26 50

CMO50 2022 #26-50: Bethaney George

  • Name Bethaney George
  • Title General manager, sales, marketing, category and innovation
  • Company True Foods
  • Commenced role August 2019 - September 2022
  • Reporting Line Owner / managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 3 staff, 2 direct reports
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2021 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    True Foods product line, Simson’s Pantry, had been deleted in Coles when Bethaney George first started at the FMCG as general manager of sales, marketing, category and innovation.

    “The portfolio was the same as other major brands in the category, and in fifth place within the wraps category with negative sales performance,” she recalls. “I was able to hold Coles ranging by committing to transforming the brand to positive growth.”

    Innovative marketing

    The word ‘transform’ is certainly apt when it comes to what George has done at True Foods. To do this, she firstly developed key category and brand growth drivers through global and local research. The key pillars are: Health and wellbeing, with the ambition of becoming a five-star healthy range; Australian owned, with paddock to plate transparency and values that align with the consumer’s; and premiumisation by creating a higher value offering.

    These are now informing all new product development and communications, from packaging to marketing. Most significantly, it led to development in-house of a sub-brand within the Simson’s Pantry Masterbrand called ‘Better for You’, a premium play in the Australian market.

    “I identified a gap in the market through global research and a white space opportunity within the category as there were no healthy wraps on the market, and no products over a 4-health star rating at the time,” George explains. “There was a perception from consumers wraps were healthier than bread. However, the nutritional values of wraps at the time were in fact not healthier.”

    The Better for You range is now available in all major retailers and has 70 per cent share of the health segment, becoming the number one premium wraps brand in Australia. In 2021, 10 new products incremental to the core range launched and again outperformed the market. Further lines were on their way to supermarkets at the time of CMO50 judging.

    All this has ensured Simson’s Pantry is the leading brand position within Coles bakery by SKU count and second in terms of dollar value.

    George also spied an opportunity with Aldi in December 2021 to diversify by creating a new sister brand to Simson’s Pantry. Working in-house to create the brand and logo design, she pitched The Low Carb Superfood Co. and succeeded.

    “Aldi accepted the new brand immediately, allowing me to launch a new Low Carb wrap in stores that coming February. This meant I had one week to create final artwork to meet the launch in airfreighting the packaging from overseas to meet the timelines,” George recalls.

    Her team of three also created a new Instagram and Facebook social media page and a new website designed on Wix, “ensuring we had maximum impact with minimal dollars spent to execute”.

    The new brand and Low Carb wrap proved a massive success, becoming the number one performing Low Carb wrap in the total market based on baseline units sold per week. And thanks to the high performance of the SKU, it remains in all stores nationally in Aldi, with a further 12-month contract awarded as core range.

    To further brand reach and opportunities for trial, George and the team worked with Ovarian Cancer and Fernwood Gym on a partnership called ‘Workout for Women’. The fitness and wellness campaign and initiative raised funds to support women in need fighting one of deadliest cancers around.

    True Foods donated a large amount of Better for You wraps as part of its new low-carb wraps launch into Coles. These were put in showbags Fernwood Gym members could purchase for $28, with proceeds donated to Ovarian Cancer. Better for You wraps were used by Fernwood Gym nationally for a fundraising morning tea. Australian model, Jesinta Franklin, became the campaign’s ambassador in joint collaboration with Ovarian Cancer.

    Promotions included joint partnerships on social media posts, website pages and across Fernwood Gym point-of-sale, thereby driving significant awareness of the Simson’s Pantry Better for You brand and new product lines.

    “Social media following grew 78 per cent over this period and drove the brand success and early buy into the product range,” George says. “The brand effort also tied in perfectly to our values of giving back to our community and health and wellness of women.

    “Performance of the new range became the most successful launch in Coles bakery for the year and our Low Carb wraps became number one in the category over this period.”

    Business smarts

    It’s a far cry from where True Foods was three years ago. When George first joined the family-owned business, there were no brand plans, strategic plans for sales and marketing or an innovation pipeline. In her first two weeks, she set about creating and presenting a five-year strategic plan and direction.

    “Looking back on the initial five-year strategic plan, we executed all of the key strategic initiatives within the first two years,” George says. “This led to re-development of the next five-year strategic plan, which is now in place.”

    It was clear from the outset consumers wanted the brand to be real and one they heard directly from. George is pleased to note since launching on Instagram, True Foods has built a loyal and passionate community she claims is larger than that of competitor brands.

    “We now have an influencer base, who we don’t pay, however provide free products to each month to use and share their creations on their pages. This strategy has had a huge positive impact to our brand, delivering a very high ROI,” she says.

    Thanks to new stage and gate processes, all concepts today are put through rigorous ideation and feasibility testing. Previously, new product ideas were led by what True Foods could make, not what delivered upon specific consumer needs or white space opportunities in market.

    More broadly, George describes her three pillars of growth as diversification of portfolio and customer base; brand first; and becoming a house of brands.

    “Our business is now consumer, category and shopper led, whereas previously it was very much operations led,” she says.

    Customer-led thinking

    For George, key initiatives driving capability and positive outcomes for the business are all thanks to a focus on the consumer and planet.

    “Everything we do is to drive a positive change for our consumers and the world we live in, which has been a monumental shift in how we operate versus being previously operations-led,” she says. “This is delivered through our innovation in healthier food options to be 5-star health rated and Fodmap friendly certified. We have launched world-first and world-leading highly nutritious wraps. Our low carb and Low Carb Keto wraps are the lowest carb, highest protein and fibre in the packaged wraps segment.”

    At the same time, True Foods products manufactured solely using solar electricity, and are vegan, Redcycle certified and delivering on a reduction in plastic packaging of -20 per cent.

    Commercial acumen

    Thanks to her role overseeing marketing, category and sales, all three functions are well and truly interlinked and working in harmony at True Foods.

    “By utilising data and insights, we re-positioned our brand into the premium health segment and redeveloped our products to be the best in the market,” George says. “Consumers value the high-quality attributes of our range and the nutritional value of our products. These two factors, in turn, have driven a higher dollar value in market, unlocking significant profitability for our business.

    “Now with our premium health range, we play on product quality, sustainability and health values. These differentiators demand a higher ASP and unlocked significant gross profit.”

    And it’s enabled True Foods to launch into new categories and sub segments such as pizza, naan and roti chapati.

    “As the brand now has consumer relevance and a higher brand awareness in the market, our cross-category launches had immediate traction in the market, performing above category average becoming category leading,” George adds.

    Leadership impact

    Over her three-year tenure, George has seen True Foods grow significantly from a business and team perspective. For a start, the FMCG has gone from 160 to 300 people in this timeframe.

    “The mantra I have imbedded into the organisation is a high-performing team and engaging culture,” she says. “Team fit, demonstrating the right behaviours and a can-do attitude are paramount.”

    Training and developing people from within further allowed True Foods to progress key team members up to higher roles. What’s more, True Foods is committed to being part of its local community in Maryborough, Victoria.

    “Our people are what make True Foods so special, it is our True Foods family. It is a business you want to show up in everyday and makes you want to be your best every single day,” George concludes. “We are the life of our small regional town, being the largest private employer in the region. People rely on us and we keep them top of mind every day in everything that we do to ensure we keep the community safe and well.”

    Share this article