Recipe for success – how UK food firms can crack the US

A Graze snack box

While curry-mad Britons can’t get enough mango chutney, it seems that Americans can’t stand the sticky stuff.

That was what popular UK snacks firm Graze found out pretty quickly when it first expanded to the US in 2013.

“Our plan in the US was to initially launch our entire British range and see how everything went down,” says Graze’s chief executive Anthony Fletcher.

“Some things Americans loved, and some they absolutely loathed… [such as] mango chutney. They were saying ‘what is this acidic yellow blob?’.”

Revenue potential

For many UK food and drink companies cracking the US is the holy grail.

With its population of more than 326 million people, the giant American marketplace can offer British grub and booze businesses huge revenues.

But as the UK’s largest supermarket group Tesco can attest, being a success stateside is far from easy. Back in 2013 it sold its six-year-old Californian venture Fresh & Easy after losses totalling more than £1bn ($1.4bn).

So how exactly can a UK food and drink firm conquer the US? We asked a number of companies who have done just that to reveal the secrets of their success.

Graze’s Antony Fletcher says that his company sat down and formulated a plan whereby they would study their US online sales data to quickly work out exactly which of its snack food packs Americans wanted to buy, which ones they didn’t like, and which ones could be adapted to better meet US tastes.

“We are very lucky in that we sell via our website,” he says. “And we get 15,000 product ratings an hour, which gives us a huge advantage – we can find out very quickly what people like and don’t like.”

Differing tastes

So, launching in the US with its entire range of products, within days Graze found out that American customers loved its packs of mixed nuts, but couldn’t cope with things like the already-mentioned mango chutney, or the firm’s “deconstructed Jaffa Cakes”.

The latter wasn’t bought in the US because American consumers didn’t know anything about Jaffa Cakes, the popular UK orange and chocolate-topped mini-cakes.

Graze soon trimmed back what was available to US customers, and used their reviews to change the formulas of other products, such as its barbeque sauce. It also quickly introduced some US specific lines, such as “Creamy Range Kern Pops”, which is popcorn with a “creamy, zesty kick”.

Mr Fletcher says that Graze also studied how long the various US delivery firms took to get its snack boxes to customers’ doors, so that it could chose the quickest in each state.

Today US sales account for half of the company’s £75.8m annual revenues.



BBC News

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