Ambitious dairy-free chocolate maker Moo Free aims to “dominate” the world market for dairy-free milk chocolate by expanding in new markets and increasing its exposure to the supermarket channel.
The UK-based confectioner is already struggling to keep pace with global demand for its seasonal and year-round dairy-free milk chocolate products and, in the space of four years, has outgrown its first two factories.
“We can’t keep up with demand, we are running out of capacity all the time…. we have outgrown our first two factories and this is only our fourth year. We are looking at opening another plant in the UK,” founder and sales director Mike Jessop tells just-food at this year’s Free From Expo.
The company is running manufacturing seven days a week and is unable to take on fresh customers until it has increased capacity. Exports account for over 50% of the group’s sales and Moo Free is increasing its exposure to retail channels, which currently account for 7% of turnover.
“We distribute in 11 countries now. We retail in 16. We are very big in Australia, where we are in Coles and we are just about to go into Woolworths. We are in Carrefour in Spain. We are in two supermarkets in the UK and are just looking at going into our third and fourth. Every single supermarket in the UK wants our products. We are in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s at the moment. Two more want to take on our line and one we have turned down.”
Since it launched four years ago, Moo Free has witnessed dramatic top line growth, Jessop said. “Between year one and year two we made a 148% increase, year two and there was 48%.”
Turnover now stands at “well over” a GBP1m a year, he reveals.
Jessop says that Moo Free was the first company to launch a dairy-free chocolate Easter egg. He adds that the world market for dairy-free chocolate is under-served and, as such, the group has significant pricing power in negotiations with customers.
“There are no pricing negotiations for us. We have set prices. All distributors get the same price. Supermarkets are the same. we negotiate really good terms with the supermarkets – we won’t accept 90 day terms or anything. We believe we have the leading product and they seem to agree.”
Moo Free is an ambitious and dynamic business. “We intend to be the best tasting, dairy-free milk chocolate in the world,” Jessop says.
This, he suggests will make the firm an ideal takeover target for a larger company that wants to gain access to the high-growth dairy-free chocolate sector.
“We want to dominate the world market, to be the dairy-free brand in the world. And that will make us very attractive to any other bigger brand wanting to go into that market. There is no point them starting up and trying to compete against us when they could buy us out.
“We are gearing up for a sale. We will grow the capacity and the number of countries we are in and our exposure in the supermarkets as well. We hope to sell in two-to-three years.”
Jessop says that the firm has already had “a lot” of interest from private equity investment vehicles and other larger free-from manufacturers. However, he is holding out for the right price as Moo Free follows its growth strategy and strengthens its branding.