After just two years of trading, Bedale sausage maker Heck has already secured listings with most of the major supermarkets.
Investing in extensive consumer research, establishing a premium brand and having the vision to develop new products are just some of the secrets of the company’s success according to founder Debbie Keeble
Bedale sausage makers Heck have enjoyed a phenomenal second year - turnover is expected to have almost doubled to £6m, they’ve secured listings with most of the major supermarkets and a number of innovative product extensions are planned over the next 12 months.
“As a family of farmers and sausage producers, we had a strong knowledge base behind us when we launched Heck in 2012 and were well aware that establishing the brand would be our most important investment,” explains Debbie Keeble who founded the company with her husband Andrew.
“Rather than just competing head-to -head with existing products, we wanted to reinvigorate the sausage category by attracting younger shoppers with the offer of healthier products made with higher quality and more exciting ingredients. Fortunately, we have been able to bring our four children into the business, harnessing their energy and enthusiasm to drive the brand and engage with younger people from using bright, eye-catching packaging to employing social media.”
The company behind Heck, Thirsk Food Logistics, began manufacturing the range of chicken, chorizo and pork & apple sausages as well as bratwurst and farmhouse breakfast, from 3,000sq ft starter units in Bedale in April 2012. It is now producing 100 tonnes of sausages a month to Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons and Booths supermarkets, has a staff of 26 people and is soon to move into 14,000sq ft facilities near Ripon.
“We are literally bursting at the seams and need to move to substantially larger premises which will also give us space for further growth over the next couple of years,” comments Debbie. “Having established listings with most of the UK supermarkets, our plan is to increase our sales with them by extending our product range. Already, we have developed a new range of chicken and beef meatballs and burgers which will launch in 2015 – we’re even come up with a square sausage, designed not to roll off the barbecue and to fit into a sandwich perfectly!”
“Looking forward, we think chicken and vegetarian products are the way of the future as consumers become increasingly concerned with health. We also plan to explore producing premium quality cooked sausages, but we are firmly committed to manufacturing all of the Heck products ourselves.”
Trusted corporate advisers
Debbie continues: “Attracting private equity to help finance our growth and future plans was central to our strategy and it was vital to present the business as professionally as possible. Having worked with Leeds law firm Clarion since 2005, we knew that Richard Moran and the corporate team would provide the best advice and undertake the rigorous financial and legal due diligence work needed to reassure potential investors. Earlier this year, with Clarion’s support, we were successful in securing £1m in growth capital from Panoramic Growth Equity.
“Looking after our interests from a legal perspective is not an easy task, but the Clarion team has more than earned its position as our trusted advisers – I’d go so far as to say that Richard understands the sausage making business almost as well as we do! Their advice has been essential and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
Richard Moran adds: “With a wealth of knowledge behind them, the Keeble family has a unique insight into the sausage sector. They undertook extensive consumer research and in-depth analysis to spot a gap in the market and then invested heavily in establishing a premium brand which really engages with customers.
“Their vision to bring incremental sales into the sausage category by developing innovative products aimed at the younger generation has been hugely successful – to be the only independent sausage maker supplying the major supermarkets is quite an achievement. With growth investment now in place, they have a bright future ahead.”
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