Quorn in the USA: The boss expects Stateside momentum to put firm on track for $1bn target

A HUGELY successful entry into the American market has boosted expectations at the speed of growth meat-free food manufacturer Quorn can prepare for as it targets sales of $1bn.

The company, which employs more than half of its 600-strong workforce in North Yorkshire, is benefitting from changing habits as consumers across the world look to reduce the amount of meat they eat – whether as part of a healthier diet, because of concerns about the environment and sustainability, or because of the rising cost of meat.

Quorn, which has been producing meat-free food for more than 30 years, is enjoying strong sales growth both in the UK and across its 14 international markets. In 2011 the company had revenues of £110m. Its last published accounts, for 2013, show sales of £140m while 2014 is expected to be above £150m.

It has ambitious targets, with its eyes set on an attention-grabbing figure of $1bn worldwide sales (£650m), and its first year of having a physical presence in America has convinced the company that this is achievable.

“This year we have grown about 8% on the back of about 10% last year. We think we will be growing in the 10-15% range and then very quickly we will start building towards that $1bn target,” said Quorn chief exectutive Kevin Brennan.

“We decided that to succeed in the grocery channel in the United States we needed to have our own people there. We opened our doors on January 4th [2014] and it has been a tremendous success for us. We will finish the year with 30% more distributors than we started.

“The transformation the team has delivered has been amazing. We go into 2015 with great momentum.”

Although the regionalised retail market in the United States presents its own challenges, as retailers can be big players in single cities or states, Quorn was recently distributed in 2,500 Wal-Mart stores which demonstrates the scale of the opportunity.

He added: “The United States is our biggest international market but it is the market where we have the smallest market share.

“It’s probably one-tenth of the size of the UK but we think it should be much bigger. It might take three, five or six years, but we know the potential is there.”

Mr Brennan and his management team have been focusing on ensuring the company is ready for growth, with investments made in the supply chain, building a third fermenter at its site in Billingham, Middlesbrough, and recruiting significantly.

“We have been getting the processes right,” said Mr Brennan. “Over the last three years we have brought in 60 people at management level, out of 160. Some of that is better people, some of that is new roles.

“We now have an organisation capable of growing and being run like a world-class organisation.”