Irish food maker Kepak has outlined plans to expand its convenience food business in Europe.

The company, which owns Rustlers meat snacks and Zugo paninis, wants to increase its presence in the French and German markets after launching in the two markets in April.

Kepak marketing director John Armstrong today (19 September) said that since launching in Belgium and the Netherlands three years ago the company has grown by 20% each year and achieved market leadership in the hot snacking sectors in the two countries.

He said: “The two big markets we hope to crack are Germany and France because, population-wise, they are huge. They will both be difficult for different reasons and we don’t expect to do it overnight.”

France is expected to be the tougher of the two countries to increase market share in because it has a well-developed hot snacks market but Armstrong is confident Kepak can find a point of difference.

Kepak believes its products will be well-received because social trends such as unemployment, household fragmentation, rising single person households, college attendance and an ageing population are similar across Western Europe.

“If McDonald’s has a strong presence we know people like burgers and similar foods, but the retail alternative is perceived as cheap and cheerful, a lowest common denominator,” he said. “People see it as a mile away from McDonald’s, but we can show that our offering is not a mile away.”

Kepak, meanwhile, has secured a major distribution gain with a re-listing of its hot snacking range in Tesco after two years.

“Tesco’s decision to re-list all Kepak’s leading products as its only hot snacking range is a strong signal that our strategy of major product innovation, in-depth consumer insight and heavyweight brand investment is the key to accelerating the growth of our business and the category,” Peter Jackson, chief executive of Kepak’s convenience foods arm, said.