Positioning a new caviar brand for sustainable success
In 2013, I joined the incredible team at Attilus Caviar to devise and execute a launch strategy priming the new luxury food business for international success.
From a standing start, we succeeded in:
driving substantial revenue through private, trade and digital channels
creating a modern, stylish identity and positioning for a new caviar brand driven by ecological responsibility
launching a direct to consumer online business which continues to smash sales targets
taking Attilus Caviar on a tour of Europe; the brand is now available in 5 countries and 9 languages
Few things convey the party spirit as strongly as the appearance of caviar, which has long symbolised romance, festivity and wealth. But competition for the attention of the super wealthy is intense, and no more so than in the market for the world's most elite natural delicacy, also euphemistically known as 'black gold'.
With over 40 caviar brands to choose from and product differentiation that is noticeable only to the most discerning palates, the caviar market in Europe could be considered one of the most brand-centric battlegrounds on the planet!
When a team of entrepreneurs acquired a sturgeon farm quietly located in the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany, they employed me to create a new brand and marketing strategy to introduce their caviar to professional chefs and caviar connoisseurs in the UK and across Europe.
Photography by Guy SP
Driven by the highest ecological standards
In 2013, a VC planning to build a sturgeon farm in the UK employed me to design a market research programme
reporting on the size and shape of the European caviar market, perceptions of leading producers, brands and channels, and finally testing the appeal of a caviar brand with a "Farmed in Britain' badge among UK caviar consumers and trade buyers for hotels and restaurants.
It was during this programme that we first noticed some caviar brands were actually beginning to lose their national identity. While our research showed that a 'British-farmed' caviar was certainly appealing, the strength of caviar's heritage still lies firmly rooted in the countries bordering the Caspian Sea, like Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan. Here though, a worldwide ban on trading caviar from the Caspian had come into effect in 2006, to protect dwindling stocks of wild sturgeon from over-fishing and poaching.
With the main caviar-producing region no longer able to supply global markets, country of origin claims took on a new meaning and relevance to consumers and, in the worst case scenario, it meant caviar produced in Russia or Iran was most likely being traded illegally.
When, in 2015, the investors acquired a sturgeon farm in Jessen, Germany - instead of building a farm in the UK - we started exploring emerging 'white spaces' in the caviar market immediately. This investigation revealed strong potential for a brand driven by ecological responsibility rather than explicit associations with a country of origin.
To capitalise on this idea, we set ourselves the goal of seducing Europe's gourmands with the world's finest sustainably-produced caviar; a caviar brand driven by the ongoing pursuit of excellence and the highest ethical and environmental standards.
We created a distinctive visual identity and packaging range for the new brand which would be seen as instantly superior to many of the brands currently on the market. This differentiation would be promoted not through provenance and heritage tropes, but through sustainability and accessibility - we wanted to help gourmands navigate the new world of caviar with confidence.
We developed a multi-country, multi-lingual e-commerce platform to manage product catalogues, merchandising and communication in 5 country markets. A consistent look and feel across each boutique-style store relied heavily on visuals and video creating a stylish yet reassuring experience. Many luxury goods are sensory in nature and their purchase requires a high aesthetic appreciation, so visuals, slide shows and video were combined to create a luxury shopping experience befitting one of the world's great natural delicacies.
Consumer marketing was led at launch by print and digital, including SEO, paid search and display. Seasonal promotions and private tasting events were introduced to the mix throughout the year. Caviar which is purchased for consumption at home is known to be highly seasonal, with demand peaking strongly at Xmas. As a result, we planned the marketing strategy to build brand awareness incrementally through the year, with heavyweight communication activity in the run up to Xmas.
Tactical print and digital display advertising focused on media consumed by high net worth individuals and expats, particularly wealthy Russian, French, Italian and Iranian nationals living in Europe's capital cities. Social media and social advertising amplified seasonal campaigns and messages.
Trade marketing was led by an experienced team of food industry professionals recruited to initiate one-on-one sampling sessions with head chefs at 'white linen' establishments in core markets, and at trade shows like the Chefs World Summit in Monaco.
Packaging, Advertising and Digital Communication
Attilus Caviar has managed to secure a strong foothold in the European luxury food market since the company's official launch in the UK in 2015.
In fact, the company's growth has been nothing short of remarkable in such a short period of time. Tracking research indicates that the Attilus brand has become well-known for its authenticity and sustainable approach, and we've won prestigious awards for the superior taste of our caviar.
Branding and packaging are clean, modern, ecologically-aware and luxurious which provides our distinctive source of differentiation from all the other caviar brands on the market today. This uniqueness has been successfully projected through all areas of communication, from our country marketing and PR to our online stores.
Some of the latest highlights include:
YoY sales increase of 143% in 2017, and 122% in 2018
243% marketing ROI in 2016, 237% in 2017 and 316% in 2018
The company's sustainably-produced caviar is now available to professional chefs and caviar connoisseurs in 5 European countries, with market penetration in more countries expected to fuel growth in 2019 and beyond.
First full year of operation (2016)
2017 v 2016
Media Spend as % of Sales
2017 v 2016