Having helped it smash its grocery targets, Just Eat UK MD Claire Pointon is looking to take the ‘fun, youthful’ brand further into non-food categories

Claire Pointon likes to win. She always has. Blame her sports-filled upbringing in South Africa. Her sport was field hockey, scoring goals as centre forward. Her lifelong maxims: “focus” and “what are you going to win?” she says.

Pointon was appointed Just Eat UK & Ireland’s managing director in May, joining from John Lewis where she had been customer director for three years. For Pointon, Just Eat had undeniable “brand appeal. It’s fast-paced. It’s fun. It’s youthful,” she says.

“I wanted to be in a business that I could make impact on,” Pointon tells The Grocer at Just Eat’s London HQ. But with Just Eat already “leading the industry” in takeaway delivery, its brand among the best known globally in the category, the UK business already comfortably profitable and last quarter hitting an “all-time high” gross transaction value, what goals remain for Pointon to score?

Name: Claire Pointon

Family: A daughter (nine) and son (five)

Pets: None, although I want a dog next year

First job: Marketing executive at the Carphone Warehouse

Best advice received: Be clear on the work only you can do, and be clear where you add value to your team and organisation

What are you listening to at the moment?  I love podcasts. Currently listening to The Rest is Politics with Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell

How do you spend your free time? Mostly with my family outdoors. I like to go running every weekend and my daughter has started joining me

Favourite takeaway:  I love Thai food, but also burgers and pizzas with my family. We often opt for Five Guys or Pizza Express at weekends

Business idol: I’ve always admired [Carphone Warehouse co-founder] Sir Charles Dunstone. I find him inspirational, very down to earth and incredibly customer-focused

For a start, there’s more than takeaways. “There’s a lot to go after, and we’re very ambitious with that plan,” Pointon says.

To be precise, much like arch-rivals Deliveroo and Uber Eats, the company is increasingly focused on grocery as a means of further growth. There’s also what Pointon considers the “next phase”: non-food.

Compared with its aggregator app competitors, Just Eat was relatively late to the grocery game. While rivals secured supermarket partnerships early on in the pandemic, it wasn’t until early 2022 that Just Eat struck deals in the sector. First came One Stop and Asda, followed by Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Iceland through last year. In December, it announced a partnership with Morrisons, currently rolling out to 650 stores.

“There is an advantage to taking your time,” Pointon says. Just Eat’s grocery partners had already “learnt a lot” about on-demand delivery. “Listening to their needs and understanding what works for them, what doesn’t work for them, is really important,” she adds.

For some grocers, the sales boost enjoyed after partnering with one app makes joining with another a no-brainer. But there are those who “feel that multi aggregators means more complexity”, and others who think “Well, I’m with one partner. Doesn’t that mean that’s all I need to address that market?” Pointon says.

But most of the apps have an incredibly sticky user base, she adds. Multi-app retailers typically “see incrementality”.

“Pharmacy is interesting. By launching these new retail partnerships, our aim is to show up for our customers in more of the moments when they need us”

The growing number of supermarket and convenience stores on the platform has meant “grocery has absolutely smashed its targets” within the company. Moving into grocery has also seen Just Eat gain new users. “Maybe they wouldn’t have considered us because they prefer to cook at home or go out to restaurants. Everyone lives a different life,” Pointon says. But the ability to get an emergency ingredient or top-up shop? “They see the value in that.” It’s already “habitual for some people,” she adds.

The app is also attracting an increasing number of students – living away from home for the first time and thus shopping for groceries, having previously used it for takeaways. “They’ve been brought up with things being delivered. For them it’s not new news, it’s just a way of shopping,” Pointon says. In turn, presence on the app is valuable exposure for supermarkets. “It’s a good way for them to get their brand in front of a new set of consumers,” Pointon explains, “because otherwise you have to convince them to walk into a branch.” The company is “really focused on moving into these new areas where we know there’s customer demand” and giving users “the opportunity to shop other categories”.

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Moving into grocery has seen Just Eat gain new users, says Pointon

Playing in new categories

That work is just beginning. In the run-up to Christmas, Just Eat launched a dedicated Lego store on the app – giving parents the opportunity “to order toys via rapid delivery straight to their doorstep, taking away the hassle of in-store shopping around the festive season”, the company said at the time. In the Australian market it’s running a trial with florist Interflora, where users can get last-minute bouquets in an instant.

And this month, Just Eat began a play in a new category – health & beauty – through a partnership with independent UK chain Pyramid Pharmacy. It sees a broad range of items, including perfume, make-up, first aid essentials and flu remedies, listed on the app.

“Pharmacy is interesting, because there are those moments where it’s actually quite an urgent need,” Pointon says. “By launching these new retail partnerships, our aim is to show up for our customers in more of the moments when they need us.”

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Just Eat is not taking a scattergun, see-what-sticks approach to striking new non-food partnerships, though.

“We’ve been very clear as a business on where we will go and where we won’t go,” says Pointon, who has worked across several sectors for the likes of Kerry Foods, Dixons Carphone and T-Mobile. “That’s super important, because it takes a lot of resource to scale these things, for both parties. And we’re conscious of their time and our time.”

The business has to be clear on “what drives the consumer to go there in the first place, what’s the need, and is the need scalable? Because you’re effectively going to a retail partner and investing time and energy to build the platform to be able to showcase their product and service,” Pointon says. “I’m very conscious of making sure we’re effective and efficient and that the consumer is always at the heart of it.”

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Claire Pointon says Just Eat would not countenance a name change, even as it moves into more non-food partnerships

Nevertheless, Just Eat’s non-food play is just beginning. “We’re at the foothills of these things and they will expand,” Pointon says.

Might that necessitate a name change? “No!” Pointon says. “There’s a lot of equity in our brand. We have the highest top-of-mind awareness in the UK – that takes a lot of time, effort, creativity, investment. I would not want to change that. I’m very proud of our brand.”

“Our long-term future is very clearly baked into this everyday convenience,” she explains. “You come to our platform, we have the best choice, you can find it, and we can deliver it really quickly. There may be things in the future that I’ve just never thought about because that retail model doesn’t exist yet.”

In time, then, users will turn to the app not to just eat but, potentially, for just about anything.