When Christie McCarthy and Julia Crownshaw decided to pour their life savings into Dollop Puddings, a small business selling a range of premium chilled desserts, they were well-aware it would be a challenging and complex journey. But, after seeing the premium dessert category take off overseas, conducting in-depth research with Kiwi consumers that uncovered frustration with bland supermarket offerings, and trusting their gut, they were confident demand for such products existed.
Research showed consumers now expect gourmet quality food to be available from their supermarket, but the options for quality desserts were seriously lacking. In fact, one focus group participant referred to the other options as “common as muck”, which cemented the most critical insight: there is a certain degree of social expectation that comes with entertaining and consumers want brands to reflect positively on them.
The aim was to replicate the success of the chilled soup and chilled pasta categories. And the insight that consumers didn’t want to be seen dead with ‘cheap’, ‘naff’ brands shaped every single element of the proposition. The branding and pack design was stylish and felt like ‘a gift to the table’ to justify the premium pricing; dessert accompaniments like its award-winning vanilla bean custard were in a vessel sexy enough to be plonked straight onto the table; and the products were as good as home made, and could even be passed off as such.
Dollop needed to educate consumers that a ready-made, gourmet dessert solution was now available from the chilled foods aisle in the supermarket and tell them they were proudly handmade the traditional way using New Zealand ingredients and lots of the good yummy stuff. So the strategy was to capitalise on the uniqueness and charm of Dollop’s story. And the best—and cheapest—way to do that was through PR, and specifically print PR.
With coverage in the Herald, Cuisine, Dish, Homestyle, TVNZ’s Breakfast and many other mentions, Dollop’s story certainly captured the imagination of the media. And since launching it has reached over 2.1 million (based on circulation) and over 7.8 million (based on readership). Crownshaw’s role as a judge on reality TV show Chelsea New Zealand’s Hottest Home Baker helped bump up the awareness as well (she will also be hosting seven cooking shows called Sugar Club on Sky TV’s Food TV). And best of all, they spent just $8,364 of the $10,000 PR budget, and, up until very recently, the two directors did it all themselves.
Dollop Puddings are now available in 72 retail outlets nationwide and, when compared to 2011, it experienced volume growth of 135 percent, revenue growth of 154 percent and net profit 38 percent higher than budget. The pair believe there is still a huge amount of value to extract from the domestic market, but that hasn’t stopped them from looking further afield and Dollop goods are also available in high-end delis and food stores in Australia and could soon be found in Singapore and China.
It’s a brilliant start-up success story, and it was all based around the nugget that Kiwis wanted their pudding homemade, without having to make it at home. Mmmm, pudding. Anyone for seconds?
Winner: Dollop Puddings
The people: Julia Crownshaw, Christie McCarthy
Judge’s comment: "It wowed me because New Zealand is so rich with young entrepreneurial businesses who are prepared to take risks and they are building brands out of being intuitive. Dollop entered a category that is bloody hard but for any small business if self-belief is born out of insight then you can succeed. And I think they’ve shown they have."
Merit: Frucor, The launch of V Blue
With growth slowing for V, Frucor needed to find new sources of volume. Research showed there was an opportunity to increase frequency of consumption amongst ‘light users’, as well as increase penetration by bringing new users into the brand. But to reach these consumers it was necessary to remove sensory barriers to consumption. V effectively addressed this challenge through the development of V Blue. The new product hit the year one sales target in just ten weeks; it contributed +15 percent growth to the brand after launch; and, making up 23 percent of V variant sales, it’s now the second highest seller behind V Green. In fact, it’s Frucor’s most successful new product launch since V itself.