Charlie Bigham’s shows how to grow the core

I'm just back from a lovely meeting at Charlie Bigham's, the premium ready meal brand where my mate Tom is CEO. Tom and the team at Bigham's have done a truly amazing job over the last couple of years, with retail sales in the latest half year up 50% and forecast 2015 sales of £40million, as reported here

The last time I went to Bigham's was a couple of years ago, to do a talk on growing the core for Tom and Charlie himself. And it was great to go back and see how the team have pretty much used all the Grow the Core drivers.

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1. Distinctive product

It all starts with the product, where Charlie Bigham's deliver the best tasting premium ready meals. They put a huge amount of effort, time and money into continually improving and testing upgrades to favourites like Lasagne and Fish Pie.

2. Distinctive identity

The "Twosomes" characters on the pack have proved to be effective at helping Charlie Bigham's stand out in the overcrowded retail environment. The characters also do a great job of positioning the brand in its core occasion of a nice meal in for 2.

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My visit to the office showed the power of distinctive brand properties to live beyond just the pack. See below for a photo of my trip to the loo, which was decorated with a humorous Twosomes cartoon! And I took home a nice cooler bag along with some lovely meals to eat tonight. 


3. Distinctive communication

Charlie Bigham's has brought to life the Twosomes characters, Em and Hugo, in their first TV campaign. Importantly, Em and Hugo are used to communicate the product idea of "Fresh from our kitchen to your oven". This has further helped boost awareness and penetration of the brand. It is a great example of how to amplify a brand property across the mix and get bang for your buck

4. Driving distribution

The first three drivers above have helped the brand create "memory structure" to make get the brand recalled at the moment of truth. The explosive growth reflects the way this has been coupled with a huge effort to drive distribution and so boost "physical availability", both by increasing listings in existing retailers like Waitrose, and expanding to new retailers like Sainsbury's

5. Format extension

To further boost penetration the brand is launching single portions, as reported here.This won't be the focus of communication, which will stay centred on the core twosome occasion. But this new format has the potential to attract a whole new group of people wanting the same delicious food for occasions when they are eating alone.

6. Product extension

Initially Tom and the team focused in on a core range, dramatically cutting back on the number of products being made. With a more focused range, the brand has now started to add new recipes to extend appeal, including recent additions like Tika Masala and Vietnamese Chicken Curry.

In conclusion, the Charlie Bigham's is a perfect example of using multiple ways to grow the core, through distinctiveness, distribution and core extension.