Innovating an Icon

One of South Australia’s most recognised and loved products, Menz Fruchocs are produced by Robern Menz, a 103 year old fourth generation family operated confectionery business. How does this business, with such a rich history, maintain its leading position in a complex and highly competitive consumer driven marketplace? Philip Sims, CEO, shares some fascinating insights into how a company and a brand, recently re-invented itself to grow market share, expand into new markets, whilst streamlining its operations and reducing its environmental footprint.

Robern Menz is synonymous with quality and is South Australia’s largest confectionery and fruit snack manufacturer, producing Menz, Medlow and Robern treats. They are best known for their Menz FruChoc product, the sweet, fruity apricot and peach centres covered in rich milk chocolate. The first FruChoc rolled off the production line in 1948 and now over 40 million of the delightfully tasty treats are manufactured every year.

“Even though Fruchocs are a well recognised brand and our sales were strong, we recognised that it was important to keep the brand fresh and tap into new market segments, particularly the younger demographic”, say Philip. The company partnered up with radio station SAFM to relaunch the brand, underpinned by the GFB, the Giant FruChoc Ball with the tag-line ‘Have you got the balls?’ an innovative and somewhat risky strategy given the FruChoc’s traditionally conservative brand position. After all the Fruchoc is a National Trust Heritage icon.

“Despite some concerns around the board table, we trusted our research, our advisers and our instincts”, says Philip. The re-launch was a huge success with sales of FruChocs increasing by 33% compared to the same six-month period in the previous year. Online sales were another market opportunity where Robern Menz developed a go-to-market strategy in 2010. Due to Fruchocs unique position of being available almost exclusively in South

Australia, it was discovered that many of Robern Menz online orders came from South Australian expats wanting to bring a small taste of home to their new abodes all across the world. With a re-launch and upgrade to their website, the company enjoyed 100% increase in their on-line sales in the first twelve months, creating a vital new stream to their business portfolio. 

Robern Menz has also made a substantial capital investment and tapped into government grants to “green up” their factory. Made possible by a successful application to the Australian Government’s Ausindustry program, ‘Retooling for Climate Change’, a $500,000 grant was awarded and matched by Robern Menz, to upgrade their refrigeration systems to reduce greenhouse emissions by 248 tonnes annually and energy usage by 11%.

“To remain competitive we have to be dynamic and open to new opportunities. Our business has gone beyond our South Australian borders - expanding our customer base with new products and points of sale; along with improving our productivity is critical to keeping our business fresh” says Philip.

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