Hovis revives its wholesome heritage in 15m relaunch

Hovis, the Premier Foods-owned bread brand, will be hoping a 15m relaunch will revitalise its fight against rival Warburtons.

Hovis, the Premier Foods-owned bread brand, will be hoping a 15m relaunch will revitalise its fight against rival Warburtons.

It is bringing back the “boy on the bike”, both as a logo on its new-look packaging (MW, July 31), and a heavyweight campaign, kick-started with a two-minute TV spot on September 12, which will evoke the brand’s heritage.

Hovis is relaunching its product range, bringing back the unsliced “little brown loaf” for the first time since its Ridley Scott-directed “boy on the bike” ad of 1973, as well as reformulating other products in a bid to reinforce the brand’s premium credentials. New packaging will reinforce its “healthy” positioning.

This, says one observer, will allow it not only to fight back against Warburtons in terms of positioning but also to push through price rises made inevitable by the rising cost of raw ingredients.

Premier Foods bought Hovis as part of its 1.2bn acquisition of RHM in 2006 and has pinned a large part of its future success on the brand.

At its interim results last month, chief executive Robert Schofield admitted the brand had not been competing well enough. The Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy-created “emotive” campaign and other marketing measures are intended to arrest the continuing slide in the brand’s market share.

Widening gap
In the year to December 2007, Warburtons was second only to Coca-Cola as the UK’s biggest grocery brand, with sales of 609.5m, up 17.9% on the previous year. Hovis dropped by 4.5% year on year to 386.6m.

Hovis marketing director Jon Goldstone admits Hovis has lost too much ground to its family-owned rival. He says less than three years ago, Hovis and Warburtons each had around 28% of the packaged bread market. But in the year to date, Warburtons has 32% of the total market, while Hovis has 22%. Goldstone says this is partly due to lack of investment when the brand was owned by RHM.

Yet Paul Cousins, director of consultancy Cousins Davis, suggests Warburtons’ success is not so much “what Hovis has done wrong, but what Warburtons did right”. He says Warburtons carefully rolled out from a regional operation to a national one, not expanding its footprint until bakeries had been built in targeted areas.

This, adds Davis, helped to reinforce Warburtons’ claim that it was the freshest bread you can buy.

Another marketer questions Hovis’ “chop and change” marketing strategy. He says that although a 2001 Hovis relaunch to reposition it as a modern brand was “right for the time”, subsequent changes, such as a 10m overhaul in 2005, were “confused”.

“But now, if you want to be seen as a premium brand, you have got to be wholesome and healthy. Hovis has got those qualities in spades – they are part of the heritage and soul of the brand,” he adds.

Health focus
Goldstone, not surprisingly, concurs. He says that in the year to date, 1.6bn has been spent in the UK on the bread sector, and that growth will continue to as much as 1.9bn by 2011, driven by the changing health perception of bread.

Hovis “has the best potential to deliver this growth”, he adds.

“Bread is a lot healthier than cereal. If we can do a job for the category as successfully as Kellogg’s has done for cereal, there is real potential for growth.”

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