Looking to the future

For Brakes, Christmas 2006 means time to think about Christmas 2007. The process of choosing new products starts roughly 12 months in advance as Brakes’ product managers investigate new ideas and products. Coming up with a new product can work in different ways. Sometimes a supplier will bring a product or idea to Brakes, where they will then develop it until they are happy for it to go out. Or Brakes will present a brief to the supplier and then develop that. When giving a briefing to suppliers Brakes covers the details of the visual look, the flavour and the cost.

Simon Cannell, product marketing manager of Brakes, says: “Last Christmas 10% of independent sales on desserts came from new launches. New launches help to refresh the range and develop market trends.”

Choosing the Christmas selection involves looking back at the previous Christmas, seeing what worked best and any improvements that can be made. The suppliers are provided with a specific brief in early December and the product managers contact them again after Christmas. This gives them a chance to look at the sales in various areas over the Christmas period. Then they can look at the chef samples and the ideas. This can go back and forth working on different ideas.

Once the product has been agreed on it has a manufacture trial to see how the product can be mass-produced, and if it will conform to the required price point. Again this can go back and forward with various ideas and this usually takes until mid February. From February to March the product managers have to present the product to the internal board. In April the sales team have all the information in order to talk to the national account customers about the new Christmas menus. Independent, smaller accounts will receive the information later in the year.

Braking with Tradition

To many, Christmas means turkey and Brakes has more than 20 different turkey products available including Brakes Turkey Breast with Apple, Cranberry Port Stuffing, which won best catering product at the British Turkey awards.

But product marketing manager Sally Sturley says: “It is important of offer something different and appealing on the vegetarian menu at Christmas.”

A vegetarian option can be preferred at Christmas, not just by vegetarians, because it offers something different, especially for people who may be eating at several Christmas events. With group bookings the whole decision can be swayed on what the vegetarian option is, especially for those feeling ‘turkeyed out’. New products for this Christmas include Brakes Mushroom, Blue Cheese, Spinach Hazelnut Parcel and Brakes Butternut Squash and Cashew Nut Roast with Redcurrant and Orange Sauce.

Cannell comments that a recent trend is a range of alternatives to fried food. This reflects the change in customers wanting healthier products, and also the fact that fried food can all look very similar, particularly spread out on a buffet table This is something Brakes has been working on in its range of starters and buffet products for Christmas, which include: Brakes Parsnip, Butternut Squash Chilli Soup; Brakes Winter Greens Stilton Soup; Marinated Roast Salmon Skewers; Brakes Classic Canap eacute; Selection and Brakes Ardennes Pat eacute; with Plums Brandy.

A main consideration when developing new products is the caterer and the end consumer, and this means not only what they need out of the food, but what can be done to make their lives easier?

Product development manager Stuart Davey says: “Having a focus on distribution it is important to make sure that the packaging will protect the product inside. Brakes has boxes and packaging to make sure the product arrives safely.” The boxes are colour coordinated according to sections and nutritional information and ingredients lists are clearly labelled.

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