Struggling poultry producer Bernard Matthews today (28 July) relaunched its brand in an attempt to reposition the company and revitalise flagging sales.

The iconic turkey processor has come under fire in the UK after Bernard Matthews Turkey Twizzlers were criticised in 2005 as part of a campaign from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to improve school lunches and an outbreak of avian influenza hit its Norfolk farms in 2007.

Consequently, the group has witnessed a dramatic decline in sales and profits. In 2007, sales fell 9.5% to GBP326m (US$648m) and the group posted an operating loss of GBP9.6m – against a profit of GBP22m in 2006. In 2004, before Jamie Oliver’s school dinners campaign began, profits totalled GBP40m.

As part of the company’s business recovery plan, Bernard Matthews said that it will relaunch the brand, creating a new healthier image that will be supported by a series of new product launches.

The company will launch a “100% British, healthier line to promote a healthier image”, a spokesperson for the company told just-food.

“All these new products will be made with British turkey and only natural ingredients – no artificial colours and flavours and lower levels of saturated fats and salt,” the company said.

Bernard Matthews will launch its Big Green Tick, a new frozen product range that is billed as healthy and convenient and which aims to be marked green on the UK’s Guideline Daily Amounts nutritional labelling scheme. 

The company is also extending its line of free-range turkey products and from September all Bernard Matthews branded turkey products will be made with 100% British turkey from its farms.

“This repositioning of the company is the result of extensive planning with 2007 having been an exceptionally difficult year. Although we successfully eliminated the January outbreak of avian flu on one of our farms within 72 hours, its occurrence had a significant impact on poultry sales,” CEO Noel Bartram said.

“The new Bernard Matthews will focus on providing quality, great tasting and affordable food at a time when we know shoppers are feeling the pressure of rising costs.”