Most people, when they hear ‘Pasta Evangelists’, will probably think of the direct-to-consumer meal kits delivered to your door.

Founded in 2016 after founder Alessandro Savelli noticed a gap in the UK market for fresh pasta, the brand became well-established as a recipe kit business offering premium pasta to cook at home, before branching out into takeaways.

“The ambition is to be the UK’s leading fresh pasta brand,” said Angharad Exley, Senior Marketing Manager at Pasta Evangelists, at Technology for Marketing 2023. She spoke to Megan Kealey, Customer Success Manager at marketing automation platform Klaviyo, one of Pasta Evangelists’ tech partners, about how the brand has used personalisation and data to spread the word about its new offering; how it balances discounting with a premium image; and why Year in Review or ‘Wrapped’ campaigns can be tricky.

Personalised campaign outperforms discount promotion

Since Pasta Evangelists launched its takeaway offering on Deliveroo at the height of the first Covid-19 lockdown, takeaways have grown to make up a major part of the business and are now also available through Just Eat, Uber Eats, and via direct ordering.

The brand uses email to get the word out about its offerings, and to nurture and reactivate customers, but grabbing attention in the inbox is no mean feat. Some level of personalisation is now table stakes – “A lot of brands are now doing personalisation, so it’s a basic expectation from customers,” said Exley – but Pasta Evangelists works to maintain a cohesive and distinctive tone. An email greets me with “Ciao, Rebecca”.

Offers can act as an incentive to sign up to emails, giving Pasta Evangelists an opening for subscriber nurturing; and also bringing in new business – customers get £10 off if they refer a friend through Mention Me. As a premium pasta brand, Pasta Evangelists tries to avoid discounting too often – “but discounting works,” Exley acknowledged.

However, in Pasta Evangelists’ email reactivation flow, personalisation turned out to be a secret weapon to avoid discounting and improve performance: the team used Klaviyo to create an email that references the customer’s last order and invites them to order with Pasta Evangelists again. This personalised campaign ultimately performed better than the previous offer of £5 to come back to the brand.

The secret of a shareable ‘Wrapped’ campaign

Data, such as a customer’s order history, is a key component of personalisation; but using it can be a challenge. “Having data in different areas is quite common,” said Exley – for example, bound up in different technology platforms, such as an email platform. “The challenge is being able to use data effectively.”

One campaign that combined personalisation and data very successfully was ‘Pasta Evangelists Wrapped’, which looked back over a customer’s year in pasta orders. Since Spotify pioneered the year-in-review ‘Wrapped’ format, its popularity has caught the imagination of dozens of brands, and these types of campaigns are increasingly common. Exley cautioned that brands “need to be careful” with the Year in Review, as not every type of product – or data – is suitable for it: customers might not be eager to look back over a year of grocery spending or financial transactions.

It needs to be fun … it needs to be something that people will want to shout about.

“It needs to be fun … it needs to be something that people will want to shout about,” Exley said – this last part is key to encourage sharing on social media. For Pasta Evangelists Wrapped, the brand told customers which dish they had ordered the most, and also shared some stats from the wider Pasta Evangelists customer base – such as the fact that enough pasta had been ordered in 2022 to span the distance from Venice to Verona.

They also sent all recipients a thank-you £5 – which, together with the personalised insights, proved more engaging than a generic ‘thank you’ and successfully reactivated nearly 2,000 customers.

Sometimes the data you have on a customer can simply be that they are an existing customer – which is valuable when launching a new proposition. When they launched takeaways, Pasta Evangelists contacted the customers who were already familiar with the brand to let them know that they could experience it in a new way.

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They also carried out hyperlocal Out of Home (OOH) advertising for homes within a three-mile radius of one of Pasta Evangelists’ cloud kitchens, and reached out to food bloggers within the local area to invite them to experience the new offering and create content about it.

Making the direct ordering experience unique

Customers can also be a valuable go-to resource for product innovation and ideas. When the brand launched ordering through their website in January, they wanted to give people an incentive to order directly with the brand. “We wanted to keep something unique [for the website],” said Exley.

A customer survey on Instagram yielded the answer: one respondent suggested offering ‘half and half’ portions to let diners who couldn’t decide combine two dishes in one. Pasta Evangelists made this option available exclusively through the website, and to date, it has become their third-best seller.

The website went from zero orders in January to just over 8,000 August – which is a major achievement, but Pasta Evangelists aren’t resting on their laurels. “You’ve got to make sure that people are coming back,” Exley said.

Other new products that they’ve launched to capture the imagination of diners are a range of pasta salads, which sold well during the summer, and a “lunch like an Italian” offering with a slightly cheaper range of products after the brand spotted an opportunity with lunch time trade.

Seasonality plays a major role in order trends, and Pasta Evangelists adapt their product offering and communications accordingly. In Q4, Exley observed, they tend to see an uptick of people wanting pasta – “a warming bowl of ragout or lasagna” – and the brand also has a range of gifting products, such as pasta-making kits or tools, that they mainly push during Christmas. Seasonal ingredients, such as mushrooms, give the brand an opportunity “to talk to customers about something other than discounts”.

Exley described 2023 as a “journey of premiumisation” for the brand. “We’ve really levelled up in the last couple of months in our visuals”, such as photography and videography, “and we want to make sure that carries through to emails.”

Going forward into 2024, Pasta Evangelists want to keep growing the different arms of their business, such as Pasta Academy – pasta-making classes that are popular with corporate teams – and takeaways. “We have lots of brand awareness in London, but we’re less well-known outside the capital,” said Exley. The plan is to open another eight cloud kitchen sites by the end of the year.

The team are also on a mission to keep evolving their use of data and unlocking more insights, such as data that will let Pasta Evangelists offer tailored ‘restaurant-style’ recommendations to its customers. “We want to be able to use personalisation more in that way … [but] we’re lacking a bit in being able to use the data,” said Exley.

“We want to continue the personalisation journey.”

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