Gama spoke to John Winnard, Managing Director, William Santus.
What are your day to day activities as Managing Director?
I see my role as facilitating the smooth running of the business. This involves monitoring key indicators such as quality, profitability, managing costs and sales, but also making sure that we are meeting the requirements and needs of our customers. The less involvement needed to achieve this the happier I am. Increasingly I have to keep abreast of current legislation to ensure that we comply with the legal requirements of not just the UK but also of the countries that we supply. I am fortunate to have a brother and a son in the business and their knowledge of the production processes and staffing enable me to concentrate on other areas of the company.
What key trends do you expect to shape food innovation in 2015?
I think there will be a continued increase in healthier foods and there will be more people eating “gluten free” and “free from” products. People will always want a treat but will take a keener interest in the ingredients of the food they consume. Natural ingredients and no artificial additives will be paramount to consumers and people will get used to eating less colourful foods as they understand that manufacturers sometime use artificial colouring and flavouring to enhance the look and taste of their products.
What should manufacturers do to be successful in the current economic climate?
One of our goals is to exceed customer expectations and if you are achieving this then most customers would not look for alternative suppliers. It is important to know your market place and try to identify where your products will sit within future trends. Slight adjustments may have to be made to existing products or new products may have to be developed in order to satisfy the needs of consumer demands. Risk and reward have to be fully assessed before proceeding with new product development and it always helps to be one step ahead of your competitors. One of our strengths is to react to market demands as soon as possible. We managed to turn around NPD for a major supermarket, who gave us a brief requiring Halloween confectionery, within four days. We developed four new flavours and packaging and got products to stores within a week.
Which markets (countries) or consumer groups currently offer the greatest growth opportunities for FMCG companies?
Countries where people are becoming more affluent and can afford the luxuries of high end English sweets are the places we are targeting. Japan and China are markets where we are seeing an increase in sales as British goods are being sought by discerning buyers who recognise the quality of the goods being exported from the UK. In these countries these goods are becoming a status symbol. Midsized emerging markets, such as Mexico, Turkey, Poland, Egypt and Malaysia, look as though they will have potential for us in the future and we will continue to monitor their suitability.
How do companies best achieve growth in developed or saturated markets?
The most important factor is to make sure that your “brand” stands out from the rest. Whether it is for the name, the quality, the price, the service or the reliability, you must ensure that people remember you for all the right reasons. Unfortunately if you fail in any of these areas then you get remembered for all the wrong reasons. There is always someone waiting to take your place in the market place but conversely if any of your competitors slip up and you have got everything in place then you also have the opportunity to replace their products on the shelf. It is important to also look for areas where your product may fit in a sector that you do not currently supply. In our case we started to look at the gift trade sector and that meant that we started to supply tourist attractions, garden centres and so on.
From a marketing perspective, how is the way companies are looking to reach and engage with consumers changing? How can a brand successfully resonate with consumers?
We have invested in a flow wrapping machine that will enable us to wrap up to 2000 sweets a minute in packaging that will extend the shelf life of our natural product to over twelve months. This means that the sweets will arrive to the consumer tasting as fresh as when they left the factory. The wrapper is also branded with the Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball logo on each individual wrapper which helps strengthen the image of the product. It is important that the consumer has faith in the quality of your goods and you always deliver the same quality that is demanded and promised. Building up a brand image takes many years in order to gain the trust of people but it only takes a moment to lose everything that has been achieved.