UK cheese maker Wyke Farms is looking to drive growth at home and overseas by investing in innovation and brand building.

Speaking at IFE today (17 March), managing director Richard Clothier stressed that the company will remain focused on product innovation in spite of the economic downturn.

Wyke is preparing to launch a grated version of its upmarket cheddars, which will be available in the UK at Sainsbury's from next month, and has developed new re-sealable zip packaging, which has been rolled out across a number of products in its portfolio.

In a bid to boost its on-shelf visibility, Wyke has also developed new shelf-ready packaging, Clothier told just-food.

In order to drive continued growth in its domestic market, Wyke is investing heavily in advertising. The brand will be appearing on national television over the Easter period and Wyke is preparing to run adverts in the consumer press, including the Daily Mail.

"In the future, we intend to boost our profile with more national television, magazine and newspaper advertising," Clothier said.

A key part of the company's strategy to grow consumer awareness is a series of tastings held at various events, marketing manager Jen Gray added. Wyke is preparing to attend 20 events in the coming months, where it expects to reach around 2m consumers.

Wyke is also focused on driving growth internationally, Clothier revealed.

"We are seeing good growth in the UK but international is a big opportunity for us," he said.

According to export manager Allan Pauncelot, Wyke is present in 82 countries and has a sales presence as far afield as the Middle East, India and Asia.

The company's largest overseas market is France, where it has operated for 15 years, with an annual growth rate of 15-20%.

Pauncelot is optimistic that the company will maintain its international growth momentum, despite the global economic downturn.

"We are living in a crisis period, but we are still seeing rising sales. It is easy to lose ground when price becomes most important, but we have not seen this," he said.

Clothier was also hopeful about Wyke's prospects for continued growth, despite its position at the premium end of the market.

"Volumes continue to rise… We are lucky in that grocery is relatively recession proof and cheese is a staple, so not something people are cutting back on. While some consumers are trading down, we are also seeing a benefit from people increasingly eating at home," he said.

Wyke is preparing to launch a website with recipes featuring Wyke cheeses in a bid to further cash in on this growing trend.