The explosion of interest in plant-based food (thanks, Veganuary) has seen a number of new brands appearing in the meat-free aisles over recent years, but colourful free-from brand Gosh! has been there from the start.
The company first launched way back in 2002, when vegan food was still widely considered to be dry, tasteless and uninteresting. Attitudes have changed somewhat since then, with the vegan brand winning numerous awards for its wide range of vegan falafel bites, burgers and sausages.
Now stocked in all major UK supermarkets, Gosh! has also seen impressive growth across retail, reporting a 15.5% rise in pre-tax profits, to £4.1m, for the year ending 31 May 2020.
Marketing manager William Topp has been at Gosh! for three years, moving over from Carlsberg UK and Britvic Soft Drinks. He describes the move to Gosh! as an “exciting” one, describing the plant-based category as “dynamic and innovative”.
It’s also a market that Topp feels passionate about, “due to the positive impact it can have on our health, wellbeing and environment.”
The past three years have been a busy period at Gosh!, with rapid consumer growth, extensive range expansion and NPD, a new £5m base in Milton Keynes and a £50m takeover from Portuguese conglomerate Sonae, which completed last year.
“It’s been very rewarding to see the growth of the business during this period, which is expected to accelerate even further following on from last year’s takeover,” he said.
This year has already got off to a strong start for the brand, which has executed a large-scale advertising campaign, including an E4 TV advertisement, targeting the channel’s ever-growing flexitarian audience (43% and rising).
“We anticipated that Veganuary 2022 would be the biggest to date,” Topp explains. “We wanted the Gosh! brand to help those partaking in Veganuary to have an easy and enjoyable experience.”
“Veganuary is often perceived to be a challenging to start to the new year, so we wanted to completely flip this notion on its head and make it a celebration!
“Not only are we introducing more consumers to the high-quality taste and nutritional value of Gosh! products, we are also giving them the confidence that they are making healthier choices and living a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Consumers embracing Veganuary can also visit a brand new hub on the Gosh! website, which acts as a one-stop-shop with information, recipe ideas and blog posts as well as a Veganuary competition.
“Veganuary is a fantastic non-profit organisation and has become an integral part of the calendar for all brands offering vegan products,” Topp continues. “Although January is earmarked as the official month for this movement, it is important for brands to know that the Veganuary organisation works all year round.”
In addition to the E4 ad and the Veganuary focus, Gosh! has also implemented a digital and social campaign, working with a range of micro and macro influencers to share recipes and ideas using Gosh! products.
Topp is keen to highlight that Gosh! is not just for vegans though, highlighting the brand’s appeal to the ever-growing flexitarian consumer. How does this align with the vegan brand’s core values?
“At Gosh! our core belief is that everyone has the choice to follow the diet they desire,” says Topp. “I can confidently say that as a business, we do our utmost to run our operations in an environmentally considerate way, but we would never make judgements on consumers’ dietary choices.”
He goes on to explain that the Gosh! brand strives to provide plant-based products that don’t compromise on taste, texture or quality. “We hope this will be enough to make consumers choose us and experience the widespread benefits that plant-based foods can have.”
While the much-reported environmental and social responsibility benefits of eating more plant-based foods such as reducing carbon emissions, deforestation and intensive farming, many consumers are embracing plant-based food for health reasons as well.
“Of course, the health benefits of plant-based food play an important part in their appeal,” agrees Topp. “The entire Gosh range contains 100% natural ingredients that can be found in any household kitchen, are free from the top 14 allergens and hold no red traffic light allocations.”
“Many of our products also provide sources of fibre and protein and some even contribute towards one of your five a day.”
The meat-free market
As both a vegan and a free-from brand, Gosh! is uniquely placed in the sector, which continues to grow at a rapid rate with new names entering the market with what feels like alarming regularity.
According to Topp, the competition in this market has never been as high as it is right now. “The sector is at risk of becoming congested with very similar product offerings from a growing number of brands,” he says.
“Simply launching a vegan product is not enough to guarantee shelf space. Brands must diversify, experiment with new ingredients and establish a clear point of difference to make retailers and consumers choose their products over other more established offerings.”
With increasing numbers of ‘mock meat’ products being launched to market, Topp also anticipates that new innovations will push the boundaries of product development, flavours and formats, predicting that 2022 will see an influx of fish-style products to sit alongside the meat replica ranges.
“We also expect consumer focus to shift towards back of pack ingredients as the demand for clean label products with fewer and more natural ingredients becomes more prevalent.”
A strong start to 2022
All that said, Topp states that the rapid growth of the plant-based market is showing no signs of slowing down in the year ahead, revealing that Gosh! predicts another successful year, with double digit sales growth.
The year has already got off to a strong start, with the successful rollout of the Veganuary promotional campaign and the ongoing promotion of the Aldi UK&I Snack Bites listing.
The next 12 months will see Gosh! growing its team, ramping up the marketing activity and delivering a number of exciting NPD lines as it looks to explore wider distribution opportunities in the UK and across Europe.
“With the Sonae takeover completed, we have a very exciting 2022 planned here at Gosh!,” Topp concludes. “2022 marks the first year in our ambitious growth strategy to become one of the leading plant-based food brands on the market.”