Leaders Forum: Lisa Schilling-Thomson, National Sales Manager, Halo Food Co

As part of the 2023 Industry Leaders Forum, Lisa Schilling-Thomson, National Sales Manager, Halo Food Co, discusses the growth of TONIK in the ever-changing and always dynamic P&C channel in Australia.

C&I: What have been the main highlights for Halo Food Co over the past 12 months?

Schilling-Thomson: We formally launched TONIK on 1 September last year, following months of brand workshopping, re-branding, and new imagery. We completely turned the brand inside out to understand who the TONIK consumer/shopper was.

Since 1 September, it’s been an absolute whirlwind with 12 new accounts for our bars and RTDs, tremendous brand growth across multiple channels, particularly P&C and grocery. In April, TONIK was represented at the AUSFIT Expo in Sydney, the first trade event the brand has attended, and it was a huge success with thousands of attendees trying TONIK products, and 100 per cent fantastic feedback.

TONIK has experienced more than 65 per cent growth YOY and continues to grow. We expect TONIK to become a leading Australian brand within the next 12 months.

We acquired The Healthy Mummy (THM) brand back in February 2022, which was previously an exclusively online company providing health and wellness products to women all over Australia.

Mid last year we commenced plans to take THM into the Australian retail market. Our initial wins were ranging three SKUs with Woolworths and another three SKUs are ranged and going into stores in a couple of months. We’ve had terrific results in the first eight weeks with our Vanilla Tummy Smoothie ranking number 10 in the whole category.

We are also presenting the brand to the pharmacy channel with very positive results currently.

C&I: What will be the focus for Halo Food Co for the remainder of 2023?

Schilling-Thomson: Halo’s core business has been contract manufacturing for the past 20+ years, and we continue to drive that highly successful part of our business. But now stepping into brand ownership, we have clearly seen the opportunities we have to take to market high quality consumable products, initially to the Australian public, but also entering other global markets with our highly desirable Aussie made products. We’re currently in discussions to take our brands into New Zealand, New Caledonia, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

For the remainder of 2023 we will continue to grow our TONIK and Healthy Mummy brands within Australia, focusing on grocery, P&C, independent supermarkets, and the specialty channels.

C&I: What do you enjoy most about the convenience channel?

Schilling-Thomson: The P&C channel in Australia is always dynamic, ever evolving, and driven to satisfy consumer demands and to develop category trends constantly – it’s an exciting channel that’s always changing.

I love working with category managers and buyers in P&C that are well versed and passionate about their categories. They do the work, they know their core SKUs, the trends coming, the trends ending, they understand the insights, the really great CMs get ahead of the trends coming, and pivot quickly, even outside of their structured annual reviews to change their ranging.

C&I: What is one challenge you’d like to see addressed in the industry?

More women in the industry. Yes, P&C particularly is a male dominated channel, but there are a lot of smart, savvy, talented women who would be amazing.

C&I: How do you envisage the next six months for the better-for-you snack food category in the convenience channel?

Schilling-Thomson: Now that we have exited the Covid period, most if not all P&C retail groups are in strong single to high double-digit growth, CMs will be looking forward to seeing how they can improve their current ranging to maximise and continue their growth trajectory. They’ll be looking for the next consumer trends to rationalise their ranging to ensure only the best sellers and what consumers are trending towards are on their shelves and in their fridges.

Plant is also continuing to trend, not as strongly as grocery, but certainly deserves to have a presence in P&C. Protein bars continue to grow strongly, specifically great tasting, clean ingredient bars with the right protein, sugars, and carbs, confectionery tasting bars are at the top of the list for consumers wanting to satisfy that treat craving.

C&I: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Schilling-Thomson: Firstly, being the highly competitive individual that I am, I love the challenge with a new brand to gain national ranging, competing, and winning! With TONIK, I’ve achieved national ranging in 12 new accounts in seven months, for Healthy Mummy, national ranging in Woolworths, and several other new accounts about to confirm ranging in the next couple of months.

This time next year I’m expecting TONIK to be one of the top three brands in the country.

I love multi-skilling, it enables me to be able to put to good use all of the skills I have learnt in my career over the past 35 years. As I am the ‘sales team’ for Halo Brands Division, I work across all channels with both brands, from route, P&C, grocery, independent grocery, specialty, and pharmacy, so I wear many, many hats. I also do all the brand management, marketing, social media management, and liaise with our manufacturing plants.

Then there are the people I get to work with, collaborate with regularly, the category managers, buyers, business owners, account managers, sales reps, all of which play a major role in taking a brand to market.

I’m lucky that I get to do every day what I love.

This article originally appeared in the June/July issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine, which is available online here.

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