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FOCUS BRANDS


AMERICAN FOOD WAVE


Rapidly-expanding pretzel firm Auntie Anne’s is only the start. US firm Focus Brands is planning a full-scale UK invasion with all its concepts, but Europe is off the menu. Noella Pio Kivlehan reports


H


ollywood star Robert Pattinson – he of Harry Potter and Twilight fame – loves his covered in chocolate. Dr Phil – of Oprah


fame – prefers his filled with peanut butter. And although the smaller, snack-sized version nearly choked former president George Bush in 2002, the softer version is clearly going down a storm. The object of their affection (or near demise)? Pretzels. In the UK, the city of Gloucester also became enamoured with them in November when specialist chain Auntie Anne’s opened at the Eastgate shopping centre. Website Thisisgloucestershire


declared the city “loves” the doughy treat of German origin so embraced by Americans. It said: “The bakery’s grand opening was one of the busiest days


of the year for the centre so far.” There are now 28 Auntie Anne’s


nationally in small malls and inline kiosks, and the company has plans to grow to 100 within the next five years. In the British Isles, Auntie Anne’s is run by father and son duo Robert (who ran Thrifty Car Rentals before selling it in 2006) and Max Burton, who bought the master franchise in 2008, six years after Auntie Anne’s was launched in the UK. At the time there were only four sites.


Slow burner While the Burtons were confident in the allure of Auntie Anne’s, which has more than 1,200 sites internationally, growing the chain here has been something of a slow burner. “If we had £10m in the bank when


we took over, we would have grown quicker, but it took us 18 months to get our supply chain working,” says Max. “We can now grow more quickly, and we are happy where we are.”


Auntie Anne’s parent company is


US-based Focus Brands. As well as the pretzel outlets, it has restaurant chain Schlotzsky’s, ice cream company Carvel, baked goods chain Cinnabon, and Moe’s Southwest Grill in 3,300 sites in the US alone; internationally, it operates in 60 countries. There are also plans to add up to three more brands by 2020. And now the UK should brace


itself, as there is going to be something of a Focus Brands invasion in the next five years. Heading this drive is the firm’s


international president, Mike Shattuck, who says: “We learnt a lot about the markets [through Auntie Anne’s], and our restaurant brands tend to follow; that is where we are at with the UK. “We would love to get our Moe’s brand


in here – we think it is particularly suited to the market right now – and also the Schlotzsky’s brand. “We know the market will work here


26


Summer 2013 www.estatesgazette.com


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