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Marrying heritage and innovation

Four N Twenty 70 yearsHow can a 70-year-old brand keep up with the pace of change in the contemporary FMCG industry?

That’s the question Patties Foods’ general manager of marketing & innovation, Anand Surujpal, has been working on for the better part of a year as the man tasked with keeping things fresh at Four’N Twenty.

The iconic Aussie pie brand has just taken a radical new step, releasing a product last week that’s not actually a pie after months of consumer research revealed that shoppers were in the market for an on-the-go option.

The new toppers range has been designed with convenience in mind, shooting for a solve on the semi-awkward practice of saucing up and eating a pie from the MCG’s nosebleeds while staying true to the marriage of tomato sauce and warm pastries. It’s the first non-pie product the business has ever launched, which makes Surujpal the man who’s disrupted one of the most well-known brands in Australia, a moniker he’s looking to extend.

The former SPC Ardmona, McCain, George Weston and SC Johnson marketing wiz is determined to stir the pot in his new role, launching a new innovation platform (called Pie) to provide the quantitative backing for ambition to release a swathe of new non-pie products.

“In the last twelve months we’ve really put a lot of energy into supercharging innovative projects,” Surujpal told Inside FMCG.

“[We’ve developed] an innovation ecosystem that we’re using to drive change. We’ve been going to customers, consumers, shoppers and looking at overseas trends to really tap into all the different touch-points around us.

“We’ve been really trying to harness everything, it hasn’t been that difficult, but you have to be open to it – you just have to embrace innovation when you see it.”

Toppers were the first step; next up is what Surujpal said is a “strong and robust” product pipeline. No details yet, but commercialisation of new ranges will be on the horizon in the coming months, a sharp change in pace for a brand that’s traditionally moved quite slowly.

“We’re going to focus strongly on the category to try and get a deeper understanding of what our customers want, so that we can really try to get a really exciting and contemporary pipeline ready,” he explained.

“It’s a 70-year-old brand, we’ve got that heritage, but it’s up to use to keep it contemporary and modern.”

On-the-go will be a continuing focus, especially the out-of-home variety, a signal that Surujpal is more interested in adapting Four’N Twenty’s heritage for modern footy-goers. On supermarket shelves, collaboration has emerged as the key to moving the brand forward – Surujpal said he’s keen to develop the entire category alongside customer partners.

“It’s critical, working closely with those supermarket partners and building the category, that’s a massive driver for us now,” he said.

The frozen pie category has traditionally been insulated from much of the disruption that’s plagued the cereal or potato chips aisles, as company’s like Carman’s Kitchen have come in to cause headaches for stalwarts like Kellogg. Surujpal is determined not to make the same mistakes, a sure fire sign that he probably won’t.

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