Bear owner Urban Fresh Foods mulling ways to expand internationally

Bear owner Urban Fresh Foods mulling ways to expand internationally

Urban Fresh Foods, the UK firm behind the Bear snacks brand, is looking at ways to expand internationally as part of its latest strategy to grow the business.

Giles Brook, a partner in Urban Fresh Foods, told just-food the company is in "exploratory" talks with a number of parties to weigh up ways to further build its presence outside the UK.

"We're having conversations with a few different people. We're speaking with financial guys, with consultants who are food and drink specialists, we are speaking to some people in the trade. The key thing is we still haven't made any decision about which market and which region we are going into yet," Brook said.

Urban Fresh Foods has made some inroads in market outside the UK, with Brook pointing to recent moves into Ireland and Sweden. Reports in the UK suggested Urban Fresh Foods is looking to raise funds for its next push overseas. Brook insisted the company did not have to secure outside investment to embark on international initiatives.

"The business is self-funded at the moment. We don't even know if we're going to need investment. The key thing is we have funds available in our business to expand internationally," Brook said. "The question is, in terms of adopting the right model, do those funds stretch enough? If they don't stretch enough, it's just a consideration for us to potentially look at that and we haven't yet made that decision."

Brook, who joined Urban Fresh Foods in 2009 as a partner and an investor in the business, said it was "very much undecided" if the talks could lead to an entity taking a stake in the company.

He added: "The reasons we're doing this is I think we've seen other businesses expand internationally, get it quite badly wrong and it has hurt their core business. We're trying to learn from those experiences and understand how we can potentially understand what caused those complications, how we get around that. We also recognise that sometimes even though we have huge capability ourselves, for certain geographies across the world, it might actually be right for us to partner with somebody and look at a joint venture."

Urban Fresh Foods is set to have a retail sales value of GBP45m (US$70.1m) in the year to the end of October. The company does not disclose figures for turnover or profit. Brook said the business had enjoyed a "compounded growth rate" of 63% over the last four years and, besides any international ambitions, saw room for further growth in the UK.

"In the UK this year, we're still going to be growing by over 45% this year. Our May and June numbers were record numbers for the business. We've got a lot of growth still to go after in snacking. Household penetration of the brand is less than 5% so therefore we know there are a lot more households for us to get into in the UK," Brook said. "But the other reason we think there's a lot of growth, we're in baby, we're in cereals and we're just scratching the surface in those and actually Alphabites is already bigger in absolute value terms than some of Kellogg's and Nestle's brands in the UK market so that's given us real excitement that we can do some good damage in the cereal category."

Urban Fresh Foods was set up in 2007 by Andrew and Hayley Gait-Golding. Her parents, Barry and Janny, are other key shareholders.