Are pre-cooked, high-quality ‘home-made’ meals for busy families going to be the next big thing in the South African food sector? Industry giant Famous Brands certainly thinks so and has bought a 49% stake in By Word of Mouth, a specialist Johannesburg catering business.
By Word of Mouth offers event and other catering, but also has expertise in home meal replacement – a service that is growing in many parts of the world, where people want pre-prepared healthy meals that feel home-cooked. Famous Brands envisages leveraging this expertise to establish high-end stand-alone By Word of Mouth stores offering bespoke products.
"This retail business model will resemble the hugely successful COOK company in the UK, which produces ready-made meals using ingredients and techniques that a good cook would use at home to ensure meals look and taste home-made,” said Famous Brands’ Kevin Hedderwick. “I am particularly excited about the growth prospects of this component of the business because there is a strong and growing demand for an offering of this kind in the economically resilient upper-end of the South African market.”
UK-based COOK has 84 outlets located across England, Scotland and Wales. “In them you’ll find our full range of frozen ready meals, entertaining food, puddings and cakes,” the company says. It adds that it “uses the same ingredients and techniques that a good cook would use at home, so all our food looks and tastes home-made.”
By Word of Mouth was founded in 1993 and employs more than 200 people. This is the first foray into the sector by Famous Brands, which operates a range of food-based franchises, including Steers, Wimpy, Tashas and Mythos.
According to a Canadian study, demand for home meal replacement products has risen 17% in recent years, while growth in quick-service and full-service restaurants has been stagnant.