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THEY ALSO HAPPENED IN '92
Just because there's no space in your Sandwich for regular reports about certain ongoing activities doesn't mean that they've ceased to, well, ongo. To prove it, Mark Lewisohn re-caists the spotlight onto two previously celebrated and still very much thriving McCartney projects - Linda's rang frozen meals and Paul's LIPA plans
Eighteen months ago, in the Summer of 1991 (CS58), we were delighted to report the launch of Linda McCartney's range of meals. The aim then, at the outset of this innovative and exciting foray into the world of frozen food, was not only to feed vegetarians but to convert carnivores, in other words, to show meat-caters a valid alternative.
Eighteen months on, we're even more delighted to report that it has been, and remains, a fantastic success story.
In a sense, Britain has been the world's food tester and taster, for it's really only been at home that the Linda McCartney range has been widely available. There were six products to begin with and now, as readers who investigate freezer cabinets will already know, there are ten, the four additional meals added earlier in 1992 being Cauliflower & Broccoli Potato Gratin, Deep Country Pics, Vegetables Wedges and Spaghetti Bolognese-Style. And - get this - in the year to April 1992, Ross Young's, the manufacturers, reported a total UK sales figure of 14,580,564 servings. In those 12 months alone, around, £6m was spent on Linda's food at British supermarket tills, with half of that coming from the purses and pockets of established meat-caters keen to trust Linda's name and try an alternative.
And the statistics should take another upward leap in the new year when a widespread advertising campaign gets underway. Look out for it, and for three further brands that'll be fighting for space on supermarket shelves: a pack of sausages, sausage rolls and a Quoin stir-fry, bringing the UK range to 13 products.
Incidentally, it's that fight for a place on the shelf that has prevented sales from exceeding even £16m, for in no single British supermarket can one find the entire Linda McCartney range. At the most, a shop will stock only three or four competing items, no matter who the manufacturer or what the product. (It certainly isn't, as some have suggested, an anti-vegetarian policy!)
The USA is one place, however, where an entire range can be accommodated in a single store, and the chances are - and this news will certainly please all those who regularly write to Club Sandwich on the subject - that the Linda McCartney frozen food range may make its US bow in 1993. Tim Treharne, who has worked closely with Linda for four years on developing the range, explains why the Americans have had to wait. "If you try and do too much too soon you can catch a cold, so until we'd established the UK market - and it took us nearly three years to get the product right and get everything together here - we weren't sure whether we'd even have a successful range to launch elsewhere. In America you have to buy shelf-space, it's what they call 'slotting fees', and so you have to be very, very sure of what you're offering. Also, a lot of the UK products are unsuitable for the US market, and we've had to develop a completely new range of products especially for the USA."
The coming year will also witness the expansion of European horizons, too, with Linda hoping to provide on-the-spot support as Paul's forthcoming concert tour wends its way across the continent. Sample test-marketing has already begun in France, and in Portugal the British product range is now on sale in selected stores. One enterprising executive there has even bought 500 freezer cabinets exclusively for the Linda McCartney range and installed them in all the major Portuguese supermarkets. Sales results in Portugal are also being watched closely in Spain, which may be dipping a toe into the market before too long.
Doubters will be disappointed to learn that Linda has retained close personal control over her product, for this has never been a simple 'superstar endorsement' deal. As Tim Treharne notes, "She is still as involved as before, it hasn't diminished. We have food meetings with her every month and she remains very much involved and very much enjoying it. In fact, as we've had success she's gained in confidence and is getting more and more excited about the future possibilities.
"I don't think anybody, when we started all this off, really knew exactly how far it could go. It began as a small cottage-industry and has grown into a substantial business. Everybody in the team is very pleased for Linda, because she's very dedicated, very keen and very supportive, and it's nice for her to sec her ideas get off the ground and turn into a success. In all countries, all the statistics indicate that there is less meat being eaten, so the Linda McCartney range will go onward and upward."