Case study: Sacla’

Established brands with a taste for innovation can stay ahead of the competition


Think of pesto and a jar of Sacla’s classic sauce probably springs to mind. Brought to the UK in 1991, for many Britons this readymade pesto was their first taste of the Genoese blend of basil, pine nuts and Parmesan.

Fast forward 25 years and a jar of pesto is now a larder staple. Whether you’re a fulltime parent, university student or young professional, you’re a likely consumer of the Sacla’ brand. Few food brands reach such a wide demographic.

Focus on R&D

Lying at the core of this success is Sacla’s unwavering approach to research and development that’s anchored in a deep respect for tradition. “Innovation has an enormous impact on our success,” explains Clare Blampied, Managing Director of Sacla UK. “It’s how we remain brand leader within the pesto category – which is a strong position for a company that’s family owned and run.”

Now in its third generation, Sacla’ has remained a family business since its inception in 1939, and is now a global leader of pesto and pasta products, with a presence in over 50 markets and over 100 million units sold a year. Driving this success is new product development (NPD), which sits at forefront of the business.

Behind new product development is an infrastructure with innovation at its centre

“Year-on-year we strategically review the year’s launches and successes, and build on this knowledge for the forthcoming years,” explains Blampied. “We have a continual programme of NPD in place, driven by highly experienced individuals in the both the technical and marketing teams – most importantly they are driven by consumer need.”

The most recent, and visible, example of this is the brand’s new range of Pesto Shots. Launched in response to consumers’ wishes for conveniently sized portions, Sacla’ is the first brand to launch pesto in this format – a trailblazing idea says Blampied.

The processes behind Sacla’s NPD can be long, she admits, and involve months of brainstorming and UK research. “Thoughts are compiled, examined and discussed as to viability with our production facilities, as well as considering sourcing and the seasons.”

Only after months of discussion are the products then made into a kitchen sample format at Sacla’s headquarters in Piedmont, Italy. Focus groups, taste tests and rounds of examination ensue for months before the final product is ready for launch.

But while the process is necessarily thorough, the company can be comparatively quick to bring the right product to market at the right time, says Blampied – and its this agility that’s helped put Sacla’ at the top of its game.

Behind this new product development is an infrastructure with innovation also at its centre. Sustainable, and pioneering, farming techniques are used to grow key ingredients, while 5,000 m² of solar panels help reduce the environmental impact of the chief manufacturing plant.

Even Sacla’s marketing initiatives are ground-breaking. In 2013 Waitrose shoppers were left flabbergasted when five opera singers dressed as shop assistants and customers broke out into the Italian classic Funiculì, Funiculà. The video had since been viewed over six million times on YouTube. No doubt many Britons have enjoyed their first taste of opera thanks to Sacla’ too.