Exports are driving record growth for meat alternative Quorn. But how can it now move on from veggie favourite to a sought-after brand for all?
Today, Quorn is a household name, even beating Heinz Ketchup and Doritos in a list of the UK’s biggest food brands back in 2013.
And where just a few products once sat in shops, a range of up to 150 is now available, with surging sales helping the company to achieve record growth last year at a time when most food manufacturers saw flat sales.
Much of this growth is down to Quorn’s successful export operation. The North Yorkshire company experienced surging sales in all 15 countries it directly supplies, with exports accounting for 19% of revenue.
“2014 was the year when we really started to realise Quorn’s potential for growth all over the world,” says Kevin Brennan, Quorn CEO. “For the first time in the company’s history, we achieved sales of over £150m. What’s more, an increasing number of carnivores are buying into our brand, now accounting for three-quarters of our customer base.”
In particular, its US operation is seeing huge growth with like-for-like sales up 25% in the second half of 2014, rising to 48% in the final quarter. Much of this growth is down to Quorn creating its own stateside team at the beginning of 2014 in order to improve its access to the major distributors. Since then, the company has seen a massive lift in trading, ending the year with 30% more distribution.
After a trial with Walmart, the company quadrupled its distribution with the retail giant to the point where its products are now available in 2,300 stores across the country. “Clearly the US is a market that offers massive potential for growth,” says Brennan, “and, on the back of an extremely positive 2014 which culminated in like-for-like sales growth of 88%, we’re aiming to create a stateside operation four times its current size by 2019.”
Elsewhere, Quorn recorded an 8.4% increase in like-for-like sales in Switzerland last year, while strong growth continued in the Nordics for the third year running, with sales volumes increasing by 5.5% over 2014.
“Following successful launches in Germany, Finland and Denmark last year, we’re also looking to expand into at least one new market in 2015 as we strive to create a $1bn business, four to five times its current size. After last year, we really are generating momentum towards this goal,” says Brennan.
According to Mr Brennan, the company’s commitment to understanding the needs of consumers all over the world, and adapting products where necessary to appeal to local tastes, is a big factor behind its success.
“We have continental style sausages developed for Germany, Holland and Switzerland and while lasagne sells all over the world, the American version has to have basil in it instead of oregano. And in Belgium the lasagne has to have a frill, otherwise it’s just not considered to be lasagne.
“In the US, the chicken style nuggets we sell are better than the competition, but we’ve had to darken the colour of our nuggets. That’s because, where we sell them, if it’s not grilling season, it’s microwave season – they won’t turn an oven on – so our nuggets were coming out pale!”
Such attention to detail is already delivering strong results, and with £40m being invested over the next 12 months to deliver further growth and a host of new and exciting products set to be unveiled, 2015 looks like being a big year for Quorn.