Kerry eyeing clutch of markets in southern Europe for Cheestrings in 2016

Kerry eyeing clutch of markets in southern Europe for Cheestrings in 2016

Kerry Group is "hopeful" it can add to the nine European markets in which it sells cheese brand Cheestrings in 2016, the Ireland-based business has told just-food.

The company is looking at taking Cheestrings, first launched in the UK and Ireland in 1996, into Italy, Spain and Portugal next year.

"It's under review. We're hopeful. If you look at the map and you see country adjacencies, of course they'd have to be of interest because we've been successful in markets as diverse as France and Poland and Austria. It's a question of trying to find a way to unlock the other markets," Denis O'Riordan, international marketing manager for new markets at Kerry, said.

France was Cheestrings' first market on the Continent in 2004, with the Netherlands following two years later. Cheestrings entered Germany and Belgium into 2011. Two years later, Kerry took the brand into Poland and Austria.

"Mums are looking for nutrition and something that's fun for kids everywhere and we've been very encouraged that is very similar every market that we go to. That dynamic makes it an interesting proposition," Cathy Kidd, global marketing director for Kerry's children's dairy unit, told just-food at the Anuga trade show in Cologne.

Beyond Europe, Kidd said Cheestrings' expansion had "gained momentum" and insisted "no market was out of scope for the long term". She added: "In every market we go into we've got reinforcement that cheese is many, many markets a very, very mature and well-understood category. The dynamics that household sizes are changing and consumers are little and often are happening in many markets. That gives us confidence that the proposition has the potential in many markets. We would anticipate we would be continuing to assess lots of markets and understanding their fit."

Around two-thirds of Kerry's annual group revenue is generated through selling ingredients to manufacturers and the company has added to that side of the business through M&A in recent years, while offloading some consumer-facing assets.

However, Kerry's management has regularly stated it still sees opportunities for its consumer division, which also includes LowLow spreads and cheese, Mattessons meat snacks and Richmond sausages. A recent addition to the portfolio is Yollies, a yoghurt lolly sold on a stick, which was launched in the UK last summer after being introduced in Ireland.

Kidd said Kerry wanted to take Yollies into more markets, although the company needed to work on its production capacity. "Long term, absolutely, that's the aspiration. It's quite a sophisticated technology and we're really wanting to make sure we get it right in Ireland and GB. We have some capacity constraints and we want to focus on that in the short term but in the medium term the desire is ... it's a very global-first technology and to bring that into as many markets as we can," she said. "It's a bit of a chicken and egg. There is a big learning curve with the technology and growing in a way we can sustain is key on the operational side."

At Anuga, Kerry was also showcasing cooked meat brand Fire & Smoke, which it launched in the UK - again after a debut in Ireland - in August. However, Kidd indicated Kerry was more cautious about rolling out the product into continental Europe.

"We're very much focusing on the European markets with our dairy business. On the meats side of things, there are more differences that we would need to get under the skin of across markets. The desire is to bring all of our portfolio of brands that have relevance in markets to consumers in those markets but that will take time. You can see with the map on Cheestrings it's been a steady expansion."