Quorn’s new owner sees bright meat-free future

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Quorn

Quorn’s new owner sees bright meat-free future
Quorn Foods’ new private equity owner has revealed ambitious international growth plans for the firm’s brands to build upon their “very prominent position” in the UK.

Premier Foods sold Quorn (meat-free mycoprotein products) and Cauldron (tofu) to Exponent Private Equity and Intermediate Capital Group in a £205m deal in late January.

Exponent announced today that it has renamed Quorn ‘Quorn Foods’ and said it wants to build the brand’s world potential, with Quorn already sold in 10 countries worldwide (including the US, where the firm's management says growth is rapid); Premier ceo Robert Schofield previously said that Quorn's priority was the UK market.

Potential money spinner?

Under the Quorn Foods banner Kevin Brennan will continue as ceo, where the former Kellogg’s md and general manager has led Premier Foods’ meat-free division as general manager since last June; ex-Golden Wonder ceo Clive Sharpe has been appointed chairman.

Exponent spokesman Simon Davidson said: “We have invested in Quorn Foods because of the very prominent position of its brands within the UK market and its strong international growth potential.”

One industry source, who wished to remain anonymous, told FoodManufacture.co.uk in January that he thought Quorn certainly had potential, and said Premier was “very hands-off”​ in regard to business management when it acquired Marlow Foods (Quorn’s former owner) and Cauldron in 2005:

“While Quorn really should be the jewel in Premier’s crown – it ticks all the right boxes as a more sustainable source of protein – it has not been a big money maker. But I think it probably could be for someone else​."

Capital expenditure plans?

Davidson said Exponent would back the management team's UK and international growth ambitions, “via investment in advertising and new product development, as well as through capital expenditure and infrastructure improvements”.

But it remains to be seen what Exponent’s precise plans are, given that Premier spent £4m in 2009/10 in a bid to revitalise Quorn and resolve "production inefficiencies​" at its Methwold meat-free packing site, with Cauldron tofu production outsourced and staff numbers cut to reduce overheads.

However, Chris Wragg, Quorn Foods marketing director, said Exponent’s “renewed investment”​ would further drive growth in the meat-free category, and cited IRI (Information Resources) statistics showing meat-free sales up 3.7% for the four weeks ending February 19 2011.

“We are already seeing encouraging growth in 2011 with Quorn growing well ahead of the category. This is the result of strong and consistent TV support, and innovation including the extension of the ready meal range in January, with more to follow through spring,”​ he said.

Quorn said it is using a current £4m+ television marketing campaign to stress the brand’s health credentials, claiming that a change from regular- to Quorn mince can reduce fat content in meals by up to 75%.

With a 2010 turnover of £128.8m (£16.1m operating profit), Quorn Foods employs around 595 employees across UK manufacturing sites in Stokesley, (North Yorkshire) Belasis on Teesside and Methwold in Norfolk.

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