John West has unveiled an ambitious plan to become the UK’s number one seafood brand within 10 years, overtaking seafood rivals Young’s and Birds Eye and adding at least £100m in extra sales.
Bought by Thai canning giant Thai Union last July, John West said it was confident it would overtake Birds Eye worth £163m in sales versus John West’s £150m by the end of 2012. It would then work on overtaking Young’s worth £247m by increasing sales to at least £250m over the next decade.
To achieve these targets, John West is implementing a three-phase overhaul of its business. First, it is strengthening its portfolio by focusing on fewer products 200 SKUs have already been discontinued and creating clearer tiering. Commercial director Mick Wain said both tuna chunks and tuna steaks, for example, were currently available in a No Drain format, but this would be changed to steaks only. In addition, all John West cans would bear lithograph labels to enhance visibility and carry the ‘wave design’ brand identity it had started rolling out recently, Wain added.
A clearer portfolio strategy would help inject value back into the category after recent years had been characterised by “fighting” between John West and Princes, and aggressive promotional activity, Wain said. “We were not acting like a responsible brand owner for the category,” he added. John West is supporting the changes to its portfolio during the first phase of its strategy with a £6m marketing budget and a new TV campaign, which goes live on 10 October.
The second phase of the company’s growth strategy to be implemented in 2012 and 2013 would focus on opening up new eating occasions for seafood, and the third phase starting in 2013 would see John West introduce new products, packs and formats, possibly including a frozen range. The company already has a presence in chilled through a licensing deal with salmon processor Morpol.
Wain said the purchase of John West owner MW Brands by Thai Union last year had transformed the business. “The ownership by Thai Union has given us the confidence and infrastructure to invest,” he said. When John West had been owned by private equity firm Trilantic Capital Partners, there was an expectation it would be sold, but “Thai Union has bought us to keep,” said Wain.
It was also possible John West would look at acquisitions to achieve its £250m-plus sales target, he added.