Brian Blanchard, regional CEO and managing director at Pladis Americas, said the ventures unit was initially launched in the UK last year. “Since it’s relatively a new team, it doesn’t have a name,” he said.
‘We operate more like a small company…’
Blanchard noted the team functions differently compared to other large firms’ venture arms like General Mills’ 301 Inc. and Kellogg’s eighteen94 partly because it does not invest in external brands at the moment.
Even though pladis is part of Turkish conglomerate Yildiz Holding and owns big chocolate and biscuits brands like Godiva and United Biscuits, “we operate more like a small company, especially in the US. We’re very entrepreneurial,” said Blanchard.
Having previously worked at Campbell Soup and PepsiCo, he noted big companies often struggle with innovation because their business systems do not allow them to incubate a brand from scratch.
“We’re more like an internal development team,” explained Blanchard. “Our focus is how to start a brand from day one, and build it overtime to make it relevant to current consumer trends such as digital first and e-commerce.”
Through the new ventures division, pladis is launching a line of fruit and nut clusters called Why Nut in the US later this year to target on-the-go and health-focused consumers, according to Blanchard. The snack products, which come in a pack of four, will be available in two flavors: pistachio and almond, and will retail for $1.49 each.
“[For these clusters,] it took us less than six months from concept to market in the US… we’re launching them first in specialty retailers and wellness-focused stores in New York and West Coast,” he said. “We’re starting small, but we’ll be learning a lot from the consumer feedback.”
Overview and updates of pladis
Yildiz Holding created pladis in 2016 to consolidate some of the sweets and snacks brands it acquired over the past decade: DeMet’s Candy Company (acquired in 2013), Godiva (2008), Ulker (2017) and United Biscuits (2014), which produces McVitie’s, Jacob’s, Carr’s and Delacre.
In late 2016, pladis sold Delacre to Ferrero to trim down its biscuits portfolio. “We have a very focused strategy in North America around the premium space, whether it’s chocolate, biscuits or snacks,” Blanchard told BakeryandSnacks.
He also noted Carr’s has been distributed by Kellogg through a long-term partnership in the US, which predates the creation of pladis.
However, pladis will take back the distribution of McVities by the end of September 2018 from Kelsen Group, which has been part of Campbell Soup’s snacks division since 2013.
Upon the consolidation, pladis has also helped expand Godiva’s presence in the global retail scene as the premium chocolate brand had been traditionally sold in its own boutique shops, according to Blanchard.
“Godiva had not been successful in its consumer product business. What Yildiz Holding decided to do is to take the consumer side of Godiva’s business and put it within pladis,” he said. “We develop the market and distribute a collection of products designed for food, drugs and mass… [However,] the Godiva business, which still exists in the Yildiz Holding, focuses on running the retail shop and department stores across the world.”
In the US, Godiva has a “balanced business” of both boutique shops and CPG, added Blanchard.
US to deliver a quarter of global sales
pladis categorizes its markets in three ways: mature markets, which include Turkey, UK and the Middle East; priority markets, where Pladis focuses on short-term to medium-term growth, include North America and Africa; and future markets, including China, East Asia in general and the rest of Europe.
North America only represents 6% of Pladis’ overall sales, among which 85% comes from the US alone, according to Blanchard.
Since pladis is still relatively new to the US (it opened its first regional office in White Plaines, New York, in 2017), Blanchard believes the US has the potential to deliver around 20% to 25% of the company’s global sales in the near future.
He said pladis’ sales grow between low and mid double digits each year on average, while its sales increased by 60% in Canada last year. “Growth rates in Mexico and Caribbean are very high but their bases are very small,” he added.
“We generate about $250m annual sales in North America, and our ambition is to double that within the next three to five years [before hitting the $1bn mark in 10 years],” said Blanchard. “pladis globally aims to be the fastest-growing major CPG company within the food industry.”