UK: Perkier eyes capital raise to bolster growth plans

The maker of healthy snack bars reports 20% online sales growth. Founder Ann Perkins says the uptick stems from the first-mover advantage of its immunity and gut health range. Murielle Gonzalez reports
Perkier founder Ann Perkins
Perkier founder Ann Perkins

Ann Perkins, founder of UK snack bars and porridge maker Perkier Foods, is bullish about its next chapter of growth. “Perkier is the fastest growing premium healthy snack bar in UK retail, growing at 5% year-on-year while our direct competitors are in double-digit decline,” she told NutritionInvestor, citing a sector report by Nielsen that shows the growth of Graze, Eat Natural, Nakd, and Kind is down between 16% to 20% in the 24 weeks to 13 March 2021.

Perkier was quick to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic and launched its products on Amazon in May last year. Perkins says online sales have grown at 20% every month since launch.

Building on this momentum, Perkins is getting ready for a capital raise this autumn as she seeks to expand the business in the UK market and beyond. Perkins told NutritionInvestor the amount of capital to raise is yet to be determined and that funds are likely to come from angel investors and venture capital firms.

Perkier bars hit the UK shelves in 2015, tapping into the then-nascent on-the-go snack bar category. Fast-forward five years, and its product line comprises nine SKUs in the bar range line, three SKUs in the porridge line, and three SKUs in the protein balls line.

Products are sold in three of the four top UK retailers and all foodservice wholesalers. Perkins claims Perkier Foods is the fastest-selling premium healthy snack bar in Sainsbury’s —30% ahead of its competition.

The commercial success that Perkins describes is unsurprising for a CPG food professional like her. Perkins founded Perkier after a 12-year tenure at Heinz, leading the consumer insights team, covering ad-hoc and continuous research. This approach to product development is Perkier most valuable asset.

Perkier: Good for people’s health and the planet

Perkier began product development for its range of immunity-boosting bars in February last year, when the Covid-19 outbreak looked like a potential global issue. “We thoroughly researched the different vitamins we could use to support immunity, spoke to suppliers and gained samples to start our trials,” said Perkins. “We pitched to Sainsbury’s in April last year and launched in more than 500 stores September,” she added.

Perkier products offer immunity
and gut health support

The Perkier immunity range is fortified with 100% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D, C and B12 for immune support.

“The nuts in our Perkier bars contain healthy fats and ensure that the vitamin D is absorbed as this vitamin is fat soluble,” explained Perkins, noting the company also reformulated its Perkier porridge line for immunity.

By the time the Perkier immunity range was launched, the company had progressed on the research it embarked upon a year before, exploring the health benefits of pre- and probiotics.

“There’s a fast-growing body of scientific evidence showing that healthy gut improves digestive health, immunity and even boosts our mood, as 90% of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’, is generated in the gut,” said Perkins. “We thoroughly researched the different probiotics to find the most efficacious strains with the strongest body of clinical evidence we could use,” she added.

Perkier spoke to many suppliers and gained samples to start trials. Perkins pitched to Morrisons in May last year, and the retailer stocked the new range of gut health bars in November. “Our Perkier Madagascan Vanilla bar is delicious and helps you love your gut,” said Perkins.

The new formulation comprises billions of probiotics and 5g prebiotic fibre for promoting a healthy gut. “Our probiotics are microencapsulated. So, unlike other live cultures in yoghurts and fermented drinks, they are proven to reach the gut alive, which is how they do you the most good,” explained Perkins. “Prebiotic fibre is a food the good gut bacteria (probiotics) love to eat, so having the two together (a synbiotic) enables the good gut bacteria to flourish and multiple in the gut,”

In all, Perkier offers a distinctive health profile. Products are high in fibre, packed with plant proteins, and up to 60% lower in sugar than competitors – all in under 160 kcals per bar.

Perkins says the company’s ethos champions sustainability and values respect for the environment. “We have the most sustainable footprint in UK snack bars,” she said. “Nine in 10 consumers want palm oil-free snack bars, but only one in 10 snack bars is palm oil-free — and that’s us!”

Perkins notes the decision not to use palm oil in product formulation seeks to help stop deforestation and save the critically endangered Orangutans. “We’re a vegan, B-Corp certified manufacture, and we only use fully recyclable packaging,” she added.

Marketing strategy

Perkins recognises that the brand’s social media strategy has played a vital role in telling the Perkier brand story to the public, engaging directly with its target consumer.

The company established The Perky Fam, a community of brand ambassadors, which the brand engages with through campaigns on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but increasingly exploring YouTube and TikTok.

“Our fast-growing influencer community, The Perky Fam, is building great momentum,” said Perkins. “Every month they complete missions and receive perks, such as monthly snack deliveries or exclusive merchandise, and are first to hear about our new products and marketing campaigns.”

Perkins believes consumer engagement on social media will continue post lockdown. She told NutritionInvestor that the company is gearing up to boost brand awareness at live sports and events across the UK.

Snack category trends

The retail snack category plummeted last year — the sector declined by 10%. The drop in sales is largely attributed to the Covid-19 lockdowns and changes in consumer behaviour due to schools and universities, offices and gyms closed.

Nielsen data shows single packs were hit harder, with a 27% decline in sales whereas sales of multipack drop 3% as consumers stocked up in a larger weekly shop.

The UK’s Food Standard Agency forecasts the sector will bounce quickly and it’s set to return to pre-Covid-19 growth next year. The agency analysed Nielsen data and projected the UK snack bar market to reach £875 million in retail sales value in 2024.