptical and we picked and chose what we did.
The company briefly grew as people's interest in food in the UK began to flourish. But it could not sadly compete with established businesses that had more investment, from supermarkets jumping on the organic bandwaggon and developing ecommerce, to city backed home delivery companies. It was amazing what we achieved in a few short years in the mid nineties and our ideas left a lasting legacy - in other businesses. I left to resume my career as a commissioning editor on The Times in 1999.
We were ahead of our time in almost every parameter - ecommerce, content marketing, online interactive ordering, stockless retailing, superb customer service, organic food, home delivery, local food. All now commonplace. In 1995 it was all completely new. All the supermarkets and many other businesses copied our pioneering ideas.
I did content marketing - although we didn't call it that in those days. I created and wrote the recipes for the leaflets that went in the boxes to explain what everything was. It is funny to remember that celeriac was exotic in the nineties, let alone kohlrabi. It was a tool kit to help people make sense of the amount of veg they were receiving.
My media contacts, developed over several years as a consumer journalist, certainly helped the PR effort too. Altogether it was an interesting experience.