Michelle Russell

Interview: Tyrrells keeps firm eye on export opportunities

By Michelle Russell | 3 January 2013

Tyrrells has a firm eye on overseas growth opportunities

Tyrrells has a firm eye on overseas growth opportunities

As competition in the global snacks market heats up, so to has the need for manufacturers to explore overseas growth opportunities in both developed and emerging markets. Michelle Russell speaks to Tyrrells head of international Laurence Bass about the company's export ambitions and its focus for the future.

It's no secret UK crisp manufacturer Tyrells has its eye on overseas growth opportunities.

Exports have been a focus for Tyrrells for the past four years, Bass tells just-food, and has become the fastest growing part of its business.

"Our key focus markets are France, Germany, Holland and North America. Our business is also growing phenomenally across, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the Middle East. We've just employed a guy based out in Thailand, and he's covering the Asia region for us where China is a focus for us, as is Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Japan."

Last year, the company insisted it believes it can build its fledgling businesses in the emerging markets of India and China - countries where the retail sector remains under-developed.

Tyrrells added China to its list of international markets at the start of last year, selling crisps in high-end c-stores and supermarkets in Beijing and Shanghai. India is a similar story.

This strategy remains central to Tyrrells, but now includes a wider focus, Bass says. The international chief reveals the company is now also looking to Brazil as a potential new market.

"We're not in Brazil at the moment, but we're talking to a couple of guys out there," he tells just-food. "There are lots of markets we're looking at. We're in China, Russia and India. But we're not in Brazil, so that's on the radar."

Another market Bass says is on Tyrrell's "radar" is Turkey. "There are a lot of developing markets we're looking at and where we're talking to people. Turkey is a big market."

However, Tyrrells has not taken its eye of its main markets. These include North America and Canada where the company launched in the summer of 2011. According to Bass, North America is a region in which Tyrells is "doing well".

Instead of targeting the mainstream market - pitting itself against the might of Frito-Lay amoung others - Tyrrells has opted for the natural set. The snack firm has developed a presence in US natural stores, such as Whole Foods Market.

Despite the quintessentially British elements of the brand, Bass is confident the brand does and will continue to translate well abroad.

"The first thing people talk about with Tyrrells is the packaging. It's very distinctive, it stands out, it's different. We're one of the few products that don't actually advertise what's inside the pack. That makes it more difficult for people to decipher what we are, but it's a great product and it works well, it translates. We're selling a little piece of England because we're quite quirky in terms of what we do in both packaging and social media. The product itself is crispy, it's got that nice distinctive Tyrrells curl to it and it's not as oily as one of our competitors and it seems to work overseas."

Its domestic market, however, is one that Bass believes the company has not yet fully exploited.

"There is still lots to do there," he tells just-food.

Innovation in the UK, Bass believes, is key. Here, the snacks maker has diversified. In April last year Tyrrells entered a new segment with the launch of a tortilla chips range, joining its line of sweet and savoury popcorn. The firm also has a presence in the vegetable crisps market as a result of its acquisition of local rival Glennans at the start of last year.

For innovation, however, Bass admits the company looks to the US for snacking inspiration.

"We tend to look over the pond to the US and see what's hot there. [Trends include] grains, multi-grains, corn ... these are quite big at the moment. Also, pretzels, variations of non-fried products, items slightly more healthy like fruit chips."

Bass says these are products Tyrrells might potentially look at developing within its own portfolio.

"We've evolved with change. Maybe five years ago we were seen as a potato chip, potato crisp manufacturer with some vegetable [crisps] as well. Now the brand can straddle a lot of premium snacks. We brought out popcorn for instance, that's quite hot at the moment. We now think the brand could straddle premium savoury snacks rather than just crisps."

With that in mind, having to compete in what has become a promotionally driven UK retail market, Bass believes, is a given.

"It's unfortunate and it's the rules of engagement that you have to promote. The trade demand it. If you trade in premium snacks, it's heavily promoted so you have to do it."

So, would Tyrrells consider further acquisitions as a way of growing the business further and ensuring it maintains a competitive edge?

"Possibly. If the fit was right, yes," Bass tells just-food.

As for the next five years, Tyrrells, certainly has a busy agenda.

"It will be about extending the brand into adult savoury snacking, growing our distribution presence in the UK, adopting this English eccentric quirkiness across the range and growing the brand internationally."

Sectors: Emerging markets, Mergers & acquisitions, Multichannel, NPD & innovation, Snacks

Companies: Tyrrells, Whole Foods Market

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