Why Birds Eye decided to kill its ‘Inspirations’ fish range

The frozen food giant has decided to ditch its premium fish brand as it looks to make better use of the Captain’s dominance in the category and be seen as ‘everyday premium’.

Birds Eye has scrapped its premium frozen fish brand, Inspirations, and moved all the products in the range under the Captain Birds Eye umbrella as the brand looks to capitalise on “one of the most distinctive assets in the food industry”.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Birds Eye’s UK general marketing manager for fish, Rebecca Nascimento, says the company’s “premium identity” was born after recognising it needed to play in the growing premium frozen fish category. However, research found that the Inspirations was suffering from the absence of Captain Birds Eye, leading to the move to absorb the sub-brand.

“It makes sense for us as a businesses to maximise the power of [Captain Birds Eye] rather than having many segmented brands. That way there’s more power for the future and more power for long-term growth,” she explains.

Last year, the company relaunched Captain Birds Eye, shifting his persona from a “jovial sea fellow” to a “more authentic” character. That has allowed him to operate in a more premium segment.

“After we reintroduced him last year we noticed the strength of him as an icon so it made sense to review that and look at how we can maximise the identity and maximise the distinctiveness of the Birds Eye brand where it’s already strong,” Nascimento says.

“We know the Captain has an 86% brand awareness and is the longest standing food brand icon in the UK. From an internal point of view we had lots of proof points that showed us we have the right to play in that area with the Captain.”

As we look forward and look into 2020, this opens up many more doors to advertise a broader range of products under the Captain.

Rebecca Nascimento, Birds Eye

Figures from Nielsen show Captain Birds Eye is outperforming the frozen fish market with growth of 4.7%, compared to a total market growth of 0.1% (for the year to 23 February). The brand also has a household penetration of 47% and its family range alone has contributed £141m to the frozen fish category and grown 5.4%, well ahead of the market at 0.9%.

While families remain a core target for Captain Birds Eye, Nascimento says the business will be looking to turn its focus to targeting an occasion rather than a specific audience with the new-look range.

“Bringing [Inspirations] under the Captain makes it slightly more ‘everyday’. Still ‘everyday premium’ but that’s where the biggest opportunity lies in terms of the category. And that’s what we want to achieve with this, accessing those everyday meal times where you want something that’s a bit more special,” she says.

“As we move forward our long-term aims are to continue to expand the presence of the Captain within the fish category and we’ll be looking at new occasions and new segments as part of our innovation pipeline. ”

In order to be seen as premium everyday, Birds Eye will need to shift its advertising to focus on authenticity and simplicity while playing up its different flavour profiles such as black pepper and lemon, and rosemary and salt.

And in terms of converting current Inspirations (which will still exist within Birds Eye chicken), customers to the Captain Birds Eye brand, maintaining consistency during the transition will be key.

“We’ve kept the same photography and the food is exactly the same so that’s the first point of consistency from the old and new,” Nascimento says.

“We are working with the retailers to define what our in-store plan is, and online as well. Closer to the point of purchase is where the big opportunity for conversion lies.”

To communicate this positioning to consumers, Birds Eye is planning to invest £7m above-the-line on advertising Captain Birds Eye, with Nascimento suggesting it should trigger a “halo effect”.

“Consumers are shopping by segments such as coated fish rather than at a premium category level. We expect the premium tier to benefit from core advertising that we will run on coated fish. We’d also expected to benefit from the fish finger captain advertising as a halo across the whole captain range,” she says.

“Clearly, we want to continue to grow. We want to grow our core categories and also the premium tier. As we look forward and look into 2020, this opens up many more door to advertise a broader range of products under the captain potentially.”