Kerry Foods manufacture some of the leading brands across three major sectors: Everyday Fresh (Meat & Dairy), Convenience Meal Solutions and Food-to-go – with their portfolio including some of the UK’s best-loved brands: of Richmond, Fridge Raiders and Cheestrings. As well as supplying these category-leading products to major supermarket chains, convenience stores and independent retailers across the UK, Ireland and selected international markets, Kerry Foods are also a leading producer of supermarket private label products – ranging from chilled and frozen ready meals, cooked meats, cheese and dairy products.

Dawn Spencer, Director at Kerry Foods spoke to Grocery Trader:

Dawn, what does your role involve from day to day?

As Director for Kerry Foods, my day-to-day role involves overseeing the marketing strategy across the business’ meat portfolio, including recent new product development such as Richmond Meat-Free Sausages and Naked Glory.

How are Kerry Foods set up to service the supermarkets?

We have manufacturing facilities throughout Ireland and the UK, with an extensive distribution network in both countries. Following the recent launch of our new Naked Glory and Richmond Meat-Free Sausages ranges, we’ve created a new purpose-built and fully segregated, meat-free production site in Manchester to maintain the highest standards of production and quality.

As a company we are committed to supplying outstanding quality, value and service to our customers. Underpinning this focus is our commitment to driving product innovation across the chilled foods sector, responding creatively to the evolving needs of today’s consumers – this means tapping into the latest trends and consumer behaviours from the rise of snacking to the increase in meat moderation we’re now seeing amongst shoppers. We strive to understand what our consumers want and what drives their purchasing decisions – something we then work closely with our customers on to ensure they’re best equipped to respond to meet their shoppers’ needs.

What proportion of your sales go through the multiples?

At Kerry Foods, we are well represented across all the available sales channels, ensuring our products are as accessible as possible.

Your consumer brands are known for being bright and bold. When Cheestrings came out in the early 1990s, parents and grandparents were divided over their food value. How are Cheestrings viewed now? Can food be fun and functional at the same time, these days?

Cheestrings has been a staple with families up and down the country for 23 years, bought by over 27,000 households1 – and is still a fan favourite now. We know that cheese snacking is on the rise with 62% of shoppers buying more cheese snacks than last year and 31% of shoppers adding cheese snacks to their shopping basket for the first time2. This gives us an exciting and productive space to tap into, particularly when thinking about the children’s lunchbox occasion.

As well as the rise in snacking, we also know that people are looking for healthier alternatives. Parents are faced with the challenge of providing their children with a nutritious snack, while at the same time appealing to their sense of fun. Children are continually looking for ways to make food more entertaining and mealtimes should be an opportunity for them to unleash their creativity. That’s where Cheestrings comes in – made with one glass of milk (180ml) and real cheese which is heated and stretched to make it stringy and playful, it taps into the demand for healthy yet fun snack options that appeal to children and parents alike. With this in mind, we believe that food doesn’t have to be exclusively functional or fun – our Masterbrand Strings & Things which features the Cheestrings, Cheeshapes and Yollies ranges offers consumers both; helping to spark creativity and imagination in children while providing important nutrients in snack form. Currently, only 7% of kid’s lunchboxes contain a cheese snack,3 so there’s a real opportunity for us here to drive the category and become the number one brand.

Last year you brought your kids’ dairy snacking range under a new masterbrand Strings & Things, bringing together Cheestrings, the UK’s most frequently purchased, Cheeshapes, a range of “funny faces and shapes” and Yollies yogurt lollies. What have you done since then in Strings & Things?

It’s been an incredibly exciting 12 months for us at Kerry Foods with the launch of our Strings & Things Masterbrand, which includes our popular Cheestrings range, as well as our broader range of products across children’s snacks – Cheeshapes and Yollies – allowing us to really drive innovation in the category. We’re continually looking at ways to innovate within the category and bring the Strings & Things sense of fun and play to the sector – so stay tuned!

Also last year, you spearheaded what you called a new movement in fresh protein snacking by bringing your snacking solutions under the Fridge Raiders master brand. How has that been received by consumers and what’s happened in that area since?

Snacking has experienced exponential growth recently – seeing an extra 300m snacking occasions each year4. This puts snacking ahead of total food consumption, which is a significant milestone for the category. However, we’ve also seen a shift in the types of snacks shoppers are choosing, moving away from the traditional ‘sugary treat’. With consumers living healthier, yet busier lifestyles, we are seeing a rise in those turning to healthy snacks that will provide energy throughout the day.

When choosing healthier snacks, 76% of people are looking specifically for protein,5 which is where our Fridge Raiders portfolio can play a pivotal role. Fridge Raiders encompasses a range of great tasting protein snacks including Chicken Bites, Pork Feasts and Cheese and Nuts Combos, all of which are convenient to eat whilst on the move.

This year, we also expanded our range to include the BIG EAT 90g bag across our Roast, Southern Style and BBQ Chicken Bites. We noticed a trend in consumers looking for a nutritional, protein snack to power them throughout the day and as such created a larger version of these fan-favourite meat snacks. All packs contain 17-19g of protein, making them a great option for those looking for a healthy snack to provide energy – perhaps before the gym or just on-the-go during a busy day at work.

Another major area of change we’re seeing in the UK grocery market is shifting attitudes to Meat-Free. It’s a strong focus for your consumer brand portfolio with Richmond Meat-Free and Naked Glory. How big in sales terms are Richmond Meatfree now? Who’s buying them?

For us, ‘the rise of meat-free’ isn’t just a fad or temporary trend – it’s a mainstream lifestyle choice for many consumers. In fact, 22% of people are trying to reduce their red meat consumption in the UK.6 As such, we’re committed to investing in the category for the long-term. We’ll be working closely with our partners to make the new meat-free additions to our portfolio a success, while supporting retailers to make the most of this new category and ensuring they’re reaching shoppers in the most effective way.

Initial responses to our Richmond Meat-Free Sausages have been overwhelmingly positive. Our research told us that the products currently in the meat-free space weren’t delivering to consumers on aspects such as taste or texture. This is something we’ve worked really hard to deliver on through our new range and we’re pleased that our Richmond fans (as well as vegans and vegetarians!) have embraced the new Meat-Free range as an addition to the existing pork and chicken options.

While the Meat-Free market is clearly booming in the UK (a total of 4.4 billion meat-free dinners were consumed in 2018 – an increase of 150 million meals compared to the year before7), what’s more interesting is the fact that 92% of plant-based meals are actually eaten by non-vegans.8 There is a massive pool of meat-eaters looking to reduce their meat consumption that supermarkets can tap into – and what better way to do so than with the Nation’s Favourite sausage brand.9

With this in mind, our Richmond Meat-Free range has been created to cater to existing Richmond customers who may be looking to moderate their consumption of meat – as well as those who may be new to the brand. Throughout the innovation process, we’ve drawn upon our 100+ years of experience making sausages to create the perfect Meat-Free sausage that doesn’t sacrifice great taste or texture – right down to the crispy skin we know our fans love! This means our Meat-Free Sausages can easily be used in place of a meat product at mealtimes, making it a simple swap for consumers and helping to make Richmond Sausages accessible for everyone in the UK to enjoy.

This accessibility has been key for Kerry Foods both in the launch of Richmond Meat-Free Sausages and our new Naked Glory range. We want to make the meat-free category accessible to the mass-market, so while our Richmond Meat-Free Sausages are designed for the existing Richmond customer, we welcome those following a vegetarian or vegan diet to try them out as well!

What’s in the Naked Glory range?

The debut range consists of four chilled SKUs: No-Meat Balls, Sausages, Mince and Quarter Pounders. Catering to the rising demand for meat-free alternatives, while still delivering on great taste, texture and quality, the range offers an array of options that will appeal to meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. Through Naked Glory, we’ve brought to market an upbeat brand that delivers succulent, mouth-watering meat-free food that will excite those looking for meat-free options. It’s a destination brand for meat-free across a variety of meal occasions and is set to shake up the category with its new range bringing ‘the meatiest thing since meat’ to shoppers.

What are the Naked Glory range made with?

The main ingredients in the Naked Glory range are expertly seasoned soya and wheat protein. Soya beans are known for being low in saturated fat and high in protein. These proteins are hydrated, mixed and formed to make succulent Sausages, Quarter Pounders, No-Meat Balls and Mince. The rehydrated soya is what helps to give that meat-like texture, making Naked Glory the ‘meatiest thing since meat’.

Will you be bringing out more Naked Glory products? What about Naked Glory ready meals?

This is an area with huge growth potential, and we are always looking to innovate to cater to our consumer’s evolving tastes and preferences. All eyes are on Naked Glory at Kerry Foods HQ at the moment, and we’re hard at work on a number of amazing new meat-free products in the background – keep your eyes peeled for more exciting developments!

As a company with a product portfolio from meaty to meat-free, do you have a consistent message for retailers? How do you sum up your approach?

Our key approach at Kerry Foods is ensuring we understand what consumers are looking for and how they’re behaving. We want to ensure that we’re responding to the evolving needs and preferences of consumers, and it’s clear that consumers today are not only demanding meat-free alternatives, but are demanding more from the options previously available to them. They don’t want to have to compromise on taste or texture – consumers want high quality, great tasting meat-free options and we’re here to deliver that.

We want Richmond Meat-Free Sausages and Naked Glory ranges to be accessible to as many UK shoppers as possible – from meat-eaters and flexitarians to vegetarians and vegans. As such, offering greater choice is a key part of our approach when working with retailers and something we’re dedicated to achieving through our diverse portfolio.

With this in mind, we need – as an industry – to rethink the way we approach and sell ‘meat-free’ products and ensure we’re not just focusing on those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Retailers need to be thinking as well about ‘meat moderators’ and ensuring they’re not missing out on potential customers here – especially when many of those driving the meat-free category are those enjoying flexitarian diets.

We’re committed to delivering a portfolio to our customers that caters to different tastes and preferences. That means using our long-standing expertise to tap into this growing meat-free category, while at the same time continuing to build upon our successful range of tasty meat options – with the two working in tandem to bring greater choice to shoppers.

Where should these products be located in store? How should they be merchandised and what should promotional materials focus on from a messaging point of view?

While the Meat-Free market is on the rise, interestingly 92% of plant-based meals are eaten by non-vegans.10 There is a massive pool of meat-eaters looking to reduce their meat consumption that retailers stores can tap into. As such, it’s important for retailers to consider where they are positioning meat-free products in store. At Kerry Foods, we’re encouraging shop-owners to stock our meat-free offerings – Richmond Meat-Free Sausages and Naked Glory range (No-Meat Balls, Sausages, Mince and Quarter Pounders) – in the meat aisle. This means that when consumers are planning meals, they are able to view the meat and meat-free options side by side, seeing how easy it would be for them to make a simple swap to meat-free alternatives – whether that be switching Richmond Pork Sausages for Meat-Free Sausages one week or swapping a beef burger for the Naked Glory Quarter Pounder.

This is where POS and signposting will become vital for retailers to guide consumers and ensure they’re not missing out on potential shoppers – communicating meat-free offerings to meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. This could be as simple as a signpost in the vegetarian/vegan section that states ‘come and find more meat-free products in the meat aisle’. This will help retailers to reach shoppers with a range of dietary preferences, so that they’re making their meat-free products accessible to as many people as possible. It’s also hugely important for retailers to educate the staff working in store on this signage and positioning, so that they can confidently support the shopper journey for everyone – whether that’s meat-eaters, vegetarians or vegans.

Another key point for retailers to note is that it isn’t enough to just stock a couple of meat-free products – retailers needs to ensure they’re offering shoppers greater choice within the category. Our new Naked Glory range for example features No-Meat Balls, Sausages, Mince and Quarter Pounders – all of which can be incorporated into mealtime favourites like toad in the hole or spaghetti bolognese. Why not go one step further and use in-aisle signage like wobblers or aisle fins to give shoppers potential recipe ideas while they’re browsing the meat-free range in store – highlighting the different ways they could build meat-free into their mealtimes? Our insights have shown that consumers who are new to the meat-free category are often concerned that it may be more difficult to cook with meat-free products. This signage could therefore also be used to myth-bust and demonstrate to consumers how they can use these products in the same ways as their usual meat options – making it a simple swap for shoppers.

What do you see as the biggest consumer opportunities for Meatfree and Kerry Foods generally, going onwards?

Meat-free is a consumer trend that’s here to stay and many are looking for more choice within the category – particularly those that offer great quality, taste and texture – which is what we’re doing through both our Naked Glory and Richmond Meat-Free ranges. This is an area with huge growth potential, which is why we’re committed to further innovation to cater to consumers’ evolving tastes and preferences.

Naked Glory in particular is bringing a much-needed shake-up to the meat-free category by providing retailers with greater choice for their shoppers. From our research, we know that meat-reducing consumers are increasingly looking for better taste and texture from their meat-free products and Naked Glory perfectly fits this gap in the market. This is a huge opportunity for us moving forward, as we look to cement our position in the meat-free category. We want to ensure that consumers are being given a range of great tasting alternatives in their quest for satisfying meat-free meals and are confident that our latest product ranges will help retailers cater to this.

Another key opportunity for us to tap into is the rise of snacking amongst UK consumers. Over recent years, we’ve become a nation of snackers – the biggest in Europe in fact, with 95% of adults reporting to have eaten snacks in the two weeks to March 2019. Snacking has therefore seen the largest growth within the food-to-go sector and is currently worth £25 billion in the UK.11 The advent of chilled snacking is bringing a whole new dimension, and therefore opportunity, to the industry – particularly when paired with the fact that 44% of adults view snacks as a good way to boost their nutritional intake.12

Consumers are now looking to products such as snackable chicken snacks and nuts for this, including the likes of our Fridge Raiders Chicken Bites and Cheese and Nut Combos. When choosing healthier snacks, 76% of people are specifically looking for protein13 – another key opportunity for us, where meat snacks can play a pivotal role. Fridge Raiders encompasses a range of protein snacks that respond directly to this consumer need, with our Chicken Bites, Pork Feasts and Chicken and Ham Pots all providing retailers with convenient options that are easy for consumers to eat whilst on the move.

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