Noting that 26m UK citizens consume too much salt, according to Food Standards Agency (FSA) statistics, and with 75% of intake coming from salt formulated within foods, Seabrook aims to attract consumers who usually shun crisps on health grounds.
Goodbye salt, hello flavour?
Md John Tague told FoodManufacture.co.uk that Seabrook had spent £1.5m and many years developing its ‘Goodbye salt, hello flavour’ crisp range - which includes no added salt, no MSG or ‘nasty’ additives - to achieve a taste consistent with the best salted varieties.
Production started this Wednesday, with new lines scheduled to hit supermarket shelves on February 1, and the new ‘jacket potato’ crisp flavours include Mediterranean tomato and herb, tomato ketchup, caramelised onion, and creamy butter. Seabrook plans to produce 100m bags of its new range in year one.
“Some ingredients are natural sources of sodium, and hence in the ingredients list are counted against salt levels, according to government guidelines, but we haven’t added any salt during the manufacturing process,” said Tague.
He refused to disclose what Seabrook had replaced salt with – given its importance for flavour, texture and as a preservative – but said: “The new range took over two years to develop, and we were due to launch it in 2010, but weren’t completely happy with the taste.
“We are positioning the range as a healthier alternative, and we realise that we need to match conventional lines in taste terms; we’re also targeting people who like crisps but don’t eat them because of salt levels, who aren’t currently active in the category.”
New investment plans
As a supplier to the likes of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, Seabrook has seen strong grown in recent years: predicting a £34m turnover figure for the year ending September 2011 (it was £12m in 2007/8) Tague said it was on course to exceed “by some way” its 2015 target of £63m.
“We’ve seen phenomenal growth, and have invested £5.2m in plant upgrades (including a robotic packaging machine) over the past two and a half year to reach our targets, grow comfortably and still have supply in the market,” he said.
“We’ve just signed-off an additional £2m investment and hope to invest another £1.5m towards the back end of this year.”
With Seabrook’s Bradford facility able to support sales of up to £60-70m, Tague told this publication last August that the firm was considering building a further factory in the Northampton area to serve southern customers.
Asked if plans had progressed since then, he said: “We have certain goals to reach at the Bradford over the next two years, but a decision on a second site is still in our plans, and is likely to be somewhere south of Birmingham.”
‘Terrible’ input costs
Tague said input cost pressures facing the firm were “terrible, with unprecedented recent increases” on packaging, oil and potatoes, where a shortage of the latter in particular had driven prices up, "although they would have risen anyway”.
As a result Seabrook had to pass cost rises on to customers earlier this month, Tague said. “Fingers-crossed, all our customers have been pretty reasonable about this so far. And it’s not just our problem, the whole market has been affected.
“Of course, it’s always difficult in these situations, because the retailers are only doing their job by trying to keep prices down.”