While many businesses battle to develop and defend their own niche corners of the market, Sleaford Quality Foods (SQF) plans to tackle a host of on-trend challenges with one fell swoop.
The supplier, which expects all its packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2022, has launched a versatile new range designed to meet the evolving demands of the modern consumer.
The Our Earth range, released this week, offers a variety of products that cater for gluten-free, dairy-free, palm oil-free, vegan, halal and kosher options.
The initial offerings include gravy mixes, bouillons, stuffings, Yorkshire pudding mixes and jelly crystals.
“Eating habits and dietary requirements are changing,” SQF head of innovation, Tracey Siddy, tells Food Spark. “They’ve really evolved in the last few years, and continue to do so. We want to provide products that are versatile and capable of meeting all those different consumer demands and diets, but we’re not wanting to alienate traditional meat-based diets either.”
As a result of this ambition, SQF is looking to deliver products to caterers so that they can offer multiple versions of the same product.
“Rather than having different gravies for meat, gluten-free, vegan, etc., there’s one base product that will cater to all diets,” Siddy explains.
As a subsidiary of Jain Farm Fresh Foods, SQF is able to utilise a large contract farming network to enable full traceability back to source.
“We heavily invest in our technical department and map all our ingredients back to their original source,” reveals Siddy. “[Jain Farm Fresh Foods] gives us a massive advantage with their factories all over the world. In terms of tracing, we can go beyond the farmer and go all the way back to plants and seeds.
“We have over 8,000 contract farmers at the moment and we’re constantly expanding the range of ingredients that we manufacture.”
For SQF, Our Earth is just the beginning.
“A theory around launching this range is that they’re highly recognised food lines within the foodservice industry and quite commodity products, so initially, this is a bit of a softer entry into the market,” comments Siddy.
“We’ve gone for traditional with a bit of a twist, just while we build up some brand recognition and confidence. In the future, once we’ve got that backing and customers are on board, we’re looking at launching some less traditional products.”
When it comes to variation, SQF isn’t stopping with trends. The supplier works with a host of different types of customers – from independent wholesalers and large distributors to schools, care homes and the NHS.
“We go to those customers with a specialist, who analyses the trends and looks at what’s going on the market on a consumer level,” Siddy says. “They visit them with our innovation team and we work with those partners to create a bespoke strategy around their customer base and try to help them stand out in the market and offer something different.”
The big trends ahead
Siddy sees sustainability and salt/sugar reduction as the most significant evolving challenges for the future.
“Sustainability – whether its packaging, transparency or human welfare within the industry – it’s a massive trend and also a challenge, in that everyone wants to have the best product and the most sustainable product,” she explains.“At the same time, margins are very tightly squeezed, so people aren’t necessarily wanting to pay extra for that offering.
“We’re also tackling salt and sugar reduction, which also impacts us because we’re replacing them with spices and herbs, which we’re manufacturing through Jain Farm Fresh Foods. That’s increasing demand on those lines in terms of reducing sugar and salt.”