Brilliant by the Bagful

Brilliant by the Bagful

The future of one of Bradford’s most famous brands looks healthier than ever.

By Damian Holmes

Crisp manufacturer Seabrook started life as a small operation in makeshift factory in a one-up one-down terraced house in the 1950s in the city. Figures released earlier this year show the firm, whose brand is known nationwide, is worth £65m.

Seabrook was bought by snack and crisp manufacturer Calbee UK, part of the world-wide food manufacturing giant Calbee in October 2018, with the two companies merging. And it has proved to be successful with both parties, with Calbee UK recently filing its accounts to show an increased turnover of £43.7m.

Earlier this year, Seabrook, which is the largest crinkle cut crisp brand in the market and the second largest multipack crisp brand with 50m packs sold in the last year, released figures showing it was worth £65m and year-on-year growth of 25.8 per cent.

The company was first named in 1939, after Charles Brook went to collect some photos and they had been labelled ‘Seabrook’ instead of ‘C Brook’. When he opened his first fish & chip shop in Bradford, he decided to use that name.

Their famous crisps were first produced in 1945 after Charles’ son Colin returned from the Navy and together, they discovered that with their fryer they could diversify the way they used the humble potato to create the first crinkle cut crisp.

They moved into their first factory – a one up one down terrace house in Bradford – in the 1950s, and Seabrook began delivering crisps door to door, before launching the UK’s first crinkle-cut crisps.

Charles and Colin converted the old Allerton liberal club in Bradford into their new factory, at the same time as incorporating the company.

In 1978, Seabrook purchased a site at Duncombe St, Bradford and 2 years later opened the Princeville Factory. The company was acquired by Calbee, the leading snack brand in Japan as part of their ambitious international growth plans, in October 2018.

Although the last two years have been challenging for many businesses, Seabrook has attracted more new shoppers than any other brand in the crisps, snacks, nuts and popcorn category. The company is now the largest crinkle cut brand in the UK market and the second largest multi-pack crisp brand with 50m packs sold in the last year.

Jon Wood, commercial director at Calbee UK, said: “It has been an excellent year for the Seabrook brand and is a testament to the continued hard work of the team that we’ve been able to experience such high growth during the global Covid-19 pandemic, a testing time for us all.

“The figures speak for themselves with a brand value of £65m which we hope will continue to accelerate throughout 2021.

“Our ‘Brilliant by the Bagful’ TV advert has been a particular highlight of 2021 so far, winning first place at the Drum Roses Awards,” he said.

The ‘Brilliant by the Bagful’ campaign was launched in March and won gold at the awards in May for Best Art Direction. It beat off tough competition from other nominees including BBC Sport, James Jones & Sons and Church End Brewery for the accolade.

“We’re also proud to have achieved such impressive performance statistics across our social media accounts.

“We hope to continue to see amazing results throughout the rest of this year and have extremely high hopes for the brand.”

The success of Seabrook has helped Calbee UK, as the first consolidated accounts filed since it bought showed recently. Its accounts to December 31, 2020, show a turnover of £43.7m with Earnings Before Tax Depreciation and Amortisation (EBITDA) of £5.8m. Like-for-like comparisons to the previous year, ending December 31, 2019, of the consolidated Calbee and Seabrook businesses show a £2.9m rise in turnover and a £0.8m uplift in EBITDA.

The rise in revenue was driven by increased demand for the Seabrook brand.

It comes on the back of a strategic review which saw Calbee invested £5m across its factories in Duncombe Street and Deeside which have increased the company’s manufacturing capabilities and opened up opportunities to diversify and innovate within the snacking sector as well as meeting the rising demand.

Daniel Woodwards, Group MD at Calbee UK, said: “The real credit for our performance goes to the team we have at Calbee UK.

“It’s been an incredibly hard time for all food manufacturers, but I am particularly proud of how the team here has pulled together and responded to the multiple challenges we have faced

“Our investment programme had three key simple aims – to increase the volumes our factories could produce, increase capabilities so that we can innovate within the snacking category and increase brand investment to create a rise in demand for our products.

“This has helped us deliver a significant uplift in Seabrook Crisps, with a return to TV advertising for the first time in almost 15 years and it’s enabled us to launch Harvest Snaps, a new plant-based brand that falls below the proposed government HFSS restrictions and can therefore still be merchandised in promotional display space when the new legislation comes into force next year.”

In November last year, Calbee UK introduced its first branded snacking product under the Seabrook brand with the launch of Loaded Fries. The range was created to bring a modern, on-trend twist to everyday snacks, offering bold and tasty flavours.

Seabrook, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, achieved its biggest ever reach over social media throughout April and May this year at 3.2m. The brand also collaborated with Northern Monk in April to launch limited-edition Seabrook flavoured beer which sold out within 24 hours online.

The firms worked on a Prawn Cocktail Gose five per cent sour beer that had a tang of prawn cocktail. It also produced a Cheese & Onion Lager, a 5.4 per cent refreshing lager, with a taste of the cheese and onion crisp flavour.