The EBRD has invested €35m across two investment rounds in Rohlik Group – Europe’s leading online grocery retailer.
Founded in 2014 in the Czech Republic, Rohlik has grown from a regional online grocery retailer to a pan-European unicorn with operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Germany, and an ambitious growth plan for further expansion.
Backing the right team
Rohlik has built its business around listening to consumers and meeting their needs. It offers a broad range of products, including locally sourced produce, an organic range, artisanal foods and own-brand products alongside domestic and international brands. In certain countries, Rohlik companies offer a 15-minute delivery window and delivery within 90 minutes of placing an order. This level of service has allowed Rohlik to quickly establish a strong position in new markets and win a loyal customer base.
Rohlik was founded by a serial tech entrepreneur, Tomáš Čupr, on the mission to deliver great food and even better service. Full of energy and with a clear business vision in mind, Tomáš has surrounded himself with an experienced top-notch management team with extensive previous experience in both e-commerce and grocery retail.
With its vast experience in food retail, the EBRD could see that Rohlik had the right ingredients for success. The Bank had looked at a number of online grocery platforms over the years but Rohlik was one of the first companies in this area to show a proven business model with profitable unit economics and a viable scaling plan.
As a digitally native brand with a flexible, asset-light roll-out approach, Rohlik is able to set up and launch new operations quickly and in a capital-efficient way, making it best positioned to take advantage of the growth in the online food market.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented rise in e-commerce across all markets and this gave Rohlik an opportunity to expand both at home and abroad.
With the grocery retail market expected to reach €2.1 trillion in Europe by 2025 but its online penetration still low (up to 1 per cent in the target markets compared with 12-13 per cent in the United Kingdom), Rohlik saw the chance to capture a significant market share. The growth potential was further underpinned by high barriers to entry and the “first mover’s” advantage in the post-Covid market.
“Rohlik is the most exciting player in online grocery retail in the EBRD region,” commented Ekaterina Erichsen, EBRD Equity. “We are honoured to be able to support Tomáš Čupr and his team in this quest for a better, more sustainable grocery industry. Rohlik’s focus on the consumer, coupled with relentless excellence in execution underpinned by a true sustainability ethos are the perfect ingredients for a successful investment.”
Accelerating the growth
Seeing the permanent shift that consumers were making to online grocery shopping, Rohlik decided to accelerate its expansion in several western European countries.
“At the beginning of March, we announced our first round of funding, in which we raised €190 million. Three months later, we raised another €100 million, attaining unicorn status. These investments demonstrate the confidence of our investors in the rapid growth of Rohlik Group,” explained Tomáš Čupr, “We are seen as a European company that is able to expand rapidly in the very challenging western European markets.
The additional capital is helping us to grow faster than originally planned and is accelerating the development and expansion into new markets, the technical development of our distribution centres and the perfect implementation of innovation throughout the company. And it allows us to bring the best people on board. Rohlik wants to enable people in Europe to eat better and live happier lives.”
While Rohlik has a different brand name in every market — Kifli.hu in Hungary
, Gurkerl.at in Austria, and Knuspr.de in Germany — the company’s unique customer-centric ethos and product offering will stay consistent and keep expanding. Rohlik approaches each market after extensive research, delivering an optimal balance of own products and third party products from domestic and international partners, including small local businesses and farmers. Own private labels are also a crucial part of the product range.
Investing with impact
Sustainability is central to the EBRD’s mandate and Rohlik’s vision is in line with this. The company places huge importance on sustainable food supply chains and has launched a host of sustainable initiatives, such as electric delivery vehicles, reusable bags and eco-packaging. It also aims to eliminate chemicals in food and reduce food waste by selling pre-expiry products.
This sustainable and holistic vision also includes supporting local farmers and producers, be it in marketing, logistics or simply ensuring prompt payment of invoices, helping to sell their products more effectively online to a wider customer base. This shortening of the farm-to-fork supply chain ensures European customers can access fresher, local and more authentic food, faster.
Looking ahead, Rohlik is aiming to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming practices validated by third-party organic certification.
Contact the EBRD Equity team to find out more