Inside… Almondy

24/03/2016 - 07:08
In Cost Sector Catering’s series of Q&As with suppliers, we talk to Andrew Ely, managing director of Almondy.

Cost Sector Catering: What have been your business’ challenges and main drivers?

Andrew Ely: The main challenge and driver has been the growth of gluten-free and, for me personally, working in a growing sector. It is brilliant but, when markets grow, you have bigger consumer and customer groups to deal with.

The greatest issue is that when there is market growth, inevitably others jump on the bandwagon, so you have a raft of new players. With increasing competition, it’s important to keep the message new and fresh, and that too can be a challenge, especially when you have been supplying gluten-free products for more than 30 years.

Our range is made in an environment that is 100% gluten-free, but you will get some suppliers making products in an environment that has gluten in it. Once you get scares and people become distrustful, it can put them off the whole sector. People are savvier these days, and trust is so important in life as well as in business.

Has the introduction of the EU Food Information for Consumers regulations made a difference to your business?

There has definitely been an improved uptake by foodservice outlets. Even though I’m not a fan of regulations in general, this has heralded a real sea change of understanding of allergens – not just gluten-free but the gamut of allergens as well. It didn’t all happen overnight in January 2015, but I’ve noticed when eating out now that there is increased awareness of allergens. Our range is halal as well, and we’ve had a lot of enquiries post-legislation.

We commissioned a survey by Toluna, and the good news is that people have genuinely noticed gluten-free. The legislation brought with it growing confidence, with this independent research showing that 56% of consumers are feeling confident one year on since the rules were introduced. This is a positive step in attracting consumers who may have avoided eating out due to outlets not understanding their dietary needs. With confidence growing, the opportunity for caterers to boost profits is there, but more work is needed to ensure that the dishes on offer support menus and appeal to consumers.

What advice are you offering operators?

We don’t offer advice as such because we don’t have the resources that larger companies have, but we have branded point of sale, and we promote Almondy and do our bit for the gluten-free cause. Coeliac UK has training initiatives for foodservice operators and offers courses.

Are you working on any initiatives or partnerships in the cost sector?

Universities are the big one in the cost sector for us; in the past, we have had great sales campaigns with Brunel University and at Southampton University.

Food distributor Bidvest has the TUCO (The University Caterers Organisation) list and we are on it. We are planning to do something more structured in 2016 – for example, sampling days and case studies focusing on them.

There are half a million new undergraduates every year and they are savvy about special diets, and if you get a group of them together, there will be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan students, to name just a few. We have a product that ticks these boxes, as well as being a bit different and a bit of fun – these are the consumers of tomorrow, and that’s why universities will be the big focus for us next year.

What’s the bestseller in the UK? Anything new?

Daim is our bestseller and Toblerone cake does really well. Our Cadbury variant is still in the range but our Philadelphia branded cake is just being phased out to ring the changes.

Next year, we are planning to focus on our ‘hero’ products. We have just completed 15 years with Daim globally, so promotional activity will concentrate on that brand. It will be Daim time.

What are you wishing for in 2016?

It would be a real breakthrough with TUCO – not with every university, although that would be good.

The gluten-free trend will carry on for the foreseeable future; it isn’t slowing down, so we’ll just keep on doing what we are doing – making great-tasting, high-quality cakes. 

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