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October 15, 2013

ANUGA 2013: Meat firm Bell to cut product range

Switzerland-based meat products supplier Bell Group is to slim down its product portfolio and focus on a select line of brands.

By Dean Best

Switzerland-based meat products supplier Bell Group is to slim down its product portfolio and focus on a select line of brands.

Speaking to just-food at the Anuga trade show, Bell, which sells products across Europe, revealed it is looking to cut a product range that consists of over 40 to under ten.

“We have over 40 brands but we are now concentrating our focus on five brands,” Davide Elia, head of marketing and communication at Bell, said.

Bell has labelled its namesake brand plus for others – Abraham, Hoppe, Zimbo and Mossieur Polette – as its “strategic products brands”.

The company plans to retain “two or three smaller brands”, which Elia said are “regionally relevant”.

He said: “These are the five important ones. Most of the brands came year by year but have no strategic relevance or reason to be. Those we are closing and these are the five brands we are going to develop over the years ahead.”

The new brand strategy is one of a series of initiatives at Bell, which has been reshaping its business in the last two years.

Profits increased in 2012, although sales were flat in what Bell described as “challenging” business conditions when it reported its annual results in February. The company operates 27 plants across Europe and Elia said the company had sought to bring businesses “acting more or less as independent companies” together under the Bell “umbrella”.

He said: “We have country divisions. Even within the divisions, we have more or less, an equal organisation level. We can really increase our efficiency in procurement, production, marketing and sales.”

In the months ahead, Elia said Bell hopes to benefit from “synergies” from the reshaping of its business.

He also said Bell was going to draw up “sustainability” standards across the business. Consumers, he said, were becoming more interested in the issue. 

“We think this is going to be a very big issue. We see it in Switzerland, where, compared to other countries, we have progressed very far on this issue. Sustainability is going to be a core issue all over Europe.”

The initiatives left Elia and Bell “quite optimistic” about the company’s prospects in 2014.

However, 2013 has so far proved a challenging year. In the first six months of the year, sales increased 2.9% to CHF1.27bn. However, sales volumes fell 1.8%.

Net profit fell 2.5% to CHF24.5m in part due to a spike in raw material prices, which Bell said, for some commodities, were up 30%.

Elia said the late start to the summer weather in Switzerland and Germany – two of Bell’s largest markets – also hit sales.

He said sales would “probably” grow in 2013 as Bell passes through some of the increase in raw material prices. Volumes, he predicted, would be “stable”. On earnings, he added: “Profits depends now on how Christmas will go and what further development we have in raw material prices during the year. It’s difficult to say.”

Elia said Bell had found it easier to pass through price increases on its fresh meat products but admitted it was tougher for other parts of its portfolio.

“The problem is with the charcuterie – sausages, cold cuts – there the process is much slower and it is very difficult to pass on prices,” he said. “In some countries, where we have a very strong competition, it’s even worse.”

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