Interview - Pladis Americas MD

'Hello we're pladis': Godiva and McVitie’s set for big US push

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Yildiz Holding's global confectionery business makes Sweets & Snacks Expo debut. Photo: ConfectioneryNews
Yildiz Holding's global confectionery business makes Sweets & Snacks Expo debut. Photo: ConfectioneryNews

Related tags Godiva North america Belgium Us

Pladis is aiming to become a major player in US premium chocolate with Godiva and will bring McVitie’s biscuits to the country next year, says its America's MD.

The company plans to launch the UK’s top biscuits brand McVitie’s biscuits in the US in 2018. It is also aiming to further grow Godiva outside of own-store retail in wholesale to become a top two player in US premium chocolate.

North America: 6% of pladis sales

Today, only 6% of pladis’ global revenues come in North America.

Who is pladis?

Photo: Pladis

Pladis is the global confectionery arm of Turkish conglomerate Yildiz Holding. It was created last year​ by consolidating United Biscuits, Godiva and DeMet’s Candy. Around 33% of pladis sales come in the UK & Ireland, 31% in Turkey, 9% in the Middle East and just 6% in North America.

“Yet it's the largest market in terms of dollar value in the world for both chocolate as well as in sweet and savory biscuits,”​ Brian Blanchard, America's managing director of pladis told ConfectioneryNews at last week’s Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.

“So it's a significant growth market for pladis worldwide. It is the one where the company expects the highest absolute growth over the next three to five years,”​ he said - with the US expected to account for around a fifth of pladis’s global sales growth in the next two years, driven by premium chocolate.

‘A startup mentality’

Pladis has a US wholesale presence via its Flipz and Turtles brands, part of its DeMet's Candy Company business acquired for $221m​ in 2014.

Chocolate business Godiva is mainly present in the US in about 167 own retail stores, but it already has some listings in wholesale.

Carr’s – formerly part of United Biscuits - is currently the only biscuit brand pladis sells in the country.

“Parts of our portfolio like McVitie’s and Ülker are largely unknown,”​ said Blanchard, who joined pladis in January this year, following three years as vp of US snacks for Campbell Soup’s biscuit business Pepperidge Farm.

“We're building from a startup mentality here in North America,”​ he added.

“Our number one priority is Godiva. Then second is McVitie’s…We are definitely looking to bring the McVitie’s brand here,”​ said the MD.

godvia masterpieces
Godiva Masterpieces showcased at NCA's Sweets & Snacks Expo from May 23 to 25. Photo: ConfectioneryNews

Growing market share for Godvia

Blanchard said the company is aiming to be a number one or two player in the US premium chocolate market mainly through Godiva, but also via premium additions to Flipz and Turtles.

Godiva currently has a 1.5% market share in the space, he estimated.

“The aspiration in five or so years’ time would be to be close to a 10% market share within premium chocolate with Godiva,”​ he said.

Swiss firm Lindt dominates the US premium chocolate market through its Lindt, Ghirardelli and Russell Stover brands.

Core brand: Godiva Masterpieces

At the Expo in Chicago, pladis launched Godiva Masterpieces. The brand brings three of the top selling case pieces in Godiva boutiques into chocolate tablets and individually wrapped candies for the CPG market.

“We really see that brand becoming the core of our Godiva franchise in CPG over the next few years,”​ said Blanchard.

Pladis reported “major success”​ for Godiva Masterpieces at US wholesaler, Costco, where it launched online in January and in stores in March.

Pladis anticipates big growth in North America’s e-commerce channel for Godiva and is already working with the online platforms of Walmart and Target as well as Amazon.

Godvia masterpieces2
Godiva Masterpieces expected to drive wholesale growth for pladis in North America. Photo: ConfectioneryNews

Global Godiva recipe

Globally, pladis is rolling out a uniform formulation for Godiva chocolate based on the original Belgian recipe from 1926.

“Whether you're buying Godiva chocolate here or in Belgium or in Turkey, you know if you will be having a consistent product experience,”​ said Blanchard.

Godiva sources finished chocolate from major suppliers, but also buys beans and processes itself for a portion of its business.

Coming to America: McVitie's to drop 'digestives' handle for US entry. Photo: ConfectioneryNews

McVitie’s digestives set for rebrand

Pladis will market McVitie’s as a morning snack in the premium US biscuits space for its US entry. This differs to the brand’s mass market positioning in the UK.

It puts McVitie’s in a different category to afternoon indulgence brand Oreo, the US biscuits market leader.

Competitive products in our space will be more things like Pepperidge Farm and some of the other imported products like LU and Voortman,”​ said Blanchard, who previously spent seven years at PepsiCo’s Frito Lay business.

“The [North America McVitie’s] range is being finalized right now and we're looking not only at classic McVitie’s products, but also some of the newer innovations like thins and nibbles,” ​he said.

Pladis US manufacture

Pladis produces some products in the US and imports others from factories in Belgium, the UK (all biscuits) and Turkey. Pladis operates two factories in the US: Big Flats, New York (Turtles and Flipz), and Milton, Pennsylvania (Flipz). Godiva Chocolatier also owns a facility to produce Godiva chocolate in Reading, Pennsylvania.

However, pladis may drop the term ‘digestives’ for its US launch.

“Our research suggests that the name ‘digestives’ is not a particularly good one for the American consumer as it conjures up all kinds of negative associations. So we may use different nomenclature for describing the products,” ​said Blanchard.

New York, New York

Pladis will move to a new North American headquarters in White Plains New York by the end of the summer, which will employ around 50 staff.

Pladis currently operates from two offices: The De Met’s Candy office in Stamford, Connecticut and the Godiva office in Manhattan, New York. The Godiva office in Manhattan will stay open, but the DeMet’s branch in Connecticut will close later this year.

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