Giving the New Zealand Natural brand a new lease on life

We find out the plans to rejuvenate the iconic ice cream brand

Brands are tricky things. They can define what a business is and what it can do. But there are times when those definitions can also become constraints.

For the past few years, Scott Koetsier and the sales and marketing team at Emerald Foods have been pondering exactly where the boundaries lie for one of his company’s most prized ice cream brands, New Zealand Natural, and asking how they can be expanded. While the New Zealand-based company has a rich portfolio of brands, for much of its life it has been a manufacturing-focused business, providing private label products and food service offerings.

“Over the last four years Emerald Foods has rejuvenated its team to focus more on consumers and explore opportunities outside of ice cream,” Koetsier tells CMO. “And New Zealand Natural has a unique opportunity with our retail stores. We are available in grocery and food service and private label, but the ability to talk directly to the consumer and learn from that is really something that excited me.”

So as the general manager of sales and marketing at Emerald Foods, Koetsier and his team has been asking what the New Zealand Natural brand can become, and how that can be achieved through a revitalisation of its brand strategy.

On joining the company in November 2018, Koetsier commenced a research project to understand where New Zealand Natural sat in the minds of consumers, which quickly identified that the brand lacked a ‘north star’ that could be used to define its future direction. Koetsier hired global brand consultancy, FutureBrand, which began combing through the existing research.

FutureBrand chief executive officer for Australia Rich Curtis says that while it found evidence of a strong brand with a strong reputation, it also found significant untapped potential.

“The idea of New Zealand Natural as a concept can stretch far beyond just the one product category,” Curtis says. “There are strengths that you can build on, and we wanted to be able to identify and build on those strengths and capture and articulate the brand in a way that gave it the licence to innovate and diversify.”

Much of this strength stems from the New Zealand brand itself, and its association with quality of life and a strong value system. That provided the springboard for a brand refresh that will extend from New Zealand Natural’s supermarket range all the way through to a revamp of its retail locations across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Koetsier says it is the store environment where the greatest leaps will be made, with New Zealand Natural launching a concept that is much more than the traditional grab-and-go model of an ice cream parlour.

“It is a place that we want people to feel comfortable to hang out in and spend time in,” Koetsier says. “People are looking for somewhere to hang out and enjoy and that is what we want them to experience through our stores.”

And while many other brands are cutting marketing and expansion plans, Koetsier has strong cause for optimism.

“When the economy is not doing that well you actually see ice cream sales increase because it is an indulgence you can afford,” he says. “And people want to be their natural selves. They want to experience things more than just a grab-and-go that they can get digitally. So we think the positioning fits perfectly for what the COVID impact has been.”

The stores will also feature a new menu, which will be more contemporary than what New Zealand Natural has offered in the past.

Curtis describes the process of renovating and expanding the brand as a balancing act. “You are using the association with one product to then launch yourself into others,” he says.

“It was very much about taking a step back to understand what is true to the brand and can be extended to inform a broader portfolio. And the key to it is understanding what the experience is. Taking a step back to think about what the experience of the brand is actually helps unlock further product opportunities.”

The first new store will be unveiled in Queensland in December, with conversions to take place at other locations over the next 24 months. Koetsier is also keen to expand New Zealand Natural’s retail footprint, including through expansion into Asia.

But none of this would have been possible had New Zealand Natural not done the work to truly understand its brand in the first place.

‘Without the brand guidelines we didn’t know what to innovate to, whereas this gives us real clarity to do that,” Koetsier says.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

 

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