Heck Sausages Business Case Study

Heck sausages. Now one of the biggest sausage sellers in the UK. Their bright and bold packaging and funky flavours catch your eye as you walk down the sausage aisles in the supermarket. They started off with good ol’ sausages, but have since expanded into fancy sausage flavours, burgers, chicken products and now venturing into the world of meat-free products.

But how have they become one of the fastest growing companies, from zero, to £3.5 million in just one year! And it all started with just one simple phrase. ‘What the heck.’

I’m Becca from Passport2Success. The online community and resource that gives you access to a world of business know-how.

In this video, we’ll be looking at the British sausage company Heck, and their beginnings and growth in the first few years.

But first we need to look into the past, and how the business began, before it was even Heck.

You may remember the sausage company Debbie and Andrew’s, created by Debbie and Andrew Keeble in 1999 making local, gluten, dairy and wheat free sausages. They sold part of the company to a bigger distribution company, but after feeling a loss of control of the brand, they sold in 2005. (Debbie and Andrews continues to trade, as a competitor to Heck)

A ‘what the heck’ moment during a family meeting convinced them to launch their new gourmet sausage brand, Heck. But this wasn’t just about another sausage business. They had a specific desire to set up a family business, and a business where they aim to remain 75% of the shareholders.

“We’ve always had trouble raising finance from the banks. HSBC tried to put us on special measures a few years ago. We were meeting all our targets but a new bank manager came in who just didn’t understand our business model so we decided to look at private equity. We raised finance from Panoramic Growth Equity, which has been our partner since 2014.”

(Panoramic will want to exit in four years but they’re looking to buy back its 25% share so that Heck is 100% family-owned again)

The market was saturated with sausages; premium, organic, British. They needed a brand to stand out from the crowd. They worked with Elmwood (who they had previously worked on) to create the new punchy and eye-catching brand for Heck which was launched in April 2013.

Let’s take a look at the branding.

The brand was stripped back. Gone are the muddy wellies, and imagery of farms which have been on the packets of sausages for years.

It’s simple. Bold. Statement lead. Daring and evocative tagline. ‘We do damn good sausages.’

Uncoated cardboard. Rustic, nice to the touch.

Reinforces the integrity behind simple and honest sausage making.

Each packet also has recipe suggestions on the reverse, giving you inspiration and showing you it’s not just a typical bangers and mash kinda sausage.

They had a name. They had a brand. But no marketing budget.

They created a simple social media plan which the family could work on in their spare time, not impacting on production time.

So that’s what they did.

Let’s look at some figures.

Their first deal was with Tesco, and after 4 months of being stocked in 50 stores, the turnover was £600,000.

In the first year, they grew from 0 staff to 24.

£3.5 million in 12 months, through one retailer, with zero PR or advertising investment.

4 major retailers up from 0 in the first 12 months.

51% of sales were from new buyers

They just keep going.

Now they’ve branched out into gimmicky promotions, such as a special flavour for the royal wedding (ginger and American mustard,) they regularly raise money for Movember, (and changed their packaging to Check) and just launched a range of meat-free products, to reach into another industry.

There’s our business case study of the beginning of one of the biggest sausage sellers in the UK.

Is there anything that you think you could approach in your business in a similar way?

Do you have any requests for who we do the next business case study on?

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