Tunes goes on health kick to cure sales woe

After a failed ’sweets for clubbers’ revamp, Tunes is deserting confectionery for the burgeoning medicinal cold remedy sector. Caroline Parry reports

There may be no cure for the common cold, but the UK spends &222m every year treating sore throats and coughs with over-the-counter (OTC) remedies and medicated confectionery.

But brands in the medicated confectionery category, such as Tunes, Halls and Lockets, appear to be facing an identity crisis. Consumers are turning away from the category, whose value has dropped 11 per cent since 1996 to &75.5m in 2001, according to Mintel. Instead, cold sufferers are turning to stronger products, such as Strepsils, in the sore throat remedies market – a sector whose sales have increased five per cent over the same period to &47m, and OTC cold remedies such as Lemsip Power Caps.

In line with this trend, food giant Masterfoods is relaunching its cough sweet brand Tunes this autumn to move it away from its confectionery image (MW last week). The sweets will now be round rather than square and will packaged in boxes rather than the stick format. The aim is to give Tunes a more medicinal image. A sugar-free variant will also be launched.

This is a turnaround from Masterfoods’ previous marketing strategy for Tunes. In 2000, it tried to position Tunes as a sweet for clubbers by introducing a strawberry variant and revamping the packaging in a bid to recapture ground lost to Halls’ top-selling Mentholyptus and Soothers brands. The move was supported by a &1m sponsorship of a show on dance station Kiss FM and a club night called Change Your Tune.

A confectionery industry insider says that the repositioning of Tunes as an everyday confectionery brand aimed at the youth market did not work because it moved the brand too far away from its traditional image as a cough sweet.

The repositioning also moved Tunes too far away from its traditional market – predominantly women buying for their families. In response, Tunes’ new box packaging has been designed to appeal specifically to women, a key target market that rival Soothers has successfully tapped into with its ad campaign featuring a woman having her neck kissed better while sucking a Soothers lozenge.

Masterfoods is also understood to be considering a revamp for sister brand Lockets to fend off an expected marketing onslaught from Cadbury Schweppes. Cadbury entered the medicated confectionery market last year when it bought Adams, including the Halls brand, from Pfizer (MW December 19, 2002). Cadbury has yet to fully integrate Adams into its empire but the medicated confectionery category is bracing itself for a burst of activity from the confectionery giant, which is expected to put the might of its extensive distribution network behind Halls.

Cadbury is expected to make the most of its experience in marketing confectionery brands when it comes to pushing Halls. It is likely that it will continue to position the brand as an everyday confectionery product that consumers will buy on impulse rather than out of necessity. That is a positioning which Halls has played on by sponsoring the British Superbikes championships earlier this year (MW February 27).

The adult sweet market is also a positioning that rival Fisherman’s Friends took on in 2000 when it was backed by a &2m advertising campaign.

Both Halls and Fisherman’s Friends are also trying to appeal as an all-year-round product. The medicated confectionery market traditionally experiences the bulk of its sales between October to March, but recent launches such as Wrigley’s Airwaves and Fox’s Fruit Mints have proved that some products can straddle the seasons.

Fisherman’s Friends UK sales controller Jon White believes it is possible for the medicated confectionery market to successfully reposition itself. “The question is, is it necessary and can it be done effectively?” he says.

Another industry expert adds that distribution is key to the success of any repositioning and he believes that medicated confectionery brands have yet to fully exploit this fact. He suggests that grocers, forecourts and pharmacies could all help to improve sales.

“The category needed a kick, like Cadbury coming in, to get things moving again,” he says. “There has been no new product development in a long while, but I think sugar-free Tunes should help to change that as there is nothing else like that at the moment.”

The industry is waiting to see what Cadbury’s first move will be, though it shouldn’t wait too long to boost Halls’ profile. If Tunes is successful in forging a more medicinal image, it could take valuable share from the Adams business.

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