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Corkers: Riding in the wake of Kettle and Tyrrells

By Kacey Culliney , 11-Feb-2013

Corkers has no plans to go into mainstream retail yet, its MD says
Corkers has no plans to go into mainstream retail yet, its MD says

UK premium potato chip brand Corkers has benefited from a wake of independent business left behind as Kettle and Tyrrells move mainstream, its MD says.

The two year old hand-cooked potato chip specialist has a range of six flavors that it predominantly markets to a broad network of independent outlets across the UK including farm shops, museums and theatres.

Rod Garnham, managing director (MD) of Corkers, said that independent outlets represent 90% of trade and the remaining 10% is comprised of wholesaler business.

"We want to work with the independent industry. We love dealing with people who are passionate about food and we give them a personal business service," Garnham told BakeryandSnacks.com.

He said that Corkers is currently profiting from a "new wake" of business as competitors like Kettle and Tyrrells move into bigger retailers and leave independent business behind.

"It's a natural evolution; as these brands move into mainstream retail, specialists and independent outlets find it difficult to charge more when the products regularly on offer elsewhere. Farm shops and independents outlets have to offer something different," he said.

The MD said Corkers has no plans to follow its competitors and target larger retailers yet and remains dedicated to working with an independent outlet network.

There are however growth plans, he said, and this will be done through strengthening ties with independent outlets and developing a wider wholesaler network across the UK.

Corkers pushes its British image proudly

Beyond British?

While the UK remains Corkers' largest market and immediate focus, the potato chips are also sold in the US, Denmark and Dubai through wholesalers and delhi chains.

"Business is nothing huge yet, but we've been supplying these markets for one or two years now," Garnham said.

He said business with Denmark and Dubai is fairly regular but US business remains restricted to events where British products are sold exclusively to US consumers.

Corkers' newly developed line of 20g packs - boasting less than 100 calories - also has a reach beyond the UK as British Airways has taken on the range for its on-board snack offerings.

'We don't want to cheapen our brand'

Garnham stressed that Corkers is positioned as a very premium brand and there are no plans to change that.

"We don't want to cheapen our brand. We're not the cheapest on the market but that has to do with the quality of our product," he said.

"The main point of difference is the potato we use for the crisps is something completely different; it is a top of the range, high quality potato that is a family seed," he said.

"The reason it's so different is because of the land - we've got the Loire Valley for potato growing," he added.

Corkers has 500 acres of farm land in Cambridgeshire in an area that used to be flooded thousands of years ago, during which time Oak trees collapsed, the MD explained.

What remains now is bog oak - a very rich soil that has pieces of oak throughout it that adds an intense nutty flavor to the potatoes, he said.

Garnham said the potatoes sell at £450 ($708.97)per ton, which when compared to the £50-60 ($79-94)per ton potatoes used by other hand-cooked and larger potato chip firms, gives a sense of the quality of the potato.

Processing from farm to packet 

NPD in flavors and pack sizes set for 2013

Corkers potato chips are farmed, processed and packaged at the farm in Cambridgeshire; a factor that adds to the brand's appeal, the MD said.

The skins and starch are left of the potatoes to add to the end flavor and sunflower oil is used to batch fry them as it enables the true flavor to come through in the final product, he said.

The six flavor range - Sea Salt, Pork Sausage and English Mustard, Red Leicester and Caramelized Onion, Sea Salt and Black Pepper, Sweet Thai Chilli and Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar - will soon be expanded with two new flavors set to launch this year.

"We've been developing new flavors for the last two or three months. They are now at the testing and research stage and we will pick one and launch it by summer," Garnham said.

He also revealed another project underway - to launch a multipack of the 20g varieties to target children. 

"We are just finalizing the outer-packaging and are hoping to link it to Children In need. We have the basic concept, we just need a sign-off from the charity," he said.

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