"We're proud of our product and continue to innovate"

Over 17 years ago FDS Southern provided consultancy services to assist Wiltshire Farm Foods in launching its franchise opportunity. Gordon Patterson checks in with Director Ben Haynes for a progress update

Gordon Patterson: How long has Wiltshire Farm Foods been trading and when was the franchise launched in the UK?
Ben Haynes: Wiltshire Farm Foods started in 1991 and the first franchise was launched in 1992 - so this is our 15th year in business.

GP: What exactly are the products/services provided by the franchisee and what is the target market?
BH: Our products are premium quality frozen ready meals delivered direct to your door - primarily to loyal customers aged 65+.

GP: What do you see to be the distinctive features of the Wiltshire Farm Foods concept?
BH: We are very proud of our product quality with all our main meals made by ourselves at our factory in Wiltshire. We also won a Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2005.

GP: How many franchisees do you now have and does your franchise network cover the whole of the UK?
BH: We have 61 franchisees covering all of the UK.

GP: Does Wiltshire Farm Foods have a continuous research and development programme with respect to product range and new product introduction?
BH: Yes, we employ our own development chefs and continually upgrade our range and try out new recipe ideas. We also research our customer requirements and are currently reducing our packaging in response to environmental concerns.

GP: What is the current state of the market with respect to the demand for the products and services?
BH: Customers are becoming increasingly demanding in terms of product quality and choice and with our own factory we can quickly respond to these changes.

GP: We understand you have mature franchise businesses available for re-sale. As established operations, what kind of capital investment is required?
BH: Our franchises sell for between £50,000 and £150,000 depending on territory size and current turnover. For exceptional candidates we can loan up to 50 per cent of the asking price and also have a very strong relationship with the franchise units of the major high street banks.

GP: What regions in the UK are available and priority for re-sale?
BH: We currently have Ayrshire, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth for re-sale - due to a combination of retirement and restructuring.

GP: What kind of support services do you as a franchisor company provide to franchisees?
BH: We have a mobilisation team for all new franchisees, who work on site for the first few weeks. We have dedicated IT support and an extensive marketing budget including TV, national press and direct mail.

GP: With the aging population in the UK, does this provide an ever greater marketing opportunity?
BH: Demand continues to grow every year as more of the population reach retirement age and those over 65 are now living much longer - so the market has many years of growth ahead.

GP: What is the vision for Wiltshire Farm Foods as franchisor for the next five years?
BH: We will continue to innovate, launching new products, improved marketing materials and more interactive services via our website - which even has someone in Canada ordering meals for his mother in Yorkshire!