Ginsters Marketing Controller talks to The Grocery Trader
In a few short years Ginsters has gone from being a Cornwall-based Cornish pasty manufacturer to become the UK's leading sandwich and savoury pastry brand, and one of the UK's top overall food brands. Ginsters is committed to building on this success. In the last five years it has invested over £25 million in promoting the Ginsters brand throughout the UK and has attracted 5 million new consumers on the way. Now a major national advertiser, there's more to Ginsters besides Cornish pasties - it continues to innovate with exciting new products addressing today's consumer needs. The latest Ginsters launch is a new range of deep fill pies, signalling an important move for the company into the meal replacement sector. Larry File, Ginsters’ Marketing Controller, spoke to The Grocery Trader.
The Grocery Trader - When and where was Ginsters founded?
The Ginsters pasty business began in 1969, when the Ginster family, who were farmers in Cornwall, hit upon the idea of starting a bakery at their egg packing plant in Callington. They began with a team of four people, hand-making Cornish pasties, and on their first day managed to produce a grand total of 24 pasties. We now bake up to 3 million pastries a week – so it turned out to be rather a good idea!
GT - Have you won any quality awards for your Cornish pasties or other products?
We’ve won two Q Awards for our pasties at the Quality Food & Drink Awards, and recently won 12 ‘firsts’ across our range, including our sausage rolls and pies, at the National Bakery Exhibition. We won the 2004 Food Manufacture Award for Best Food Company in the UK.
GT - How big is Ginsters now?
Our retail sales are worth £225 million, and we currently employ 800 people. This figure includes our bakery in Callington and our 15 regional sales offices.
GT - Who owns Ginsters now?
Ginsters was acquired by the Samworth family in 1977 and is still part of the Samworth Brothers Group. Our chairman David Samworth retires this year, having built one of the most successful privately owned food businesses in the country. The family have very strong links with British agriculture, stretching back to the 19th century, and this has a major influence on our whole business philosophy.
GT - Where does Ginsters sit in the league table of UK food brands?
It’s definitely in the top 10, but the final position depends on how you calculate our brand value. Some high-profile league tables are based solely on sales in multiple grocers - we’re very strong in multiples but also in the convenience and forecourt sectors.
GT - Larry, when did you join Ginsters?
I joined in 1991 from Bates Dorland, then the UK’s biggest ad agency. At that stage the company was worth £25 million and growing rapidly, but the turnover was largely dependent on forecourts. The brief to the Marketing team was to develop Ginsters into a meaningful national brand, and to eventually build a strong presence in the multiples.
GT - How do you summarise your role now?
My role now is similar to back then, but much larger. In essence it’s about managing our consumer communications and trade marketing activity, but I am also heavily involved in NPD, brand design and identity, promotions and exhibitions.
GT - What do you enjoy most of all about your role?
It has been exciting being involved with a brand that’s grown from £25 million to over £200 million in a relatively short time. The other big buzz comes from working with a team who are all enthusiastic, innovative and great fun to work with.
GT - How much of Ginsters' business is in retail?
In value terms, over 85% of our business is in retail, including multiples, forecourts and convenience, but foodservice is an important and growing area. I guess from our experience in developing forecourts as a food channel, we are now finding we can utilise that expertise in other channels such as trains, airlines, ferries, tourist attractions, right through to garden centres and even soft play areas!
GT - What proportion of your sales are Cornish pasties?
Cornish pasties are around 20% of our retail sales. We also produce a wide range of other savoury pastries and sandwiches. The savoury pastries include Cornish pasties, deep-filled slices, sausage rolls, pork pies and our new Deep Fill pies. Our sandwiches span deep-fill products, healthier eating options and wraps.
GT - Do you offer any vegetarian alternatives to meat-based products?
Yes, we produce 10 vegetarian options altogether, including deep-filled cheese and onion slices, ploughman’s and egg salad sandwiches. What we do is to offer options that satisfy the needs of vegetarians while also appealing to a much broader audience.
GT - Which part of your retail business is growing fastest?
We’ve recently been growing fastest in the multiples, essentially because five years ago we didn’t have the necessary national brand recognition. Since we’ve made Ginsters famous as a national brand, we’ve been able to progress into the multiples and gain greater depth of distribution there.
GT - How much of your production is in Cornwall these days?
Virtually all our savoury pastry products are made in Cornwall at the Lynher bakery in Callington, on the same site where we started, although it has expanded considerably, with over £20 million invested in upgrading our facilities in the last three years alone.
Ginsters sandwiches are made by Bradgate Bakery in Leicester and Melton Foods in Melton Mowbray, two of our sister companies in the Samworth Brothers Group. Bradgate is a previous winner of Sandwich Manufacturer of the Year and Melton is the current holder of that title. So as a brand we are really fortunate to have access to the two best sandwich bakeries in the UK.
GT - What makes a good Cornish pasty?
Well, what we do is to use fresh ingredients from local Cornish farms, to an authentic recipe, and fill the pasty to the brim so that it gives a really satisfying eat. Of course, our other secret weapon is that we have Cornish staff who have lived and breathed pasties since they were born. For example, our head chef grew up in Cornwall and is called Graham Cornish – so it doesn’t get more authentic than that!
GT - Which parts of the UK are Cornish pasties most popular in - presumably not just Cornwall?
Ginsters Cornish pasties are popular everywhere. Even in the early days, we had sales offices in London, Bristol and Birmingham. We’ve been ‘exporting’ pasties from Cornwall to the big conurbations for nearly thirty years, and these remain the focal point of our sales.
GT - What proportion of your UK retail business is in supermarkets, Co-ops and convenience store chains?
The current figure is 60% for savoury pastries. Sandwiches are a different story – the multiples, for example, list a wide range of our savouries, but don’t necessarily sell Ginsters branded sandwiches. We think there is a real opportunity for the Ginsters sandwich range to bring new consumers into the Multiples. Watch this space!
GT - What products do you supply to the multiple retail outlets?
We supply a range of pasties, deep-filled slices and pastry rolls - sausage, Cornish and other pork products, such as the ‘Roaster.’ We also supply 4-pack multi-packs of pasties and sausage rolls.
GT - What is their typical shelf life?
Our savouries’ shelf life is 9 days and 3 days for sandwiches.
GT - What is the Ginsters brand proposition - why buy from you?
Our consumer proposition is ‘real honest food,’ which characterises the Ginsters brand. There’s a lot of cynicism among consumers about misleading product labels and dodgy food ingredients, but ever since we started, we’ve used good quality, honest, fresh ingredients. For the retailer, that ensures continuous quality and reliability.
As the brand has become more famous, we’ve also grown the overall market, traded consumers up to higher value products, and therefore improved the cash return for our customers.
Our van sales operation delivers to forecourts and c-stores 7 days a week, and we can replenish early opening shops at 6am so their shelves are continually filled and they enjoy excellent availability.
GT - Do you handle your own distribution to the multiples?
Samworth Brothers Distribution handles Ginsters’ stock movements from our bakeries to the multiples’ RDCs. But we can ‘mix and match’ to suit the Multiples needs: for instance going via RDC’s to the main store and using our van fleet to service their forecourt or convenience formats.
GT - What's the rationale behind Ginsters' new deep fill savoury pies?
Pies are a market we’ve not previously been active in. We’ve waited until we had the right products before launching these pies. It’s an important sector, worth £200 million, but recently only growing at 1% per annum. Meat pies are still very popular, but are held back by cheap, unreliable products at the lower end of the market. Also, there are no major brands or high profile advertising to create consumer interest in this market, which is where we can have a real impact. The challenge is to win over the housewife shopper, who is generally the ‘gatekeeper’ for the family.
Steak and chicken are the UK’s most popular meat pie varieties, so we’ve gone for these variants. Our consumers told us not to overcomplicate things - just keep it simple and do the job well. People want their pies with better quality meat and more of it, not dressed up with fancy vegetables and sauces.
GT - What's the consumer response so far?
We launched the Deep Fill pies on promotion into 350 Sainsbury stores during on 15 August. This promotion is performing really well at the moment. We’re aiming for total sales of £10-15 million in the first year.
GT - How much are you spending on supporting the launch of the new deep-fill savoury pies?
We’re investing £1.2 million on national radio and on a national press campaign in Metro newspaper, together with promotions in consumer magazines like Chat, which target housewives. National radio gives you a high frequency and lets you talk in detail about the quality ingredients. We’re also working with an electronics company to create a pie heater that people can use in their cars, nicknamed the Ginsters Piecrowave.
GT - Which other multiple retail outlets have you got listings in?
We are rolling out into Tesco, Morrisons and Somerfield during September.
GT - How big is the UK 'food to go' market overall? What does it cover?
The market is so diverse that it’s almost impossible to be specific about the actual size. For instance, sandwiches eaten out of the home have an estimated market value of £3.4 billion. Savoury pastries eaten ‘on the go’ add at least a further £400 million. Then you start adding in fast food, crisps, cereal bars, confectionery and the numbers become really huge. No-one stops for lunch any more – they either work through or grab a quick 15 minutes, then have their main meal in the evening. People are also increasingly eating breakfast at work or on their way to work.
In Singapore they are now building apartment blocks without kitchens, because young professional simply don’t eat at home at all. In the US over 50% of all food is now eaten out of home. The UK is heading the same way.
GT - What proportion of 'food to go' products are eaten by men, as opposed to women?
The balance has gone from 70% male versus 30% female to 55:45 in the last 5 years. Not surprising when you consider that the UK now has one of the highest percentages of working women of any country in the world - and the longest working hours in Europe.
GT - Who are your new pies aimed at?
They target both men and women aged 25-40 years. The hot pie market isn’t as “old” as it’s often perceived: 60% of pie consumption at home is by people aged under 40 years
GT - In the multiple retail sector, how many of your products are sold hot as 'food to go' as opposed to being merchandised in the chiller?
It’s currently less than 5%; the chiller is still where it’s at, but we are doing ‘serve hot’ trials, and see this as an important development area.
GT - How are you helping UK multiple retailers to capture the 'food to go' opportunity?
By offering top quality products and then using our advertising and brand support to bring new users to the fixture and drive up growth. But we also have plenty of ideas on how to develop sales in the snacking fixture at front of the store, which offers many retailers a major opportunity for additional profits.
GT - Do you get involved in lunchtime 'meal deals' and other in-store promotions?
Yes, we regularly do ‘BOGOFs’ and meal deals - it’s all about tailoring promotions to the specific needs of each retailer. We prefer to concentrate on retailer-linked activity rather than on-pack promotions.
GT - How much do you spend on consumer advertising overall, and in what media?
We spend £6.5 million in a typical year, which represents 70% of the total ad spend in our category. Half of our spend is on TV and the rest on radio and press. We also use the Internet to showcase the brand and source customer feedback, which we analyse alongside purchasing data.
GT - Do you do any sponsorships targeting the crucial male adult audience?
On TV, we currently sponsor the ‘Friends’ spin-off ‘Joey,’ giving 80 million opportunities for our message to be seen. In sport, we’re shirt sponsors of Plymouth Argyle FC. This summer we linked up with the England RFU to sponsor a new series of Beach Rugby events across the country. We’re also currently sponsoring Bob Brown, the ultra distance runner, who’s running across Europe from Portugal to Russia, fuelled by Ginsters pasties.
GT - What do you see as the major factors impacting on your business?
Of the external factors, health is a global issue for the food industry but this hasn’t had a detrimental impact on the Ginsters brand. The housewives we speak to see our pasties and pies as traditional products which are ‘honest, good food’ like our ads say - unlike other products which turn out not to be so healthy after all.
In a way, our biggest pressures are internal ones. Having grown rapidly over the past few years, and continuing to do so, the key for us is to maintain our quality and service, and not get complacent or lose focus.
GT - Finally, where do you see the Ginsters brand going from here?
We’ve gone from £25 million to over £200 million in 12 years, and aim to continue to grow in both new and existing areas. Following on from the pies launch we have plans to expand into other relevant categories. ‘Real honest food’ is a strong platform for the brand and research suggests the same principles can also be applied in other product areas. With the right product mix, and with the appropriate level of brand support and innovation, we’d expect to see 80% sales growth by the end of the decade.
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