One-on-One with Brian Blanchard, Managing Director of pladis Americas
Company to leverage brands to grow in North American market.
Getting the word out about the newly formed company takes time, pladis’ new exec admits, but a bevy of strong brands makes him optimistic about the future.
Brian Blanchard, managing director for pladis Americas, smiled when asked his impressions of the Sweets & Snacks Expo.
“This is the first time that we are exhibiting as pladis,” he explained. “So there are many people who do not know who or what we are. It’s not as they automatically realize we have the Godiva brand, so we’re missing out on those visitors looking to pick up some chocolates. However, we’ve had plenty of quality visits from our customers and partners.”
Given the company’s plans for future growth in North America, chances are plenty more show visitors will know who pladis is in the near future.
“Currently, North America represents only 6 percent of our total global volume,” he said. “We’re looking to double that in the next three to five years. We’re focused on growth, on taking our power brands, such as Godiva, Turtles, Flipz as well as our sweet and savory biscuit brands, McVitie’s and Carr’s to drive significant sales growth. We’ll do that by driving penetration, distribution, investing in the consumer, investing in innovation, route to market and product capabilities.”
As Blanchard detailed, the distribution of its chocolate brands is really good, with Godiva having an ACV in the high 60s, Flipz in the 70s and Turtles in the mid-60s. Distribution for McVitie’s and Carr’s is small, with Kellogg’s as a distribution partner for Carr’s and Pepperidge Farm for McVitie’s.
The managing director, who’s worked at Pepperidge Farm and Frito-Lay, promises to “expand” the company’s range. “It’s about building brand awareness,” he says.
On the chocolate side, it’s more of exploiting that brand awareness.
pladis launched its Godiva Masterpieces collection in the U.S. market this March, bringing chocolates such as its Dark Chocolate Ganache Hearts and Caramel Lion of Belgium to the grocery aisle for the first time. The new Masterpieces range was designed to make Godiva accessible to more consumers across the world and has been a major success at Costco, where it launched online in January and in stores in March.
“Our top customers are accepting shipments and initial consumer sales are robust,” Blanchard said. “We have significant plans for the e-commerce channel in North America and are already working with the online platforms of other retail heavyweights including Walmart and Target as well as online retailers such as Amazon. Godiva is only going to get bigger and brighter in the United States,” said Blanchard.
It’s also rolled out a new Flipz ‘Caramel Sea Salt’ flavor at the show, one of three exhibited at the Expo alongside a new ‘Flipz Bites’ format; pretzel pieces layered in a chocolate candy bar.
DeMet’s is also giving its much loved Turtles chocolates a new lease of life, launching new packaging at the show, whilst staying faithful to its original recipe.
Amidst all the new product launches, pladis americas has simultaneously invested heavily in its production capabilities, particularly in the Big Flats, N.Y. facility, where the company produces Turtles.
“It was a combination of modernization and capacity upgrades,” Blanchard says. “We put in two new enrobing lines as well as made upgrades on older equipment. We also put in chocolate enrobing and packing equipment for Flipz in Big Flats, to expand capacity. Currently, we exploring whether we want to include pretzel baking capability at the plant.”
As for its Reading, Pa. plant, where Godiva products are produced, the company is in the “final steps” of determining whether to expand capacity there, he explained. Currently, the facility services the company’s retail shops as well as it wholesale line, output between the two equally divided.
Should the Godiva Masterpieces Collection continue to grow, adding capacity would be the answer.
When asked whether he felt uneasy about the brand’s movement from premium to mainstream premium, Blanchard didn’t flinch.
“We’re a global company that’s represented in both the mass and premium sectors,” he explained. But the premium segment is accessible to a small segment of the population. We want Godiva luxury to be an affordable luxury, allowing access to everyone.”
And what about pladis and the recently announced commitment by eight candy companies and the Partnership for a Healthier America? While acknowledging that pladis isn’t part of the group who signed on — the companies have pledged to reduce individually wrapper candies to 200 calories by 2022, as well as include front-of-pack caloric information on 90 percent of their best-selling items — he didn’t preclude that from happening down the road. But that’s something that has to be discussed with the pladis executive team, he said. Nevertheless, it’s not something the company will shy away from.
“It’s all about how do we help consumers indulge responsibly,” Blanchard asserted.
And pladis Americas isn’t shying away from taking advantage of the synergies it has with Ulker.
“We’re looking at a number of products from Ulker that can be fast adapted and rebranded, great quality products that can provide a chocolate experience at an affordable price point. We’re talking with customers such as Dollar General and the like who are focused on consumer value. We hope to roll out such products in the early part of 2018.”
As Blanchard says, “It’s an exciting time for pladis.”