Kepak, the owner of the Rustlers brand, has said that it could double its turnover over the next five years by extending its customer base through new product development.

Speaking to just-food today (22 March), Kepak marketing director John Armstrong said he sees the potential to improve the company’s penetration of the meaty snacks category from 20% to 30% by driving new products and new brands.

Armstrong said Kepak is working to broaden its customer base beyond its Rustlers brand to include women, through its Zugo pannini brand, older people and white-collar workers.

Armstrong said the company plans to build new brands in order to reach new customers as “Rustlers has a very defined customer base,” and that it will look for different brand solutions by audience.

Speaking about Rustler’s brand proposition, Armstrong said: “It’s a very well defined brand, there’s no ambiguity, and we’re really happy with that. Amongst young lad’s its a really iconic brand. It’s a rites of passage thing for them, right up there with Lynx and those types of things.”

The company is also focusing on expanding its European operations, Armstrong revealed. Since launching international operations some three years ago, Rustlers is “already number one in Holland and Belgium” and has developed a presence in Denmark. However, Armstrong added, the “big two” European markets of France and Germany “are two that we’ll be looking to step into fairly quickly”.

Armstong said the main driver behind the company’s growth has been through bring food service brands into a retail environment.

For example, he said that “Rustlers is McDonald’s at home, Rustler’s Subs are Subway, and the Zugo’s pannini range are Starbucks’ panninis.”

Armstrong highlighted opportunities to be found in the fast-moving nature of the sector, saying that “if you look at the pannini and the Sub, neither of those formats really existed 10 years ago. Subway wasn’t a big deal 10 years ago and, outside an Italian deli, a pannini wouldn’t have registered 10 years ago. So, as new formats come along, as the food service industry continues to bring new concepts to market and as they get mainstream appeal level, we’ll take them into the retail.”

The company is set to launch a range of Rustlers Hot Wraps, which Armstrong says have been on KFC‘s menu, McDonald’s Menu and Burger King’s menu. “They’ve got to that mainstream familiarity, so that one’s about to come off the blocks,” he said.

The range will include two varieties – Chicken Salsa with Cheese and BBQ Chicken with Cheese and will be sold at an RRP of GBP1.99 (US$3.26).

Armstrong said that there are a host of products in its NPD pipeline, but whether they launch all of the products remains down to a number of factors, including whether the products they have been developing take off in the food service sector.

Armstrong said Kepak is “very conscious” of health issues, but that they have to be seen “in context”.

“If a person truly has a ‘healthy head’ on they’re not going to be picking up a burger,” said Armstrong. “What we don’t want to do is engineer down the taste to deliver some health credentials that they don’t actually want in that product.”

However, he said that while the group doesn’t focus on health it has focused on creating a “clean” range by removing hydrogenated fats and reducing the amount of E numbers.

Armstrong said that the manufacturer is also working to improve the quality of its products, through ease of cooking or consistency of its offer. “We brought a new sauce in last year, which you wouldn’t think was a big deal, but we’ve had a huge amount of feedback from consumers. It’s just about making it that bit better and a bit closer to the food service experience”.

“Microwave food does come with a mental barrier. So it is a hard sell and you always have to over deliver on your promise. So it’s hard work getting them over the line, but if you get them across the line, you have to make sure they’re really happy. So we’re really tough on delivery as a result of that,” he said.