Hannah Haas Marketing Director – Aunt Bessie’s

Hannah Haas is Marketing Director at Aunt Bessie’s, the number one brand for frozen Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes. Hannah Haas spoke to Wholesale Manager.

What does your job involve?

A large part involves working with the brand team to deliver our marketing strategy, driving awareness and distribution of our core range and NPD. We recently launched a new campaign platform for Aunt Bessie’s, moving away from our existing brand icons and introducing a new creative route.

How would you sum up the Aunt Bessie’s brand’s history?

Aunt Bessie’s is synonymous with roast dinners, as the number one brand for frozen Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes. The brand was officially launched in the 1990s, but we started supplying Yorkshire puddings to Butlins in the 1970s.

Since then, Aunt Bessie’s has grown into a £150m brand, with a portfolio going beyond roast dinner staples and spanning convenient midweek meals and traditional favourites including toad in the hole and desserts.

How important is the Roast Dinner occasion and where do you see it going?

While traditional Sunday roasts have declined over the last 18 months, the meal is still as popular as ever. On average, people eat roasts 1.3 times a week and in the last year consumer penetration has risen from 30.1% to 30.5%.

The roast overall has risen +4.2% this year, largely driven by increased midweek consumption and now totals 1.28 billion occasions.

Consumption is up among all ages, but the biggest increase is from millennials, who ate 9.5% more roasts in the past year. We believe the midweek growth comes from more people recognising frozen food’s convenience when putting together a ‘proper’ meal after work.

What are your latest innovations to the Aunt Bessie’s range?

One of our most notable launches has been our vegetable chip products, including Rosemary & Sea Salt Swede Chips, Smoked Paprika Carrot Chips and a parsnip, carrot and sweet potato mix. They give consumers wanting ‘carb swaps’ a tasty alternative that doesn’t require high levels of time or effort to prepare or result in wasted products, unlike fresh produce.

We have also added two new hot desserts. The new Melt in the Middle desserts serve six, an indulgent treat for larger gatherings. The new products allow retailers to capitalise on the seasonal spike in hot desserts during the colder months.

Is there more Aunt Bessie’s NPD to come?

We’re constantly exploring how to support retailers in capitalising on changing consumer habits or responding to new trends. We’ll tell you more about our upcoming new products in due course.

What above the line support are you giving Aunt Bessie’s in the run up to Christmas?

We launched our new marketing strategy, communications route and visual identity on 25th October, part of a record £5m investment. The new campaign platform “Bring out the Bessie in you” breaks down the barriers around the complexity and time required to make a delicious roast dinner any time of the week.

It’s not a specifically Christmas campaign, but ties in with roast dinner consumption peaking through winter and over Christmas, and lets us tailor the content to suit consumption habits and drive awareness all year round.

Headlined by our TV advert, which introduces a new ‘hero’, the campaign will also run through digital and social channels and comes ahead of us introducing new packaging in the New Year, featuring mouth-watering food photography and giving the brand a consistent look and feel across all channels.

How are you helping your wholesale customers grow their business?

We work with wholesalers to help their retail customers grow their frozen sales and encourage shoppers to visit the freezer cabinet in these outlets.

How can wholesalers maximise sales from your brand?

We have good relationships with many wholesalers, but there’s plenty of room to increase sales and visibility in many depots and increase Aunt Bessie’s prominence as a consumer brand.

And finally, Aunt Bessie’s was recently acquired by Nomad Foods Europe, which also owns Birds Eye and Goodfella’s. What is Nomad’s vision for Aunt Bessie’s?

Nomad Foods’ key aim is to drive overall growth in the frozen food category by offering products and occasions that complement its entire portfolio. Nomad Foods brands all possess clear strengths and Aunt Bessie’s is a great fit.

With Aunt Bessie’s part of the Group, we expect to have greater scope to reignite consumers’ connection with the brand and capitalise on the strong shopper awareness. Much of that value is likely to be ‘behind the scenes’ and will come as a result of benefits from Nomad Foods’ sheer scale, enabling us to keep the Aunt Bessie’s portfolio as strong as ever.