How this marketing chief is looking for growth through brand building

Tara Lordsmith talks to CMO about how she's working to find opportunities for the 110-year-old SPC Aussie business

SPC is synonymous with preserved fruit, but as the 110-year-old company strives to assert itself commercially in the wake of its 2019 sale by owners Coca-Cola Amatil to a private equity consortium, it is looking beyond its heritage to find new opportunities for growth.

A fair chunk of that responsibility lies into hands of Tara Lordsmith. With a career that includes senior marketing roles at Cadbury Schweppes, Simplot Australia and Myer, Lordsmith joined SPC as chief commercial officer in August 2021 with a remit to take the company in profitable new directions.

"It was a very commercial challenge - how do we make money at a business that wasn't making money before," Lordsmith tells CMO. "That requires us to think more 'financially' in the way we apply marketing, and the way in which we think about how we deploy the sales team and work with our sales partners.

Credit: Tara Lordsmith

"When you combine the sales and marketing opportunities together, you are able to make sure you are prioritising what is going to give you the biggest impact, and help to drive the business as much as possible."

Critical to Lordsmith's strategy has been the decision to transition SPC from a consumer brand to a corporate one which supports a portfolio of other brands. The company already owns a stable of household names including Goulburn Valley and Ardmona, as well as PomLife, which it acquired in 2020.

"You can use those brands in lots of different ways to connect with lots of different customers via lots of different channels, and they each have their own identity," Lordsmith says. "I like that, because you can achieve more when you have a portfolio of brands."

Beverage brand play

Recently, however, SPC has stepped up its expansion efforts with the launch of a range of flavoured sparkling water products, under the brand, Helping Humans.

"That has been a major development for the business in terms of getting into beverages in a much bigger way," Lordsmith says. "Helping Humans has been transformational in terms of the types of products we have typically had under the SPC banner.

"While we have deliberately done that under a completely different brand name, at the end of the day it still is part of our purpose at SPC, which is better food for the future."

Lordsmith is seeking to create differentiation for Helping Humans by aligning its brand with themes of social impact and wellbeing. This includes enabling customers to direct 10 per cent of all profits back to a charity partner of their choosing, as well as the product itself being packaged in a recyclable can.

"It is a way in which we have been able to get consumers engaged in that journey of giving back," Lordsmith says. "It is also a way for us to make sure we are doing the right thing as a manufacturer of lots of brands and lots of products.

"Cans are the most recyclable and environmentally friendly packaging you can get. We are one of the largest purchasers of aluminium cans in the country - we sell about 130 million cans a year - so cans are a pretty important component of our ESG strategy moving forward."

One innovation SPC has introduced with Helping Humans is the use of a QR code to enable consumers to choose their preferred charity.

"We know there are other businesses out there where you can choose your charity at a physical level, but not at a digital level," Lordsmith says. "That has been a really unique selling point with the product."

Lordsmith says this feature, along with the overall Helping Humans brand approach, is part of a sales and marketing strategy that seeks to place innovation amongst SPC's brand proposition. In January this year the company raised a $111 million war chest that will also support additional expansions.

"That sets us up for potential opportunities to build out our business through acquisition and mergers," she says. "There is a lot in the pipeline, and we are really excited to show everyone what new stuff we have coming out next year.

"Just because you might have a history that hasn't included much change, it doesn't prevent you from bringing in new products and new categories and new brands to really stretch your business. Helping Humans is not something you would expect from a business like SPC, and that is what I think is good about it."

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