Sally Preston started a frozen baby food range, Babylicious, reinvented as Kiddylicious, when as a mum she noticed a gap in the market for food that tasted like food.
Having worked as a food technologist at Marks and Spencer, she wanted to give mums the convenience and confidence that their baby was eating great tasting food all the time, just as adults could with superior ready meals.
When the business struggled with supermarkets’ operational complexities of freezers in baby aisles, she reinvented the company and launched Kiddylicious. The brand focused on tasty, healthy snacking for preschoolers, targeting mums concerned with giving their children something they can enjoy whilst still being nutritious.
Kiddylicious is now the fastest growing brand in the category and has just overtaken Heinz to be the number two brand. Preston’s First Woman of Retail and Consumer award recognised her savvy in embracing innovation and consumer trends to succeed in the competitive world of retail.
What is a typical day for you? What does your role entail? What challenges do you face?
There is no such thing as a typical day. We’re a fast-moving company, reacting quickly to business needs. Of course we have a clear strategy but being a small and flexible, privately-owned business, it means each day is totally new.
I oversee everything but I have an empowered, very capable team who know clearly what their targets are so I can let them crack on and deliver great results.
That’s not to say I don’t like to have an input in every stage, from creating new snacks, right through to getting them on shelves for consumers to enjoy.
With regards being a woman, I do not anticipate any gender specific issues. I think it is a case of being confident, clear and proving leadership – gender does not define this.
What are the some of the highlights of your career?
Being the second largest and fastest growing brand in baby snacking and having just overtaken Heinz has to be the highlight of my career to date.
I’m particularly proud that we sell our snacks in 22 countries and nearly every major retailer worldwide. This is a massive achievement in only six years and in such a competitive market.
We are creating more opportunities all the time and there is more to aim for which is a constant motivation.
I love the statistic that we sell over a million Kiddylicious snacks a week around the world! Wow!
What have been some of your biggest challenges personally and as a business? How have you overcome them?
With regards business, I learnt many years ago nothing will go to plan so you need to roll with things and be prepare to change direction without holding onto things too long (albeit that is easier said than done when you have invested so much in something!)
My biggest challenge was to let go of Babylicious (frozen baby food) when I could see we were going round and round in circles and it was costing me a fortune to maintain.
I had run out of money and needed to put the business into administration – this is very tough, but I had no choice. I bought parts of the business back, regrouped and embarked on a different strategy – it worked, it was the right thing to do – but emotionally very, very hard.
If there are no significant challenges for the business, what do you think you’re doing right?
I don’t fear challenging the status quo and the sluggish FMCG’s and love being regarded as ‘the’ challenger brand.
At Kiddylicious we deliver genuine innovation at a rapid speed, without compromise. Following my initial groundbreaking frozen food business, Kiddylicious was the first to introduce fruit snacks into the baby and toddler category.
Further innovation came when we launched Wafers in 2015. Wafers are a multi-use snack that won the prestigious Grocer New Product Award and has totally revitalized the rusk sector.
I guess I have a ‘never say die’ attitude, and I have learnt from challenges along the way, to be determined in the face of adversity and to always stay one step ahead.
Having won the First Women Retail and Consumer award, what does this mean to you? How will you be building on this momentum?
I hope that being chosen for this award, I will be able to share my story with other women, showing them what a career in retails really looks like and influencing them to understand that they too can achieve great things.
In terms of momentum, Kiddylicious will be forging new opportunities to become the ‘go-to’ brand of choice for parents and young kids.