Mrs Crimbles – Gluten Free – A case study
Mrs Crimbles is the main competitor within the market place I’d like to go into and a business I actively admire; although my business start-up would be very different (watch this space). They have launched single products lines gradually and made themselves slowly visible on the market, especially more so in recent years.
The thing that separates Crimbles out from all the other gluten free products in the market is taste and consistency; the quality of the product purchased. You can tell real people have baked these and tasted them! They haven’t just sought out replacement products and thought “this will do”, they have been innovative in their own right, creating products that not only penetrate the gluten free market, but also penetrate the everyday purchasers trolley.
So how did they begin…?
- Well it all began with the macaroon. My Grandma’s favourite biscuit was a macaroon and she told me their rise of popularity came in after the war. A coconut macaroon was the staple at my Grandma’s tea times. Coconut went hand in hand with luxury.
- Mrs Crimbles started with a macaroon vision, in a kitchen, sold very locally initially and then with her fleet of vans, nationwide. These tasty treats came directly from her kitchen.
- Mrs Crimbles was set up in 1979 – over 30 years ago. They were the first producers of gluten free cakes and treats. But what is important to note, is Macaroon’s are naturally gluten free, therefore this aspect of the business was not really a selling point until later on and capitalised on.
- Mrs Crimbles is a small business based within the UK and has consistently has stayed so, it has only very recently taken steps to go internationally with its produce.
- Their first product and only product for many years, was the macaroon; one plain and one dipped in chocolate. Macaroons are naturally gluten free and also delicious; but the core of the business was to produce these tasty treats and not the gluten free aspect of it. Even before my diagnosis as a coeliac, I ate copious amounts of macaroons at my Grandma’s house. Consequently, they were not set up as a gluten free company, with the aim of targeting the gluten free market; they were set up to sell Macaroons. The gluten free aspect was incidental. Consequently, their product portfolio was very small for a long time and focused souly on macaroons.
- Initially, their produce was stocked within specialist food shops, high end super markets (like Harrods) and special dietary farm shops.
- Due to their taste and popularity these cakes became popular within the average population especially during afternoon tea and also the gluten free market; consequently in the early 90s the products began making an appearance within UK supermarkets. The gluten free market started buying their produce far before they identified the trend, word of mouth was the crucial pushing power taking this small business into one that is currently experiencing massive growth. In the beginning the product was stocked within the ordinary biscuit aisle, as a speciality biscuit. But today, these products are stocked both within the gluten free section and the normal biscuit section within supermarkets as they have two market bases.
- The company has jumped on the recent expansion of the gluten free food market and we’ve seen the expansion of their product range, especially within the past two years.
- The expansion has been gradual and was focused in the beginning within establishing their name within the gluten free market place with the macaroon products and expanding those lines. So there was the introduction of the Cranberry flavour, white chocolate, jumbo macaroons that are almost the size of a cake, to coconut rings. They began to take up more shelf space.
- As the gluten free market and demands have become larger, you may have noticed Crimbles within coffee shops and such like. They are now the established gluten free alternative cake option. Even in bakery’s and coffee shops that produce their own products, you’ll often see a Crimble selection that has been bought in.
- Why? Well, like with the vegetarian market, it is no longer acceptable to not be able to offer at least an option to the 10% of the population who can’t eat wheat or gluten. You’d be surprised how many times, I have to go without in restaurants or coffee shops because they can’t offer me anything.
- We’ve seen very recently, introduction of lots of new baked products such as muffins and brownies, flavoured crackers for cheese and biscuits and crisps within the crimbles range. Many of these products are head and shoulders approve the others, but still aren’t perfect. Crimbles is still my go to gluten free brand of choice, but there is still an element of compromise with taste and consistency within some product.
- They are one of the only gluten free companies, that due to keeping it small and keeping control, can promise 100% gluten free products, as it is all they produce within their business, it is not an added side, replacement product. For example, their production line and how they create them are within an 100% gluten free environment.
- Their businesses like many small bakery businesses have taken the route of the personal touch. So on their packaging they refer to Angela (now the new Mrs Crimble) and on the website there is always updates from Howard, the warehouse controller.
- Their vision of the gluten free baking world, is very similar to that of the great British Bake off. Which featured quite a few numbers of gluten free recipes this year on the show. Their products feel aimed towards the middle classes, older females and there is a touch of the W.E about them. Many of their products remind me of those moments, sitting round my Grandma’s table eating a macaroon as a child.
- But like with most gluten free products, they chose their price points to be high. This is enabled by the fact, the average Joe considers their products to be a “treat” and gluten free buyers are willing pay a lot more for their products. As a gluten free purchaser I accept my shopping basket will be £20 per large shop more expensive than my friend’s.
- Once capitalising on their gluten free label, they took the route of educating their consumer about what it means to follow a gluten free diet, the benefits and how their products are gluten free. I remember the moment of purchasing Crimbles and finding out they were gluten free from the packet. I’d been purchasing them for quite some time, without realising they were gluten free.
- They sell all their products now online, which is brilliant for ease of the gluten free consumers. For the gluten free consumer, providing ease and efficiency within the shopping experience is crucial.
- Their website is very interactive. They have set up a section dedicated to gluten free recipes, which not only promotes the purchase of their products but also saves time for the gluten free consumer. Thinking of a pudding to bake from scratch when you can’t have gluten is a nightmare!
- Moreover, they have also made it far easier for the consumer to purchase their products. They list all the supermarkets and an up to date list for each single product and where it can be found. For consumers such as myself, I know Sainsbury’s and Tesco stock the most of these products, so that is where I shop as i value having lots to chose from. I’d never go to Asda, Morrison’s, etc. etc. as there is nothing but an after thought for me to purchase.
The impact of Crimbles can be seen from the feedback on their website.
“I always thought of gluten free foods as lacking in taste and ‘not as good as the real thing’ – Mrs Crimble’s products have certainly set me straight on that front.”
“The chocolate coconut rings… mmmm yum! Thanks for adding flavour to “free” foods.”
“Even my daughter and parents who aren’t gluten free loved it!”
“I would have to say that given the choice now between these and the plain or chocolate ones I would pick these. Gluten free diets are not the most fun, so thank you for the new flavour!”
Mrs Crimbles almost by accident has jumped into a large hole within the food place market. But this is a super large hole, with lots of potential and the above comments, show there is room for lots of expansion and development.