Dalepak has been rationalised, re-engineered, re-focused, re-evaluated and revitalised. Now the grills and burgers producer is telling its customers it is back to reclaim its market with a vengeance. Lindsay McClintock reports. Grills are what started it all for Dalepak back in 1976. And grills are going to be part of a new drive to reclaim the company's heritage in frozen food. The firm, which claims to have pioneered the US process of chopping, shaping and forming beef products for the UK market, is back on track after a difficult period which saw it surviving the BSE crisis with the help of new products such as bacon burgers and lamb quarter pounders. And after the purchase of Ross Young's meat and bakery business in 1995, an £8m investment, and a merger with leading own label chilled food producer Cavaghan & Gray in December of the same year, the company is about to embark on a programme which will see a new label appear in the freezer cabinet. Dalepak Gold aims to do for burgers and grills what Gold did for Nescafé coffee. Not necessarily create a much talked about on-off TV romance, but rather emulate the change in consumer perception that created a cachet worth paying a small premium for. The company is bringing in a range of eight frozen lines ­ burgers, grills, ribs and vegetarian products ­ aimed at the top end of the market. All the grills are made with 100% Scotch beef, carry the MLC or SQBLA logo, and are 33% bigger than standard products (the burgers are 50% bigger). And at £2.59 for six 3oz burgers or four 4oz grills, the firm asserts the products are "reassuringly expensive". The launch has £500,000 support, which includes press and poster campaigns, direct mail, in-store magazines and a test campaign on TV in May. But the launch isn't just about the introduction of a new range, it's also about creating a new focus for the company which pulls together the firm's four very different strands. The launch of Dalepak Gold will do more than just project a more premium image, as sales and marketing director Tim Shears explains: "Even the name suggests confidence. We're offering a point of difference in the freezer cabinet, this being that the products are driving the market forward and that they're delivering." And while it's hoped that Gold will add confidence to the overall market, the standard Dalepak range is being revamped ­ pack sizes and product sizes may change, and the ingredients may be upgraded ­ all as part of a Taste the difference' drive, a communication which will be flashed on-pack. Meanwhile, the Ross brand will be positioned as the family line representing simply outstanding value for money'. Even the approach to the firm's retailer brands is now stressing guaranteed consistency and continuity'. The £56.7m meat grills market, which Dalepak dominates with nearly 38% of sales, saw an overall market slip of more than 8% in 1996, mainly due to the BSE crisis. But it's in burgers that BSE had its most drastic effects ­ the £61.1m category, where the company's Dalepak and Ross brands took an 8.9% share, was in a slow, long-term decline, but add the BSE factor and the result is a massive 34.5% slump for 1996. In contrast, sales of vegetable grills and burgers grew by over 30% in the same period to total £71.5m (with Dalepak's £6.4m share growing by 3.4% year-on-year and the firm's own label products performing well). Additionally, the £214.9m frozen coated poultry market ­ where the firm is represented with its Ross brand ­ was up by nearly 20% last year. Taking back control of the category is a brave step for a firm which has seen its own growing pains. But the new drive is currently to claw back the £16.1 million worth of sales the firm estimates have been lost from the sector because of BSE. The target in the first year is to arrest market decline, for Gold to take 5% of total market, and to restore consumer confidence in beef. Second year targets are to reclaim £5m of the lost sales, which translates into a 4.2% market growth, giving Gold 10% of the total market. Shears explains his ambitions: "We know where our products sit; some are premium, some are value-for-money, some are outstanding quality. "Gold will be our hero brand giving us the credibility and perception of quality. "We're setting out our stall and we won't be building our brand just to cut quality and sell on price. We must tell our customers ­ retailers and consumers ­ that we're back in the category." Tim Shears: Gold will be our hero brand to give us credibility.'{{MARKETING}}