Aiming to join the sweet life

Lees, Clive Miquel
Lees chief executive Clive Miquel: Working with customers on merchandising is key.

Lees has boosted its bottom line now it’s boosting its brand.

SCOTTISH biscuits and cakes company Lees had a standout year in 2013 when it boosted turnover and profit very considerably indeed. And last year had some considerable plus points too. A very welcome ruling meant that snowballs, key products for the company, were re-designated as cakes (VAT-free) instead of biscuits (VAT-liable).
The difference will be more than the 20% that used to be added to the price, Lees chief executive Clive Miquel explained to Scottish Grocer.
“Even some of the supermarkets had difficulty handling a VATable product that sat next to VAT-free lines,” he said.

The redesigned packaging for Lees’ range of confectionery bars.
“And we had branched out into in-store bakery. That had been very difficult in terms of our mini snowballs but I’m very hopeful that we can see our snowball business growing in the coming year.”
If 2013 was a breakthrough year financially much of that had been down to increased distribution, especially through the multiples, and that included significant own-label production.
2014 had been about consolidating the progress, working on cost control
and organising the sort of investment that would allow it to remain competitive nationally and internationally in a business where you have to be able to deal with often very sharp fluctuations in commodity prices.
But during those years the company had also embraced new product development to a greater degree than before. And 2015 will see some of that work coming through, he said.
“Going forward we want to renew the focus on our branded product. That’s where we see the future and that’s where we see the coming year.”
In Scotland one of the most visible examples is the current relaunch of the company’s confectionery bars under co-ordinated branding.
“We will be spending more time with our customers on merchandising in stores, which is key,” he said.
“And we’re going to put a promotional programme behind the confectionery, which we haven’t really had before.”