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May 21, 2019

Fledgling firm The Saucy Affair “presses pause”, seeks funds for relaunch

The Saucy Affair is to temporarily disappear from shelves as part of plans to overhaul the fledgling UK brand of chilled sauces, the company's majority shareholder has said.

By Dean Best

The Saucy Affair is to temporarily disappear from shelves as part of plans to overhaul the fledgling UK brand of chilled sauces, the company’s majority shareholder has said.

Sainsbury’s is the sole grocer to stock The Saucy Affair sauces and the brand will no longer be available once stock levels run down. The company plans to relaunch the brand in January.

Tanya Lambert, who launched The Saucy Affair in 2016, said she had “made the decision to press the pause button on our supply into retail” to focus on raising more funds for the relaunch.

She said the relaunch will include the roll out of dressings and dips, a fresh name – Tanya’s Saucy Affair – investment in marketing and further support to merchandise the products correctly, the latter being needed, she argued, because the sauces represent a new product category.

Lambert declined to reveal the brand’s sales since launch but admitted: “It’s not where it should be.”

She said she had “an amazing relationship” with Sainsbury’s but pointed to problems with how the sauces had been merchandised in stores.

“Our biggest challenge was where you place this product because it’s a brand new concept into the market,” Lambert said. “Initially, when we launched, we were in ten different places across the 110 stores we went into to understand the product positioning.

“When you’re trying to launch a new category and you’re telling your social media followers where you’re positioned in stores, when you start to tell them you’re potentially going to be in ten different places, people are going to get confused.”

At the start of January, some Sainsbury’s stores started to sell the sauces in fresh-produce sections, leading to a jump in sales, she said.

Lambert, however, also acknowledged The Saucy Affair needed to make the product concept clearer to consumers. “One of the biggest challenges I’ve had is also being a chilled, fresh sauce but everyone’s trying desperately hard to get their head around what this product is. Yes, the point of sale is one piece but the other piece is the brand is not shouting freshness, it’s not shouting usage,” she said.

Sainsbury’s has expressed support for The Saucy Affair’s decision to temporarily pull back from the market, Lambert said. She added the exclusivity period with Sainsbury’s had already come to an end and the supplier had met another major grocer.

Lambert owns 53% of The Saucy Affair and said she would be open to reducing her stake significantly if she can find the “right partners” to take the business forward.

“I am not ‘I need 50% in the business’,” she said. “If I can find the right partners to deliver this – because we’ve seen the opportunity – I’m prepared to give a significant amount depending on who the investor is and what they can add.”

The Saucy Affair has in the past used crowdfunding to raise finance. Weighing up how to secure funds for the relaunch, Lambert said she was “initially very much adverse” to using seed funding as she was looking for industry experience to help her take the business forward. “I could go for half a million, get half a million and I still wouldn’t be much better off because I need the experience in the business to help me move to the next level,” Lambert explained.

The company is looking into “joint-venture” arrangements, she said. “The approach of the existing conversations I’m having with investors is going to determine if it’s a joint-venture relationship. Obviously then there’s an argument to say I won’t need that many more staff. But it’s all about marketing the brand. Where I will be recruiting will be on the sales and marketing side of it, specifically on the retail side,” she said.

“However, if, for example, the JV doesn’t work, then I’d be looking at the seeders campaign to create a team of ten people as a starting point.”

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