Tilda: ‘We’re generating additional sales for operators’, says J.P. Laborde

Ian Reynolds-Young

In business, performance is everything; so when a sector begins to soar, companies who are not currently engaged in it often decide, ‘we’ll have some of that’, writes PV Editor, Ian Reynolds-Young

In recent months, Planet Vending has covered the arrival into the industry of Nairn’s, Prime Energy, Radnor Hills and – perhaps most notably given its participation in the Smart Retail Soutions group – Kepak. But the latest addition to vending and automated retail in the UK – Tilda – might be the most significant to date…

At the helm is Jean-Philippe Laborde. Tilda Ltd’s Managing Director in the U.K., universally referred to as ‘J.P.’, has been in post since Jan 2020. He has an extensive  background in food, FMCG, and international business development – all of them great qualifications; but what’s most noticeable when you sit down with him is the energy and enthusiasm that underwrites his expertise.

Prior to his arrival in the UK, Frenchman J.P.  was Managing Director at Ebro India for 8 years. (Ebro Foods, S.A., formerly Ebro Puleva, a Spanish food processing company, is the world’s largest producer of rice and the second biggest producer of pasta). He set up Ebro Foods footprint and grew the business from scratch, into a $100 million Company in just 6 years.

‘…we’re bringing another trajectory into the mix, that will add revenue.’

Previously, he held senior positions within Panzani and Mitsui OSK Lines in France. He holds a Master of Science in International Trade and Logistics from KEDGE Business school,  and he’s an alumnus of Harvard Business School,  having graduated from the Senior Executive Leadership Program in 2019. The phrase ‘Big Hitter’ springs to mind…

The ‘vending project’, as J.P. describes it, is as exciting to him as anything that has preceded it in his glittering career. ‘We’ve been exploring this one for quite a few years now and initially it wasn’t easy to understand, because it really is a unique landscape’, he said.  ‘We found it complicated: it’s not just about food and beverages. There are also snacks and confectionery that generate impulse sales, as opposed to planned purchases. That’s where Tilda, with our Ready To Heat Rice range and our new Tasty Sides, can add an extra dimension to the products an operator can offer consumers. That’s what most excites me: we’re not offering a ‘me-too’ product; we’re bringing another trajectory into the mix, that will add revenue, rather than simply replacing the existing revenue provided by more traditional vending products.’

TildaWith that aim in mind, Tilda have created a value proposition specifically for the industry. ‘We have detected some trends in our core business, which is retail. Since 1974 or ’75 sales through the Cash & Carry network, has been the backbone of Tilda. From that position of strength, we entered the Foodservice sector.

‘We discovered that in this sector, they are selling ‘solutions’, not just consumer products and the beauty of Tilda is that we can cater to different needs, depending on the situation. Tilda and Foodservice was an ideal partnership and it was this success that made us double down on our desire to contribute to the vending and unattended retail spaces.’

Tilda is the UK’s number-one rice category brand in Wholesale, Foodservice and Retail.

Tilda enters the sector having secured ‘a good market share’ in supermarkets, great relationships with wholesalers serving the Foodservice and they’re also working very closely with ‘many casual dining chains’.  In fact, despite the challenges since the pandemic Tilda is the UK’s number-one rice category brand in wholesale, Food service and Retail. (Tilda has been the 1st rice brand certified Bcorp since July 2023 in the UK).

‘We’ve been encouraged by the consumer trend towards a healthier lifestyle’, J.P. says. Where vending is the principal channel on offer – at work, for instance – it can be quite a challenge to find something substantial. Many people have to settle for a drink and a snack, and that’s it; but now we have created a unique quick to go or super speedy hot meal solution.

From their vast array of products, the task at Tilda was to identify specific products that would fit seamlessly into the operator’s systems and solve the problem of limited choice at meal time. ‘It took a little time. At first we tried rice. We have it in pouches that are ready-to-eat in two minutes, with Plain, Basmati and Jasmine options. Then we have ‘recipe’ products, which are flavoured..

‘But we found that these are not a meal in themselves. There’s no sauce; there’s no protein. We tested a new product alongside some customers, but the results sent us back to the drawing board. Next, we started working on new concepts, and only then did we feel that we finally had the offer that would tick all the boxes, with operators as well as with consumers.

‘Consumers can combine a Tasty Side –  that’s Tilda’s world food range, with flavours such Mexican Fajita, Thai Green Curry; Chinese Black Bean and Indian Black Dhal – with one of our rice products, to create authentic, tasty meals that come in at less that 250 calories, provide an important source of protein and fibre, and cost no more than a sandwich.’

JP Laborde

And that, in a nutshell, is Tilda’s offer to our industry: tasty, nutritious  meals that are easy to order, take fewer than 2 minutes to prepare and are relatively inexpensive. J.P. is happy with that definition: ‘Yes’, he says, ‘that’s where we’re coming from and I believe that it’s a very strong proposition for vending operators to consider.

‘The task ahead of us now to engage with a new and wider audience,  increase the industry’s awareness of our new products and create some buzz and excitement around Tilda, Tasty Sides and their potential for generating additional sales for operators’

We’ve covered the business case for Tilda in Vending and Unattended Retail, but as we wind up our conversation, J.P. is keen to highlight one further point. ‘We haven’t mentioned the most important thing of all’, he says, ‘and that’s taste. It’s the taste of our products, and the enjoyment that can be derived from eating them, that brings people back time and time again.’

As with so much in life, when it comes to Tilda, ultimately it’s simply a matter of taste…

*Order your Tilda products through vending’s favourite wholesaler, ARN
*Stay in touch with developments in vending and unattended retail on Planet Vending.



About the author

The Editor

Planet Vending’s Editor is Ian Reynolds-Young and it’s Ian’s unique writing talent that has made PV what it is today – the best read (red) vending blog in the world, and vending’s best read (reed). Ian ‘tripped and fell into vending’, in the capacity of PR executive, before launching a specialist agency, ‘reynoldscopy’, dedicated to the UK Vending business. The company continues to represent the interests of many of the sector’s leading brands.

‘It’s all about telling stories’, he says. ‘We want to make every visit to PV a rewarding experience. By celebrating the achievements of the UK’s operating companies, we’re on a mission to debunk the idea that vending is retailing’s poor relation.’

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