Age : 40

Status : Married to Beth, with two children: Barnaby, 9, and Arabella, 5

Best career decision: “Being persuaded to move out of technical and into senior management by a very charismatic CEO [Neil Fraser, former head of McCambridge]”

Best advice received : “Start with the end in sight and work backwards”

Worst advice received: “I was told once just to keep my head down and not to rock the boat”

Currently reading : The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Death row meal: “The monkfish at San Carlo in Manchester. It’s a fantastic restaurant”

Favourite snack: “I’m probably guilty of liking calamari. It’s not much of a snack is it? Beef jerky at the moment, too.”

Favourite movie: “I’m a bit of a Star Wars fan. My favourite is probably the original. My son’s been enjoying digging through all my authentic retro-toys from the 1980s”


In 1989, at the age of 15, Paul Tripp took a job at British Bakeries in Plymouth. Now aged 40, the MD of Soreen has been in the baked goods business ever since. So when he insists his curious product is neither a bread nor a cake, but something completely distinct, you’re inclined to believe him. 

Since taking the ropes at Soreen in 2009, Tripp has overseen a remarkable turnaround for a business whose then owner, the McCambridge Group, had been in administration two years earlier. Following a rebrand in 2010, Soreen’s sales rose by an extraordinary 58% in three years to £34.7m [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 14 September 2014 vs 52 w/e 18 September 2011], paving the way for the acquisition of the business by Samworth Brothers, a deal completed in February last year. In the process, Tripp has helped Soreen bloom from a lonesome problem child with identity issues to a mature team player who’s comfortable in his own skin. 

When Tripp started, the problem wasn’t just one of image, though he admits Soreen was associated with “sitting by the fire with a pot of tea and a doily.” It went down to the physical properties of the product, the only malt loaf on sale across the UK. “Even after it’s sliced, the product will sort of adhere to itself,” explains Tripp. “We used to agonise about it as a brand, but we’ve learned that’s one of its charms.”

As well as its dated perception, there was also the problem of what he calls the “missed generation” - younger consumers for whom the brand has failed to resonate. When these people see Soreen in the supermarket, says Tripp, “they look, they recall positive affection for this brand, and they ask themselves: why haven’t I bought it?”

To start tackling this, Tripp spent his entire first year’s marketing budget on speaking to consumers. What he discovered was that people were busy; they wanted convenient snacks that could be bought and eaten on the go; they wanted portion control; and not all of them liked the slightly intense flavour of malt loaf. Out of these realisations came a raft of NPD to meet consumer needs: pre-buttered snack packs, a range of fruit-flavoured loaves, and the hugely successful individual portion Lunchbox Loaves, which reached sales of £4m in their third year, with year-on-year growth of 74% [Kantar 52 w/e 14 September 2014]. “When I started, almost all Soreen was eaten in the home,” says Tripp. “Now almost half is eaten out of the home. And the fruit loaves drive a younger consumer.”

Soreen’s success hasn’t just been about giving consumers what they want, but being on the ball, too. “One of the things we love is our agility,” explains Tripp. “A few years back, Delia was on TV making a ‘Bread and Butter Pudding’ using the Soreen sliced product instead of bread. Within five days we had stickers on all our sliced loaves saying ‘Delia’s cheat.’” He also put emphasis on the brand’s ability to interrupt shoppers, by placing secondary displays, for example, in the chilled aisle.

The crucial chapter in Soreen’s renaissance, though, was the sale of the brand, something Tripp had been working towards since day one. Although Barclays Ventures, the majority shareholder in McCambridge from October 2008, had invested £6m in Soreen, there were limits to what could be achieved with a private equity owner. 

Samworth, says Tripp, has been willing to seriously invest in what it sees as a business with huge potential. “Even though they’ve only owned Soreen for eight months, they’ve already spent £3m on TV advertising,” he says. That sum paid for an ad campaign starring whacky new mascot the Lovable Loaf. Airing last autumn, it has already had an impact; Tripp claims sales for October were up 30.4% year on year. It’s set for a second airing next month. 

Now with a solid backing from Samworth and a better sense of its own strengths, Tripp says the priority for Soreen is to knuckle down and strengthen its base. “Our biggest opportunity to grow is through penetration,” he says, “and we can do that two ways: through mental availability and physical availability.” By mental availability he means putting the product at the front of consumers’ minds through above and below-the-line activity, and a movie collaboration next spring. As far as physical availability goes, he is using Samworth’s distribution network to extend Soreen’s reach in convenience and forecourts, and it has also become the first brand to appear in the M&S bakery section. Tripp hopes these steps will push the brand’s penetration from 28% to 35% and deliver sales of £50m by 2017. 

Tripp paints the picture of a brand that has found its mojo. Although there have been some sign of sales growth slowing this year, the only risk he is willing to acknowledge is being able to meet demand. 

To counter that, the business is in the process of installing a new double decker oven, and Tripp expects to open a second production site in Manchester in about five years. 

As far as his own future goes, he says he’d love the chance to work on another brand within Samworth. But for the time being, he’s in a happy place with Soreen. “It’s a privilege to work with because it truly is unique,” he says. “Any business would love to have an asset like that.”