Pure Indulgence: Luxurious treats for the health conscious shopper

In a world where healthy eating is encouraged and chocolate is cheating, the indulgent food and drink market must be suffering? Apparently not. Margot Knight asks three new businesses about their success


Issue 8

There are times when we make the decision to indulge. For some, this means grabbing a sneaky chocolate bar in the queue at a shop, but for others it involves research and careful consideration. Their choice of indulgence is based on quality and taste. A low calorie count, while an added bonus, is not essential to their decision-making process.

"I think I'm like lots and lots of people out there. I want balance in my life and sometimes I want to have a treat. And if I'm going to have a treat, I want a treat to deliver what I wanted...a high quality, indulgent treat that satisfies that particular need," states Andrew Sherick, managing director of luxury milkshake company Mr Sherick's.

We look at the success of three young, indulgent and premium food and drink brands. Gourmet popcorn company Joe & Seph's and artisan chocolate bar and cake makers Broderick's share a background as family-run businesses established in 2010. The former closed last financial year at just over £1 million sales and the latter doubled in sales.

Eat Well, Drink Well: A challenging environment?

Innova Market Insights predicted the rise of more "aware shoppers" in 2013. These consumers who are more informed about value and health are increasingly influencing the market. Then in January this year, American-based AlixPartners published a report titled "Eat Well, Drink Well" stating that consumers are growing more health conscious. Their research revealed that superusers - consumers who spend more than 40% of their budget on health and wellness products - have "clear retail channel preferences" and "are willing to pay more for certain health and wellness features".

The environment for indulgent food and drink, then, does not seem ideal. However Mr Sherick's, Joe & Seph's and Broderick's, who are all in the business of delivering high quality, pure tasting, indulgent snacks and treats, have not only managed to survive, but have found success. What is their secret?

The perfect taste: catering to consumer needs

While most popcorn companies fry their corn to pop it, Joe & Seph's blasts it with hot air. Co-founder Joseph Sopher, explains: "By effectively air popping the corn, we start with the perfect raw material. And then we can add on our own flavours and our own ingredients exactly as we want to get the perfect taste."

Bernard Broderick, co-owner of Broderick's, says they have "completely concentrated on taste", intentionally choosing distributors who "will try and have our products in places where they will be looked after." He adds: "Our whole thought process is that once people taste it.... we should have them wanting more."

On consumer needs, Sherick says: "I think lots of consumers want to eat high quality, great tasting food made with fabulous ingredients that will really satisfy them, and that is what we're aiming to deliver. We're not trying to be anything other than that."

Original marketing: driving success

Broderick's believes their original marketing style is another big driver behind their success. Also known as 'The Cake Crusaders', the Broderick brothers favour a fun and creative approach to marketing, something fairly obvious by the imaginative names they give to their products, e.g. the Rollypolly Crunchy Oats in a Stickywicky Coat, the Belgy Nicker Nutty Dripper Drop, and company vehicles, such as the 'Sticky Wicky Licky Lorry' (the genius of a seven-year-old) soon to be joined by 'Handsome Bob' after its driver. "If it's a bit of a laugh, we will try and do it," says Broderick.

Quality ingredients: prestigious produce

Also common to all three brands is their use of high quality ingredients. Mr Sherick's Shakes, for example, uses real cocoa mass and Belgian chocolate chips for their Pot au Choc, and luxury Madagascan vanilla and real cookie pieces for their Cookies & Cream. "All of our products have inclusions, real high quality food ingredients, inclusions that add a different texture and taste and really deliver," says Sherick.

The Broderick brothers entered the indulgent food market in the 1990s, joining their mother's business, selling cakes and desserts to cafes and restaurants around Dublin. Their products contain real Irish butter, Irish oats, handmade caramel and handmade Belgian chocolate.

Broderick says: "We were used to dealing with chefs all the time and you were told pretty quickly if your product didn't taste good or wasn't up to standard... Once we moved into the snacks side [Broderick's]... why would we try and cheapen it by going back the other direction?"

A healthy balance: indulgent but clean

Because of their quality ingredients, the brands are, in fact, able to provide consumers with health benefits.

"When we started out, calories weren't on our agenda," Sopher says. "But in order to get the best tasting popcorn... we needed to air pop the corn, not fry it." He explains that the ingredients subsequently added to a "far healthier piece of corn" are all natural. "We use nothing artificial in it; we use no preservatives, no colourings. And as a result of that...our salted caramel actually has fewer calories gram for gram than virtually every other so called healthy popcorn on the market."

Broderick believes not all products are as healthy as they claim to be. "A lot of these products aren't actually healthy, a lot of people can see through that." In contrast, Broderick's products are indulgent but contain "clean ingredients", he adds. Broderick's is about to bring out mini versions of all their treats. "With the Broderick's brand, we know we're not going to get there regarding a 'tick all the boxes' kind of product but...a little, nice indulgent treat is what we're aiming at," says Broderick.

Eyes on the small guy: satisfying treats

From the success these brands have achieved in the short time since their beginnings, there seems to be a growing interest in premium, indulgent food and drink. While their backgrounds, personalities and products differ, they do share certain commonalities.

They are clear in their commitment to provide consumers with quality, indulgent treats that truly satisfy. "The milkshake should be a treat, that's why we buy them. We want to be treated so that's what we're doing. And we're [Mr Sherick's] using the highest quality ingredients to make sure we deliver that," says Sherick.

The way they incorporate their personalities into their brands separate them from the crowd. For instance, the Broderick brothers may still be in the family business, but their brand's distinct personality has appealed to consumers far and wide. "We're in 19 different countries now and it looks like we're going to be going into, I would say, between three and five more this year based on the distributors we're talking to now," says Broderick.

Most noticeably, they are all dedicated to providing consumers with a unique taste experience. "Our agenda was always about the best tasting popcorn. That's what it was set out [to be] and along the way we won eleven Great Taste awards which I think helps prove those credentials," says Sopher.

Innova Market Insights' prediction that 2013 would see the rise of more aware shoppers appears to have become a reality. Therefore it seems appropriate that we listen to their advice for 2014 and that we do indeed "look out for the small guy" - small innovators like these who are developing high quality and distinct products that offer small-scale appeal but big trend potential.

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