Stiletto Foods md Jeremy Woods says the secret of his firm’s success, following a raft of new retail listings for its £15m gluten- and wheat-free brand Mrs Crimble’s – is the fact that it is a bakery business first and foremost, then a ‘free from’ foods producer.
Mrs Crimble’s has announced new listings in 500 Co-operative stores (with three lines in a free from fixture), while the brand is also extending its distribution with Tesco, and has two new lines going into all Asda stores.
This success reflects recent growth in the UK gluten-free market: bread, sweet biscuit and cakes sales rose 14.8% year-on-year to December 2010 (Kantar Worldpanel) with consumers buying for health and, increasingly, for lifestyle reasons.
"Although some people are discovering that they feel better when they cut gluten out of their diet, I think the main reason for our success is that more and more people with no allergies at all have been buying our products," said Woods.
He told FoodManufacture.co.uk that he is still keen to broaden Mrs Crimble’s brand appeal (which includes cookies, cakes, biscuits, cake mixes) by winning more listings beyond gluten-free sections in major supermarkets.
He told this publication last May: “I’ve been fairly vocal about this. I want to be on the main fixture. Something like 20% of the population regularly buys into the free-from category. That’s a big business opportunity.”
So how did he assess the situation 11 months on? “It’s going well. For instance, Sainsbury’s chose to stock our chocolate and orange mini macaroons in the cake, rather than the ‘free from’ aisle … Asda, on the other hand, elected for ‘free from’.”
Fair crack of the whip
Asked whether financial muscle could be used to secure the fixture of choice, Woods said: “Look, I’m sure if you’ve got, say, £10m to spend [on a product] then you can do what the hell you like. We don’t, but I feel we get a fair crack of the whip.
“At the end of the day, any new product must meet the needs of the consumer, tick all the boxes in terms of demonstrating that your product and brand work.”
While the recession and its aftermath have put paid to NPD for many firms, Stiletto has continued to expand the Mrs Crimble’s range and brand, branching-out into mini macaroons and even stuffing mixes.
Said Woods: “Smaller people like ourselves are doing what we feel we have to do. If you’re a big player like, say Cadbury, and you launch a new chocolate bar, you’ve got to be damned sure it’s going to work [given the financial risks involved]."
“We’ve still got quite a few ideas in the locker, and the NPD process [from conception to sale] can be as short as 3-9 months, depending on range reviews and listing opportunities, how the new product fits in.”
With gluten-free appeal rising around the world, Mrs Crimble’s announced in March that it is growing exports to Australia, Denmark and the US, so does Woods identify any one market as particularly promising?
“I think it’s fair to say that US will be a bigger market than Denmark,” he said. He added that the UK was well ahead of other markets for gluten-free foods both in respect of quality and quantity, which is “helping us gain export business”.
Woods refused to disclose Stiletto Foods’ turnover: “A lot of people get very excited about that .. but we prefer to discuss overall brand value."