“We’re in a business that’s 20 years old…but it feels like we’re in a startup.”

Add To Cart Podcast
Episode 25

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In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Oliver and Ruby Hagen, who run Hagen’s Organics, a second-generation butchery based in Melbourne.  The Hagen family are no strangers to change, starting in the 1980’s selling organic fruit and veg, then shifting to meat in the late 90s.  Siblings, Oliver and Ruby, continue to run the company with an online presence very much at the core of the business.  In this chat, they share their thoughts on the importance of transparency and commitment to customer service,  how they have grown exponentially, welcoming a community of new staff as a result of Covid and their future plans for pop ups and live-streaming.

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Questions answered in this episode include

  • What has been the hardest thing about taking a butcher shop online?
  • How has the Covid19 crisis affected you?
  • What’s your approach to website content creation?

“We’re in a business that’s 20 years old…but it feels like we’re in a startup.”

In this episode of Add to Cart, Oliver and Rugby Hagen of Hagen’s Organics share their thoughts on the importance of transparency and commitment to customer service in running a business. They also talk about how the online side of their business took off amidst the global health crisis.

How Hagen’s Organics came to be

The business started 20 years ago when Oliver and Ruby’s father, Royce Hagen, opened an organic fruit and veg shop in Melbourne.   Customers suggested the business sell meat and so, in 1998 Hagen’s Organics made a shift from fruit and vegetables to beef, pork, poultry and lamb, with Royce opening Hagen’s Organic Butchers at the Prahran Market.

Royce’s son, Oliver has been helping out in the business since he was 13 years old, but it wasn’t until he studied for a degree in entrepreneurship that he began to realise his future career may lie with the family business.  Oliver learned a lot about eCommerce during the course of his degree and realised that he could bring these ideas to Hagen’s Organics, along with his sister Ruby, who had decided to join the business too.

The digital side of Hagen’s Organics did not really gain traction until COVID-19 struck. With lockdowns in place, people couldn’t easily go out to buy their supplies and many had to rely on online stores for food items and other essential supplies. Oliver says that they feel lucky they already had systems in place with website features allowing their customers to buy online to meet the demand.

What has been the hardest thing about taking a butcher store online?

One of the biggest issues of having a butcher shop online is getting butchers to embrace the idea. Many, especially older butchers, were sceptical.

According to Oliver, it took some time for customers to fully trust sellers who offer food products online. Unlike in the US or the UK where people are already used to buying this way, a lot of consumers in Australia are only confident in buying clothes and other things that can be easily returned, from online businesses.

Ruby says that communicating and being really transparent about their products helped a lot getting customers to start accepting the idea. Hagen’s Organics has been open about how the goods are sourced, transported and packaged, which has helped them gain the trust of their customers.

What sets them apart from other butchers

Hagen’s Organics’ transparency to their customers is what sets them apart from others. As the business grew, they learned how important it is to remain honest about what they do and where/who they get their products from.

Having been in the industry for 20 years, they were able to establish connections with all sorts of people with extensive knowledge in all areas. Oliver says that even if there are some things that they don’t know about different ingredients or produce, they know people who do.

Ruby adds that the brand aims to show their customers the real stories of where their food comes from. 

How the Covid-19 crisis affected the business

Oliver says that they were pretty lucky to get the good end of the deal. While the team has been putting a lot of effort into their online business, the current situation provided them with an opportunity to grow their business exponentially. 

Since Covid-19 forced a lot of people to stay at home, Hagen’s Organics orders increased from 50 per week to 150-200 per day!  According to Ruby, they have had to hire additional staff to handle the packaging and marketing aspects of the business. What used to be a team of around 20 people, grew into a team of 75 in just four months. Oliver puts the growth down to people refocusing on what’s really important during this uncertain and worrying time – the importance of food security, as well as the importance of cooking meals together and sharing food with friends and family.

“It was exciting but it was also very daunting. Very daunting, because you didn’t know what was going to happen at that point. We didn’t know if the supply was going to continue or if we were going to be shut down or if it was only going to last for a week.”

Hagen’s Organic’s content creation process

Oliver says that even when they were just starting, they knew that they wanted to cement themselves as a source of knowledge for people. They share their producer’s stories on their website and their cousin Pat joined the team to helped create recipes that they publish online.

Friends have reached out to help them create more content for the website. Some of them offered to work on videos for the website. One of their friends who used to own a business is now in charge of their social media. Oliver says that they have been lucky to to have the opportunity to create a community of talent to build out their strategy.

About your co-hosts:

Oliver Hagen from Hagen’s Organics

Oliver Hagen is the director of Hagen’s Organics. Alongside his sister, Oliver runs the business, which has four stores across Melbourne, and their online store.  After working and growing up in the business with his dad, Royce, Oliver took over operations in 2013.

Ruby Hagen from Hagen’s Organics

Ruby Hagen is the Business Manager of Hagen’s Organics. After growing up in the business, she wanted to get on board alongside her brother to run the company. Her natural born people skills give her the perfect skill set for managing their team of close to 60 people.

About your host: Nathan Bush from 12HIGH

Nathan Bush is the founder and lead strategist at eCommerce consultancy, 12HIGH. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.

If you enjoyed this podcast on Hagen’s Organics’ successful transition to selling food products online, you might also enjoy our podcast on Domino’s Digital Growth Secrets.

Please contact us if you:

  • Want to come on board as an Add To Cart sponsor
  • Are interested in joining Add To Cart as a co-host
  • Have any feedback or suggestions on how to make Add To Cart better

Email hello@addtocart.com.au. We look forward to hearing from you!

🥳  SPECIAL OFFER!

Hagen’s Organics is giving a 10% discount to Add to Cart’s Melbourne-based listeners/readers.

First-time customers may redeem the discount until the end of October using the code ADDTOCART10 at checkout.

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