Premier Foods to invest brand-by-brand as it details growth strategy

Premier Foods’ grocery managing director Alex Whitehouse says the Mr Kipling maker’s ongoing ‘aggressive consumer marketing investment’ to combat a slump in sales will help it return to full sales growth and that there will now be a focus on the smaller brands in its portfolio.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Whitehouse said Premier Foods, which has significantly invested in multimillion pound television campaigns for its power brands such as Mr Kipling, Oxo and Bisto over the last 12 months, will now also move to revamp its smaller brands.

Premier Foods has doubled its consumer marketing spend in the period between October 2014 and March 2015 versus the same period a year ago after total sales slipped 4.6% in the fourth quarter of 2014, and Whitehouse expects double digit growth in consumer marketing spend over the next few years.

“We just brought Homepride back on the TV for the first time in a while and you’ll see similar activity now brand-by-brand,” he said.

“We now have the scope and space to one-by-one refresh every brand in the Premier portfolio, and I’m confident you’ll see results – every power brand we’ve invested in so far has shown progress. I’m not looking to cut any smaller brands, it is now all about building them and once that cycle is complete, I think you’ll see a very healthy business.”

The FMCG giant posted a 3.5% drop to £158m in power brand sales on products such as Mr Kipling over the fourth quarter of 2014 despite upping marketing spend by a whopping 80%. Although Mr Kipling did see retail sales rise by 28% YOY in December.

“Look, the external marketing environment is tough right now with price deflation and stagnant volumes,” admitted Whitehouse. “But we have a great set of brands and need to remind consumers that they belong in their baskets.”

He added: “A lot of our power brands have been around for a long time, what we’ve changed is the way our marketing team assesses market trends so they can stay relevant such as Homepride introducing a Piri Piri sauce.”

Although admitting Premier had upped its social media spend, Whitehouse, citing Bisto’s Together ad, which went out to 10 million people during a prime time slot during this year’s I’m A Celebrity on ITV, says high-profile television campaigns are ‘still in many ways creating the most comprehensive results.’

In January, Premier’s category business director Claire Harrison-Church joined Asda as its new VP of marketing. She has been replaced internally by marketing director Phil Ellis.

Premier, meanwhile, will also take on P&G senior marketing manager Yilmaz Erceyes in March as part of a long-term plan ‘to continue to recruit top marketing talent.’

Premier Foods on… packaging

Whitehouse says the marketing team, which is led by Helen Warren-Piper in the recently expanded role of marketing director for the Grocery business unit, is partly being tasked with introducing new packaging formats, such as pouches, in a bid to increase the perceived value of products. There will be significant investment in NPD in 2015.

Social

Much like the Walkers’ Do Us A Flavour campaign, Premier will introduce a social media campaign urging consumers to come up with brand new flavours for one of its power brands later this year.

Tesco and the discounters

Tesco, Premier’s biggest retail customer, recently announced plans to cut its product listings by 30% and, unsurprisingly, Whitehouse said the move will ensure that the “big brands will win while giving customers clearer choice and less clutter.”

Although Premier supplies discounters like Aldi and Lidl with limited supplies, Whitehouse isn’t convinced of their long term growth.

“It depends on whether you think the rise of the discounters is cyclical or a permanent shift – I’m convinced it will top out at some point, but at the end of the day we are a brand builder,” he added.

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