The US of Ate
Innovative Bites Ltd is a leading supplier, distributor and wholesaler of confectionary and grocery products that specialises in the import and distribution of American food brands
Founded in 2008, American food wholesaler Innovative Bites has witnessed significant growth and established a deep-rooted culture of success based on winning products and industry-leading customer service. Discussing the progression of Innovative Bites from a company with a turnover of £100,000 in 2010 to an organisation with a group revenue of £55 million in 2015, Vishal Madhu, Founder and Managing Director of Innovative Bites Ltd, begins: “Although the business was incorporated in 2008, no trading happened until August 2010. We have come a long way since our inception as we began operations with one major customer before seeing a gap in the market for American food brands; since then the business has doubled year-on-year.”
He continues: “Of course American products have always been available in the UK, however because their place within the market was niche or high end, products were sold in places such as Selfridges at expensive prices. If you didn’t have the money you couldn’t enjoy these products, but we believed food shouldn’t be expensive and found a way to make American food affordable and sustainable for all customer bases. The first retailer we worked with was Amazon and we were selling 1,400 products to this retailer; from there we worked with Tesco, Waitrose, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s to name a few. All of these stores have an American range that we are a major supplier of. We have made products such as Lucky Charms available to customers now for £5 instead of £10 when they first came to market and thus made these fun, exciting items more accessible; this development drove the market up and resulted in Innovative Bites surpassing the turnover of competitors that have been in the business for the last 18 years.”
Having rocked the American market with its low prices, consistency of products and distribution into the UK and Europe’s markets, the company imports over 700 containers a year that carry more than 1400 lines. Proud distributors of key core American brands such as Hostess, Warheads, Cookie Dough Bites, Boylan’s, Ortega, Mega Marshmallows, Herr’s and New York Style chips, Innovative Bites is able to meet the continued growth in demand for its confectionary products.
Providing more detail on the diverse range of products available is the company’s website, which has divided American foods into different segments; these include American breakfast, American soft drinks, American lip balm, American spreads, American snacks, American confectionary, American syrup/toppings, American general groceries and American desserts. Within the confectionary segment, the company offers products from major brands such as Butterfinger, Flipz, M&M’s, Goobers and Tootsie Roll.
Focus on innovation
In addition to supplying customers with established American brands, Innovative Bites has also developed its own Mega Marshmallows product, available in sizes of 700 grams and 400 grams bags under the brand Baking Buddy. Aware that the development of its own brands will result in independence and stronger control over the progression of Innovative Bites, Vishal comments: “Should a major manufacturer in the US decide to not bring a product to the UK any more, that would be a big hit to the business; this isn’t something we want so we are focusing tremendously on ensuring we have the right product base to launch. One great thing about the US is that innovation is a big deal and it is also very good at launching new products; if we focus on that innovation and bring these products into Europe without GMO, artificial dye or colours, we would be providing customers with a much cleaner product, and who wouldn’t want that?”
As growth in demand has continued for the supply of American snack and confectionary products, the company made the strategic decision to acquire Bonds of London, one of the UK’s oldest sweet businesses; a development that is the first step in the company’s long-term plan to become the UK’s leading confectionary supplier. “The acquisition of Bonds of London was a strategic step to grow the company’s turnover,” says Vishal. “We have grown our business over the last few years, but a lot of the products we sell are produced by the same manufacturers such as Kellogg’s, Mars and Nestle. Furthermore, some manufacturers are non-existent in Europe, but if they see this market develop these manufacturers will see opportunities to expand here. We need to sustain our business in the long-run and to do this we will change the direction of the business from trading to a business of our own brand; this is the drive behind the acquisition of Bonds of London.”
With the acquisition complete in April 2016, Innovative Bites benefits from the lack of common customers between the two firms, which will enable the company to significantly expand its customer base. “We have cross trade now, which makes us a stronger operator with connections to 17,200 retail points across the UK and Ireland; the synergies are huge for the business,” highlights Vishal. “There is still a lot of ongoing integration between the two companies however we are working together to streamline processes to bring the synergies together so we aren’t distributing from two hubs. To ensure we have the level of space we need to have all operations under one roof we have acquired a new 105,000 square foot site in Dunstable; this complements our 46,000 square foot site in Nottingham where we develop packaging and create bespoke products and packaging for items such as confectionary. With this investment we now have more than 150,000 square feet of space to grow from.”
With the company targeting increased turnovers in 2016 and beyond, these new purpose-built premises will enable the business to operate more efficiently and improve its offering to customers – not only with products from America, but also from the UK.
Having created a powerful combination of products, Innovative Bites is preparing for the next phase in its already highly successful history. “The top priority for us is to ensure the integration phase is completed correctly and that we have the right people in place for this development to be completed smoothly. Once this phase is over we have a number of options for continued growth; we could acquire another business or expand our own product line. Why just focus on confectionary? We could do snacks or soft drinks, we could do anything as long as we have the right thought process behind our decisions,” concludes Vishal.