Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

In New Nutrition Business this month

Imagine that you decide to create a
 range of meals that are “real food”,
 using only natural ingredients, without any preservatives or additives, produced in small batches, sold in the chiller section of the supermarket and with a shelf-life of just five days. The products cannot be microwaved – the consumer has to heat them in an oven for around 30 minutes – and they sell at a price premium of 100% to supermarket brands in a category in which supermarket own- label products have a 90% share. Your products all feature meat or fish – there are no vegan or vegetarian options. It may sound like attempting the impossible. But that is just what the Charlie Bigham’s brand has done in the UK, achieving retail sales in 2016 of $60 million/€53 million – a 48% increase on the previous year.

With $100-million (€92 million) to spend, The Safe + Fair Food Co plans to buy up small non-allergenic food brands with the aim of building an empire to dominate this highly-fragmented but growing niche. And it intends to market its products almost exclusively via e-commerce.

Sir Kensington’s is a tiny brand that lets Unilever play in the premium and vegan segments of the condiments category. It offers a clean-label, millennial-friendly brand image and a product made from waste-water from processing chickpeas. It’s a sign of how strategy is shifting that Unilever has committed itself to Sir Kensington’s – a step that would have been unimaginable only five years ago. Unilever clearly believes it can grow the brand far and fast.

Consumers in most countries have been turning away from old-style weight management and dieting products
, resulting in a collapse in sales for Slim-Fast, Kellogg’s Special K and products carrying the Weight Watchers logo. Against this background, the success 
of the Slimming World range of frozen ready meals in the UK is all the more astonishing. Launched in 2015, by the end of 2016 the brand’s sales had passed $70 million/ €62 million – despite being on sale in just one supermarket chain. Real food with simple ingredients, marketed as being just like something you could make at home, with few concessions to vegetarians: Slimming World’s shows that you can make a premium-price success even in the mass market.

Energy is one of the largest, most successful and most profitable markets. But most people don’t want their energy from a caffeinated drink. They would prefer to get their energy from something they perceive as natural – from grains, nuts, fruit or dairy. “Natural energy” remains an under-served consumer need. For product developers wanting to create a natural energy product that there are some clear success factors.

In the US one small dairy has already done it. It may be the first but it won’t be the last. New York-based Elmhurst Dairy shut down its plant in 2016 as milk sales fell and it struggled to make money.
 But rather than throw in the towel, the 90-year-old family-owned company transformed itself into Elmhurst Milked, a non-dairy operation. The company unveiled its “milked nuts” line earlier this year. The four varieties of plant milks it produces are almond, cashew, hazelnut and walnut. Elmhurst Milked’s line is vegan, lactose-free, kosher, and non-GMO certified. If that degree of change sounds unlikely, just remember that much of what has happened to our industry over the last 10 years would have been dismissed as unlikely – or even plain ridiculous – a decade ago.



Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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