Whole Earth pushes ‘natural’ positioning in effort to overtake Sun-Pat as top peanut butter

Whole Earth is hoping to overtake Sun-Pat as the top peanut butter brand by pushing its “natural” and “pure” positioning through a refresh and campaign as UK consumers start to “wise up” to the health benefits of the spread.

The packaging refresh, which “channels North American outdoorsiness”, will appear across the brand’s entire portfolio of peanut butters and cereals from early June and will coincide with the start of its “Wonder-Fuel” campaign.

Along with partnerships with sports bodies and industry experts such as Man V Horse, The British Triathlon Federation and celebrity personal trainers Jacky & Mark Wren, the moves are part of an effort to push Whole Earth’s key peanut butter products as a source of protein and fibre.

Gill Heskatt, marketing director at Whole Earth Foods, told Marketing Week: “When we looked at our product and how different it was to other mainstream peanut butters, our packaging didn’t reflect that.

“It wasn’t telling you much about what we stood for as a brand – no added sugar, health and the naturalness of our product.”

Heskatt added that the brand is hoping to reach the “purist” through the campaign, or the growing audience of people who “want clean ingredients and pure products”. Whole Earth’s cereals also offer a short and simple ingredient list, according to Heskatt.

Whole Earth is also hoping to grow the peanut butter category, which is worth £61.4m according to IRI data, with the launch of a “non-stabilised” peanut butter, made up of 100% peanuts. Its current peanut butter includes sea salt.

TGI data shows that only 20% of the UK population consume peanut butter which Heskatt said is largely due to the “myths” that surround the name – most of the population think the product contains butter.

“Peanut butter doesn’t feature heavily in everyone’s repertoire. In the US it’s like jam is in the UK – historically it’s a store cupboard essential. But the UK hasn’t got there yet.

“Our job is to blow the myth on the things that kept people away from the category,” Heskatt added.

Peanut butter sales rose by 9% year on year to 25 April, with volume also growing according to IRI data.

Whole Earth’s sales grew by 13% year on year to £14.2m and its volume rose to two million kgs from 1.8 million, giving it 23% share of the category, up 0.8% since last year.

While the category is led by own label with £23.8m in sales, category brand leader Sun-Pat saw its volume fall slightly, though its sales grew to £16.4m from £15.9m last year.

Heskatt said consumers are beginning to “wise up” to the nutritional benefits peanut butter offers, such as its high protein content.

“Whole Earth came in to be the more natural peanut butter against Sun-Pat,” she said, adding that competitor brand Meridian, which offers a similar natural proposition, has only recently launched into peanuts having previously focused on nut butters such as almond.

“Plant-based ingredients are going to become increasingly important as people move away from meat, and peanut butter offers an alternative to that.”

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