This month, Kepak unveiled a radical new look for its Rustlers brand. Adrian Lawlor, Marketing and Business Development Director – Consumer Foods at Kepak, the home of Rustlers, talks to Grocery Trader about the opportunities within the category, the decision to rebrand and future plans for the company.

How is Rustlers currently performing vs the market?

Rustlers sits within the micro-snacking category, home to chilled microwavable burgers and hot eat sandwiches, which is worth £127m*1. While many of our competitors are seeing a decline, Rustlers is outperforming the micro-snacking category with annual sales growing by 9.7% to £101m.*2 This is a very strong performance relative to overall chilled convenience which grew by 0.4% over the same period.

What are the peak times of day for consumption of micro-snacks?

Lunch remains our key occasion accounting for just under half of consumption, followed by evening meal and breakfast. A key insight unlocked by category research a couple of years ago was that Rustlers core USPs of taste, quality and convenience could apply to all day parts.*4 This led to the launch of the All Day Breakfast Sausage Muffin which quickly became one of our top products, purchased by almost 5% of UK households in the last year.

A key feature of our strategy in the coming years will be around how we unlock greater opportunity across day-parts and we will be working to maximise this through NPD and strong activation plans. Key to this is also having a clear strategy to ensure we are present and visible in a relevant way for the shopper missions that drive these occasions. This is a key element to how we’re working to develop the category with our retail partners.

What trends in the market are affecting Rustlers?

The macro trend that continues to fuel our business is convenience and as part of the development of our new strategy, we have been working hard to really get under the skin of what a modern take on convenience means. Our deep dives into this have ranged from understanding how the semiotics of convenience have evolved, to getting to grips with attitudinal and sentiment profiling across different audience segments. The learnings from all of this have been central to the development of our new packaging, advertising and innovation routes.

A key learning from our research is that whilst increasingly busy lifestyles mean that consumers are demanding products to be quicker and easier than ever, they are also expecting this to come with no compromise on quality. As a business, we have fantastic strengths that we can draw on to address this.

The rise of flexitarianism is also a major trend, with a third of consumers actively seeking to introduce plant-based options into their diets. This is particularly true amongst our core audience of 18-24s who are more likely than the overall population to follow flexitarian diets. This will be a key consideration for us when planning innovation.

Tell us about your latest new product developments. How are they performing?

We have just launched the Rustlers Moroccan Vegetarian Burger, as ourfirst move into the meat free space. We are excited about the category growth potential this new product offers.

Late last year we also launched our Cook in Box range, designed to unlock growth potential in the food to go market. The product includes patented packaging technology designed to both create a protective barrier between the product and the microwave, removing hygiene as a barrier for using in-store and workplace microwaves, whilst also enhancing the quality of the bread. The product comes in a burger box, which makes the product more fit for purpose for consumption on the go. This has launched at front of store with a number of retailers and is performing very well.

What do you see as the key opportunities for brand growth and how are you addressing them?

We see significant opportunity to continue to deliver strong growth for Rustlers in the years ahead. We have significant headroom to grow penetration and we also have a lot of scope to build our weight of purchase through growing across multiple occasions.

Central to how we unlock this opportunity is keeping brand front of mind through media activation targeted at converting a large pool of consumers from consideration to purchase. Our category is highly impulsive so keeping front of mind is critical.

We will be putting a big emphasis on improving perceptions of the brand through our media activity, whilst also working to ensure that the brand is present in a relevant way for our targeted shopper missions and consumption occasions.

What marketing support do you currently have for your brand?

We have very exciting brand plans for Rustlers in 2020 with a packaging relaunch and strong above the line and shopper marketing campaigns.

The packaging project has been designed to ensure Rustlers as a brand is aligned to where consumer expectations are shifting to when it comes to convenience, whilst delivering improvements to on-shelf standout and tiering and differentiation within the range. We have stepped up our quality messaging on pack with front of pack provenance messaging on all of our beef and pork products, and have brought greater focus to occasions with distinct design cues used to drive the breakfast and lunch occasions in particular.

The packaging relaunch will be supported by digital and shopper activity which will build towards the launch of a new long-term campaign platform which goes live in September. We will reveal the details in due course so watch this space!

What future plans are in the pipeline for Rustlers?

We are very excited about the prospects for Rustlers, with the brand relaunch giving us a platform to build from that is fit for purpose for the years ahead. We would see key drivers of growth as being innovation and mission focussed in-store execution, supported by marketing campaigns that will deliver consistent messaging but with evolving content to ensure relevance and PR-ability.

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