Sir Kensingtons acquired by Unilever in 2017

Sir Kensington's acquired by Unilever in 2017

Sir Kensington's, the US condiments maker owned by Unilever, is looking to enter the UK by the end of the year.

Scott Norton, the co-founder of Sir Kensington's, said the firm is looking to secure its first listings in the UK "later this summer or early in the autumn".

Speaking to just-food at the Natural & Organic Products Europe exhibition in London, Norton said there had yet to be any discussions with potential customers and suggested he was being meticulous about how he launches the brand into the market.

"We're here learning, listening, orienting, here at the show to find our launch partners and to make some really choiceful selections around the retailers and the channels we work with, so we can build a brand authentically like we have in the States," he said.

In the US, Sir Kensington's, which Norton set up with fellow co-founder Mark Ramadan in 2010, has grown its retail presence through the country's natural and organic channel, including at grocers like Whole Foods Market and The Fresh Market.

Norton said Sir Kensington's was "still just cracking the surface in mass and grocery" but had secured its first listings with Walmart last month.

Asked about the firm's approach to the UK, Norton suggested he would look to follow its strategy in the US.

"We do think about channel strategy with the consumer journey at the heart of it. We've found the influencers, the early adopters, the people that are curious and learning in major urban centres that are going to be our first customers and they will educate their friends. In the States, we started as much more of a niche product and become more and more mainstream. It's an important hypothesis to test but that is the hypothesis we're bringing to the UK market," Norton explained.

The backing of Unilever, which acquired Sir Kensington's last April, helped the mustard, ketchup and mayo maker enter Walmart. 

Norton said Sir Kensington's was getting support from the FMCG giant as it prepared to enter the UK but insisted the US firm had a strategy he wanted to follow.

"We have an independent strategy, an independent office, independent relationships on our own ... we're of course getting great advice from Unilever and we're talking to their market teams and they're teaching us a lot about this market but really this our strategy I want to follow and it's all about developing these authentic relationships with our core community and customers."

Asked if Sir Kensington's would look to benefit from Unilever's scale and lean on the group in areas such as promotional support, Norton said the firm "will get all the support we can possibly get in that respect" but insisted: "We're not in this to play a promotional or pricing war. Even with heavy promotional spending, this is not a brand that can reach true, competitive, price parity with traditional competitors. 

"While we will rely on them for promotional support and strategy, we're not here to play a price game, which, frankly, I think is one of the things this market [the UK] has really been challenged by is that everyone – retailers, consumers, manufacturers, brands – are all in this race-to-the-bottom mindset."

Sir Kensington's is not looking to open markets in continental Europe this calendar year.

"We have to test and learn here and crack the culture code because as soon as you start talking about different languages and the further you go to the Anglo-American roots of the brand and the way people use condiments it's harder to translate. This isn't something that's brand new to everyone in Europe and North America like the acai berry. This is something people already have a relationship with, so you have to be delicate and intentional about how you marginally move culture forward."