A proliferation of food entrepreneurs has seen the number of aspiring food brands explode in recent years. While this is causing something of a headache for big food, it is worth noting that not every start-up has the legs to be truly disruptive in its field. So what does it take to develop a challenger brand?
When it comes to growing a start-up into a challenger brand, many will try - not all will succeed.
According to advisory group Credit HQ, which provides financial advice to small businesses, just over 42% of production-based start-ups survive their first five years of trading.
With a vision to be the “world’s most trusted real food brand”, nutritionist Suzie Walker has grown her snack business, Primal Pantry, so that it now generates around £3m (€3.42m) in retail sales value. With a new £3m minority investment from NVM Private Equity, the company now hopes to double its business this year, Walker told FoodNavigator.
Investing for growth
NVM’s investment will be targeted at growing retail distribution and in store visibility. It will also be used to drive brand awareness through consumer marketing channels; in particular social media, PR and sampling.
“By using the funds to invest in the brand, trade driving activities and bolstering the sales team we aim to double the business this year and reach £6m retail sales value,” Walker explained.
NVM’s backing will allow the brand to continue to innovate and reach an increasing number of consumers who are conscious about “the impact their food choices have on themselves and wider society”, she suggested.
“With their backing we can take The Primal Pantry to the next level, ensuring more consumers have the opportunity to try our products and encouraging them to make better food choices,” the nutritionist turned food entrepreneur said. “Led by impulse shopper and consumer needs, the healthy snacking category is finally finding its own space in store, but there is a lot more work to be done. With this investment we want to further support the category growth through insight, true innovation and shopper marketing to bring the fixture to life.”
For a start-up that sees opportunity everywhere, sometimes it is important to focus on core business objectives. For this reason, The Primal Pantry is returning to its roots and concentrating on growing its domestic sales.
International sales now account for 35% of The Primal Pantry’s sales total, but Walker said that the group is re-focusing on its core UK business following the latest investment round.
“Our focus is the UK market. Currently we export to over 30 countries. However this takes focus away from our heartland, so we have taken the decision to focus on the UK followed by a few key markets in Europe," she said.
Currently, The Primal Pantry bars are sold at over 7,000 distribution points in the UK, with stockists including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and The Cooperative. Moving forward, the company intends to build UK availability and visibility.
'The brand is what you own'
According to Walker, the success of The Primal Pantry also relies on both the group’s on-trend products and its strong branding.
The company focuses on using a “handful” of “selected ingredients” to deliver its clean label snack bars, meeting consumer demand for convenient and healthy snack options. Innovation is key to this and The Primal Pantry recently launched a “new and enhanced” range of protein bars, which, rather than relying on whey, each contain 15 grams of plant-based protein.
Beyond this, Walker stressed the importance of a stylish delivery to gain consumer attention. “A strong visual identity” is needed, she said. “Lots of great products are out there wrapped in branding that is not engaging, compelling and memorable. I am a strong believer that you need to invest in getting your brand and visual identity right. Anyone can copy a product; the brand is what you own.”