Gressingham keen for more consumers to try duck at home

A focus on recipes and cooking tips is what Gressingham Duck hopes will tempt more consumers into the category, delegates to the latest Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) event were told.

Managing director William Buchanan, and associate marketing director Steve Curzon, from Gressingham Duck, told guests ‘The story of a remarkable duck’ after being invited to speak at the event, following their CIM Excellence in Marketing award win last year.

The business which is “dedicated to the supply of premium duck and speciality poultry products” has evolved over the years, and is currently in the latter stages of its 2012-2015 plan. It identified a number of challenges in 2011, which it sought to respond to – the biggest of which was “a lack of confidence and know-how from consumers about how to cook duck”.

“It was evident we needed to make a stronger case for duck if we were to hold our position and grow from it,” said Buchanan. He said that volumes had been increasing, but this was down to deep-cut promotions and space deals. At the time, duck made up just 0.5% of all meat sold.

In 2012, the company, which has a turnover of around £100m per year, launched a new brand identity in a bid to improve the standout of the product on the shelf. Its long-term strategy also entailed developing its insight in the category, making the brand work harder, delivering brand NPD and expanding in the supermarkets.

Curzon said its research showed that over half of consumers eat duck, but few cook with it. People saw it as a treat, but although price was a barrier, getting the cooking wrong was seen as more of a risk. So the company’s mission has been “to make it less of a risk”.

Recipe marketing has been key to this, as have new products, while the packaging has benefited from a new look and now contains a 1,2,3 step method on-pack. New value-added products have been launched, such as pulled duck, while the addition of a sauce seems to result in a decrease in perceived cooking risk, said Curzon.

The brand has also launched a new recipe website, designed to be a one-stop shop for cooking duck, which contains more than 120 recipes complete with videos and photos.

According to Curzon, on-pack promotions have also been very effective. The company offers around three or four per year – for example, free prize draws or partnership competitions with other brands – and now has an email database of more than 70,000, achieved over the past two years, through opt-in marketing information on competition entries. Gressingham then sends recipe and blog emails out to its database.

This year the company plans to take its message to a wider audience and has started advertising on Classic FM, for example. It also plans to do a highly targeted recipe book door-drop later this year.

While duck is still a small player in the total poultry market, Buchanan said the total market for fresh duck has grown 1.4% year-on-year (YOY), while the total market, including value-added and convenience market has seen growth of more like 20% YOY.

Export growth also remains a focus for Gressingham Duck, following successes seen recently in Belgium and Denmark. “The biggest challenge would be if we could ever sell our products in France,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan also spoke about the inception of the original business – Green Label Foods – in 1971, and about how it involved following the ‘Edwina egg scare’, which he said not only effected egg businesses, but poultry too, prompting his father started looking around “for something a bit different”.

The family began farming Gressingham Duck in 1989, with the Gressingham – a cross between a mallard and a Pekin duck – first bred in the village of the same name in 1980.

In 2007 it acquired Norfolk Farms, and now operates from around 70 farms across Norfolk and Suffolk, selling around 8m ducks a year.

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