Country Range has over 750 own-label lines, with sales valued at £86m. Better Wholesaling spoke to trading director Martin Ward.
BW: How is your own-label business performing?
MW: There are now more than 750 lines in the portfolio and the brand is growing by 30% year on year. In 2014, we launched 41 products in addition to more than 100 new lines introduced over the past two years, all of which have become successfully established.
All in all, while the range may not be the cheapest ‘own-label’, it is a quality alternative to brands and provides the best cost in use. Developed to compete on a level with brands while helping caterers make cost savings, each Country Range product offers complete peace of mind that it is sourced responsibly, with each product audited to the highest standards.
What lines have you introduced and why?
This year we launched butcher’s-style sausages, which have a 70% meat content and answer demand for cost-effective products for premium breakfasts and on-trend ‘classic’ dishes. We also launched gourmet cod fish fingers to tap into the ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich craze. Our latest product launch is unsmoked back bacon with 38-42 rindless rashers per 2.27kg pack, primarily to help caterers tap into the growing breakfast occasion, with 41% of consumers now eating cooked breakfasts out of home.
Why are you refreshing your packaging?
With the new FIR 2013 labelling laws coming into effect, it was the ideal opportunity to give the range a bit of a facelift. Crucially, it will have clearer nutrition information. The first products to have the new design will be our sorbets, with the rest of the products coming through over the next year. We have deliberately made the design changes quite subtle so the new look can sit side by side with the old design without causing confusion.
How will your own-label strategy help wholesalers grow sales in the next six months?
Caterers’ margins are being squeezed from all sides. With increased costs and consumers expecting more for their money, own-brands enable caterers to deliver quality food at a cheaper price. There is no need for them to compromise on their offer, while protecting their margin. It does need to be a quality own-brand like Country Range, though, as some own-labels don’t deliver.
How do you differentiate your own-label offering from other groups’?
Country Range is great quality and priced to provide value for caterers and enhanced margins for wholesalers. This is crucial when consumers’ expectations continue to rise, intertwined with the fact that 37% of consumers frequently visit places that charge less than £10.
The Country Range brand offers a vast range of ambient, chilled and frozen foods and non-foods in foodservice sizes that can now be ordered and delivered on one truck the following day. Caterers buying Country Range products also have access to Stir It Up, the group’s monthly magazine, as well as K2N, our nutritional software, which can be used to find out a product’s allergen information.