Growing year on year, and with a new production facility on the horizon, Gosh! Food is on a quest to bring its plant-based flavor sensations to the masses
Over the last five years, the UK’s plant-based food market has grown rapidly. Increasing public engagement with vegan lifestyles, conscious consumerism and healthy meat alternatives mean that the sector is now worth over £600 million, with chilled plant-based products responsible for more than half that figure. Since the brand was launched in 2016, Gosh! Food has grown in line with the market and continues to thrive as more plant-based food enters the mainstream.
Originally known as Great Food, the company’s earliest products included plant-based falafels, bites, and healthy snack options. When current CEO Jane Rayner and Commercial Director Maureen Holebrook joined the firm in 2013 and 2014 respectively, a clear vision was established for the company’s future in terms of growing the business into the mainstream market and adding a variety of all natural, plant-based options alongside the company’s popular line of products. As part of this mission, Great Food rebranded and Gosh! Food was born, growing its product offering, and positioning it amongst a burgeoning plant-based retail segment.
In 2016, Gosh! launched its first five products: four varieties of burger, including its Mushroom & Beetroot Burger, and one bite sized product, which was its Sweetcorn & Quinoa Bites. Though these products remain vastly popular to this day, Gosh! has also added multiple flavored bite offerings, as well as plant- and vegetable-based burgers and sausages aimed to be eaten as part of a main meal. It’s been an exciting period of expansion for Gosh!, and Operations Director David Blagg contends that the company is just getting started.
“The last three years have been incredible,” David declares. “We have seen yearly growth over 30 per cent, triggered mostly within our retail channel, and we see more and more people buying into the brand. We are very much aimed at the flexitarian market, which is people who are actively looking to reduce their meat consumption, but not necessarily wanting to be vegetarian or vegan or anti-meat. As you see quite a lot in the media, people are looking for healthier opportunities to cut down on meat, and they want something not just healthy, but tasty too.
“In 2019, the big-ticket item was Greggs’ vegan sausage roll and there are now similar offerings in Burger King and KFC,” David adds. “People are looking for delicious options within the vegetarian/vegan market – areas which have been established for a very long time, but were potentially perceived to be boring and not offering many flavorsome eating opportunities. Now though, with the growth in the market, businesses are cottoning on and offering people much more choice, variety and flavor. Flexitarians in particular are really driving the growth because they want that healthy, tasty opportunity more and more throughout the week and into the weekend. We, at Gosh!, are a big part of that. We offer the uniqueness of using 100 per cent natural ingredients, we have a completely allergen-free production facility and our ingredients labels are completely clean, meaning we use no additives whatsoever. Currently, that is our big unique selling point versus anyone else in the market.”
Power of the people
A fairly small organization compared to some of its competitors, Gosh! is led by a team of industry professionals with experience working at some of the sector’s biggest brands. As well as this collective expertise, Gosh! benefits from a lean organizational structure that allows the company to be proactive, agile, and quick to make decisions. It is a modern and positive approach to business that David believes begins at management level and filters down through the company.
“I come from a big business background,” David says, “and I truly believe in the power of the people you employ. You can have a good leadership team with the correct vision, but if you don’t get the buy-in from your workforce, you won’t get far. That’s why we listen to our teams and believe in their empowerment and internal succession. It’s very much a meritocracy.
“Last year, we introduced an employee survey to help us look at our culture. In response to the results, we made some changes to become more inclusive and introduced more reward and recognition initiatives. It is important that our people are happy, so we do what we can to support them and help them achieve, which is good for them and even better for Gosh! as a business.”
Though production at Gosh! runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the company realized in 2019 that it was edging towards capacity at its current facility and consequently acquired a site next door with a view to building a new factory to allow for future business growth. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, work began on the new production facility in June 2020 as Gosh! confidently doubled down on its growth plans, extending the lease of its current site, as well as investing in brand new machinery.
“Some people thought, ‘crikey, that’s a hell of a risk’, but we are confident in where we are going and in our ability to keep growing,” David states. “It really gave our employees a massive boost at a time when they could have been feeling nervous about the pandemic and what it meant for their futures.”
Currently in the late stages of construction, Gosh’s! new factory-in-progress is the result of a £5 million investment. The facility’s first equipment is set to arrive in November.
“It has been quite a rush because we wanted everything in place for January when we have new products being launched,” David reports. “It is very exciting to see it coming together and taking shape. The factory will eventually have two production lines, which will mean up to 25 new jobs for the local area. It has been a 12-month project squeezed into six months, but we have made some strong, new partnerships that will benefit us in the future, so that has been good for local businesses too.”
Once the new site is up and running, Gosh! will continue to implement its stringent manufacturing process, regularly audited both internally and externally, and involving only the highest quality raw materials sourced from approved suppliers. With quality assurance built into self-checking production teams, Gosh! cultivates a shared culture of pride, passion, and ownership in the food it produces.
“Our teams are all very proud of what they do,” David proclaims. “We are particularly passionate about our manufacturing process being so transparent and we are very proud of having that clean, natural label. There are a lot of products in the meat replacement market that use artificial thickeners and binders for flavoring and texture, whereas we really push how natural we are and that makes our products different and more delicious.”
After being forced to react quickly to protect its staff and wider business during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gosh! is certainly taking nothing for granted this year, but as 2020 draws to a close, it is clear that the firm has performed well, despite the difficulties. Though there have been challenges in terms of sales performance, primarily in the foodservice channel, the company has continued to work with its partners in quickly managing and responding to these challenges in a way that only an agile business can. As a result, Gosh! is already starting to see late-year growth in its foodservice channels, whist retail continues to perform well, allowing David to make a positive, yet robust and transparent forecast for the company’s future.
“Our aim is to maintain the health of the business and then continue its growth,” he asserts. “Gosh! is a great brand, so we are going to keep investing in our marketing and product development, as well as work on improving our manufacturing facilities. At the back end of this year, you will see an exciting NPD launch, with an accompanying promotional campaign, including TV advertising that takes us in a new direction. In the first quarter of 2021, our product development plans will take us into another new category and by then we will have the second site up and running.
“Every year we seem to surpass the previous year in terms of exciting growth and our plan is to become more and more mainstream. We want to be one of the brands, if not the brand, that people think of first when they consider natural, tasty, delicious plant- and vegetable-based products and that can only be good for the future.”