Weetabix: Teach a market to love your product

Weetabix exports its breakfast cereals to more than 80 countries around the world, and each locality has characteristics distinct from the next.


In its highly competitive homeland of the UK, Weetabix’s share of overall cereal sales stands at around 7%. In contrast, it has 70% of the cereal sales in Kenya.

However, Kenya is a relatively undeveloped breakfast cereal market and Weetabix has forged ahead there partly because other manufacturers have not devoted serious thought to breaking in. The company has found a distribution strategy that suits the mode of consumption – a bicycle-borne sales force that delivers sachets containing two biscuits to small rural shops.

While Kenyans tend to opt for a small-value transaction, the complete opposite model is used by Weetabix to sell its cereal in Mexico. There, consumers are more likely to buy large boxes containing 48 biscuits.

Any brand must adapt to the unique conditions of a particular market. But even if the proposition changes, for Weetabix the core product generally remains the same.

According to chief executive Giles Turrell (pictured, above), opening up a new region for the first time often means teaching people about what a brand stands for and the basic cultural concept of how to consume it.

“In many markets, what we know as a breakfast cereal – in terms of a bowl with milk – is not as established as it is in the UK or the US. In some countries, we will be doing more of an educational job.

“The other thing about Weetabix is that the brand is not as developed internationally as it is in Britain. In the UK, we only have to say ‘Weetabix’ and most people know about it. They are familiar with the brand.”

Having secured £900m in new finance in 2011, Weetabix is currently on the path to international expansion. It is seeking low double-digit percentage growth abroad in 2012, focusing on a selection of markets “where we have a right to play, and perhaps a right to win”, Turrell says.

Though Weetabix has a portfolio of brands including Weetos, Ready Brek, Oatibix and a number of variations on the basic products, the company initially plans to use just two of them in its international push – Alpen and Weetabix.

But Turrell has ambitions to replicate the success in the UK across the world. “Of the more than 80 markets we export to, we have identified a handful that we really want to grow consistently with how we are growing Weetabix and Alpen in the UK,” he says.

But the messages are different from its UK marketing: “In the UK, our Fuel for a Big Day campaign is based on an insight. It is based on an emotional positioning and it’s talking about how it can help families through a busy day.”

In less developed markets, the message is more functional. “We will have to talk more about the benefits of what the brand does – whole grain, energy, low fat, low sugar, high fibre,” says Turrell.

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