Innovative Retailers – All About Food

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The Name: All About Food
The Place: On the shelves of all the leading food retailers and one restaurant in Dartington, Devon.


The Story: OK, so it’s not strictly a retailer, or a manufacturer, or a distributor. It’s more of a licensee. But it’s a cracking idea and no one else is doing it so I’m going to tell you about it.

Phil Lynas: Knows all about food.
Fire ahead:Back in late 1990s Phil Lynas, the MD, worked at Pataks and was a man who knew his table sauces, dips and marinades. The well known South African restaurant brand Nando’s approached Lynas to help them understand the UK market better as they felt it could be a big market for their range of cooking sauces. And before you can say Peri Peri Chicken Lynas was running a new business importing and distributing their lines – Nando’s Grocery.
Hot stuff, but one product does not a portfolio make: Quite right. In 2002 cult veggie brand Cranks went into administration and closed its restaurants. Lynas snapped it up out of administration sensing a great opportunity to use the brand and develop its range of sandwiches and ambient food for the supermarket. (One restaurant is still operating under the Cranks brand in Dartington, Devon.) And now in Holland & Barrett and Waitrose for example you can buy the famous sandwiches with names like Hey Pesto, Fungus Maximus, and It’s the Slaw.
OK, that’ll do:No, I like them. Eggstacy, Cheddar Gorge and Argi Bhaji .
Enough already:Fine. The next thing is that Nando’s Grocery changed its name. Well, it was a bit off having the chicken-protecting Cranks brand paired with the chicken-eating Nando’s brand. So, The Grocery Company was born. And at this point the Lynas factor comes into play.
The what? His oft quoted line ‘Two’s company. Three’s a strategy.’ He approached Wagamamma in 2006 and developed with them a line of stir fry sauces and obviously on a roll he successfully tendered for the contract to do the same with Pizza Express salad dressings. So with such an international spread of food they finally changed the business to All About Food in 2008.
Phew: They turned over £15m last year and expect to be 10% up on that this year. And all this from the simple idea of getting the sauces and marinades that you like using in your favourite restaurant on your table at home. La Tasca now has four Spanish sauces in Asda, Gourmet Burger Kitchen has a range of burgers in Waitrose and Wahaca is the latest launch with three Mexican table sauces. Mexican and French (!!) cuisines by the way are Lynas’ hot tips to watch.
I’m sensing a trend here: Well spotted, Lynas firmly believes that the casual dining brands work best for this model. He could sell lots and lots of KFC developed products but the model would not support a good profit margin. Likewise he could sell a very upmarket range from The Ivy but probably wouldn’t sell much. Where he wants to be is where your average family go and expend a reasonable amount on a dinner reasonably often. He wants experiential brands so that when the consumer reaches for a bottle of Pizza Express salad dressing they trust that it will turn their meal at home into the same experience that they enjoyed in the restaurant. The social engagement with the brand is a great starting point.
And who else is on his radar? There is a biggie launching on the horizon but he is remaining tight lipped – the only clue is that he has to source very ethically for the range. Go figure. In terms of the whole company they do not want brands that cannibalise each other. They have an Italian, a Mexican, a South African, a Spanish brand already but the most important thing is that the portfolio operates well in core categories like being very scale-able both for manufacturer and retailer.
Here’s a hot-seller for you.
Talking of scale, who exactly is making all these sauces for them? It works like this. There are three manufacturing plants in South Africa – not surprising since 85-90% of sales are driven by Nando’s. There are two suppliers in Italy (Pizza Express products come from there) and four in the UK. The timeline from approaching a brand to launching on shelves is around 9-12 months and in that time you have to work with the restaurants’ development chefs on the product, with their design agencies on the packaging, organise a promotional campaign, and gear up the manufacturers. His growing sales force then focuses on the multiple grocers and he uses another company to work on cash & carry/convenience stores and the like. And most important of all…
Yes?  Protect the brand. These are big restaurant chains with multi-million pound turnovers. Their scale means Lynas does not need shops himself. As he says, there are hundreds of shop-fronts for the Pizza Express range of salad dressings, and they are called Pizza Express restaurants.
Genius. And his own ideal sauce brought to market would be? Ah, the steak and ale pie sauce from his local pub the Eagle and Child, known locally as the Bird and Bastard. Yes, thank you, it’s a family show. Seriously now, Lynas sees no shortage of new brand opportunities and still thinks there is vast mileage in the brands they already have. In fact the only thing he needs now is the one thing he can do nothing about.
And that is? For the ‘blooming sun to come out’ because that’s when he sells shed loads of his sunny products.
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