Two former PepsiCo executives have launched a new consultancy firm looking to support SME food and drink players with data insights.

The new consultancy, North Star, has been launched today by Kieran South, former vice president UK at IRI and sales director at PepsiCo, and Huw Davies, a consultant, former MD of P&H and fellow former sales director at PepsiCo.

South said the venture was formed on the belief that “challenger brands shouldn’t have to make critical business decisions without critical data and insight”.

North Star plans to widen the scope of insight and opportunity for challenger brands by leveraging technology and data analytics, and forming partnerships with fmcg data providers.

“For too long, data has been a luxury reserved for the ‘big guys’ and retailers,” said South. “They’ve used it to their advantage and to challengers’ disadvantage.

“Aspiring underdogs might have had the drive, but they haven’t had the budget or know-how to interpret big swathes of data. Whether looking to get listed, stay listed, secure investment, or identify growth opportunities, North Star will equip brands with a game-changing ability to make strategic insight-led decisions.”

The first partnership service that North Star has launched is Polaris, an insights platform using Circana’s (formally IRI) Unify Plus technology.

The platform is designed to empower challenger brands with actionable insight to have a complete view of their shopper.

The firm will launch a series of further external partnerships, to support challenger brand development around areas such as commercial strategy, in-store activation and price, promotions and NPD.

Huw Davies added: “So many startup and scale-up brands are forced to make business decisions founded on instinct, not insight. Kieran and I firmly believe that the barrier to success should be whether the product is good enough and whether the consumer believes in it, not whether they have access to the right data and insight.”