Innovation Clinic helps client land major Aldi deal

1 May 2024

University supports Cluster Club’s rebrand, which leads to chocolate and nut snack appearing in 1,000 stores nationwide

The University of Central Lancashire has helped a local business land a life-changing contract with major supermarket chain Aldi.

The institution’s Innovation Clinic supported Cluster Club, a Blackburn-based confectioners, with rebranding and new designs for the packaging of its three flavours of nut and chocolate snacks.

Owner Yasir Patel pitched the walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and chocolate cluster products to a panel on Channel 4's 'Aldi’s Next Big Thing’ and the start-up business entrepreneur was chosen as the winner in the confectionery category.

The white chocolate and cranberry, Belgian orange chocolate, and Belgian milk chocolate flavoured products, which include 50% nuts, will now appear as a Specialbuy in more than 1,000 Aldi stores throughout the country.

Carl Davies, Lead Industrial/Product Designer in the University’s Innovation Clinic, led the industry experienced team on this project. He said: “Yasir came to us in March 2022 for assistance in taking his new product to market.

“After meeting to discuss his needs, the team carried out market research to begin with, to understand the competition and identify areas to achieve distinction.

"We were able to help him focus on his target audience and widen the product’s appeal through delivering a brand re-fresh"

Carl Davies, Lead Industrial/Product Designer in the University’s Innovation Clinic

“Following the findings, we were able to help him focus on his target audience and widen the product’s appeal through delivering a brand re-fresh. Our designers then undertook a creative phase, arriving at the final visually impactful concepts for the product packaging range.”

The University team spent a total of 93 hours working on the project, thanks to external funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Carl commented: “Our work also included providing guidance through the process of understanding how nutritional values affect permissible claims, along with identifying environmentally friendlier packaging materials.

“The working relationship was very effective, and Yasir was very happy with the outcome. We’ve kept in touch so hearing of the overall success was fantastic, and a testament to the many great bodies of work delivered by the Innovation Clinic in helping develop businesses over the last ten years.”

Cluster Club was up against five other sweet treats, including makers of CBD gummies and vegan toffee.

The judges were Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, TV and radio presenter by Anita Rani, and Chris Bavin, of Britain's Best Home Cook and Eat Well for Less and they were assessing factors such as price, packaging, shopper demand, and the ability to scale up.

"The Innovation Clinic has been pivotal in our success"

Cluster Club owner Yasir Patel

During filming for the TV show, Yasir, who balances running the company with working for a telecommunications company, learned he had lost his usual manufacturer. The father-of-two found another supplier and returned to the headquarters of the supermarket chain with a larger pack and robust new production factory, to secure an order to supply 100,000 packs.

Yasir said: “I put everything I have into this - money, sweat, time and effort. Landing this contract means I will finally see a return financially I can breathe. All the hard work was worth it, I am a supplier for Aldi. How do I even put that into words? I am living a dream.

“The Innovation Clinic has been pivotal in our success. Firstly, they helped understand the market and our competitors' products, retail prices and brand messages. This analysis then informed the packaging designs for Cluster Club, which perfectly communicate our own product and brand. It has been a pleasure working with the team and we hope they continue to help other businesses also achieve success.”

Cluster Club was approached to go on to the show by Channel 4 after Yasir attended a BBC Good Food show event in Birmingham where he showcased his product to customers and the media.

His products will also feature in Asda, Amazon and EG Group stores and his next steps are creating more flavours and producing yoghurt pots and breakfast clusters.

Martin Jones, Innovation Clinic Programme Manager, added: “Congratulations to Cluster Club, this demonstrates that understanding commercial needs is imperative for successful outcomes.”