The Secret Marketer talks about Kettle Chips

I read last week that Kettle Chips has been sold to US-based Diamond Foods for about £400m. I remember Kettle – the first “premium crisps” – emerging on the shelves many years ago and have always admired the brand.

The Secret Marketer
The Secret Marketer

Kettle Chips were differentiated from other crisps, packaged attractively and the brand showed great focus in establishing the in-home use occasion. In recent years, having established its core credentials, Kettle earned the right to drift increasingly towards the mainstream with impulse and multipack formats that no doubt added significantly to the bottom line.

Kettle is a textbook case study of the value of a clear proposition, marketed with great consistency. Its success is not due to award-winning advertising campaigns, but to being a very well-run business that has retained focus while all around them have been losing their heads.
It has been reported that United Biscuits bid as much as £200m for the UK operations of Kettle. It was unsuccessful with its bid, just as it has unsuccessful in competing with Kettle over the past 15 years.

The irony, of course, is that UB had first mover advantage in the premium crisps category, with brands such as McCoy’s and Brannigans. In 1993, it further strengthened its position with the acquisition of Phileas Fogg for £24m, a gem of a brand that I think it has monumentally screwed up ever since.

“Consistent management is more powerful than schizophrenic marketing”

Although new pretenders have also fought for success in premium crisps, not least Walkers and Tyrrells, Kettle has gone from strength to strength and has never really shifted from its original promise and positioning. It has succeeded with lower budgets than many competitors and is proof that consistent management is more powerful than schizophrenic marketing.

On the same day I read about the Kettle sale, I saw a TV ad for the latest relaunch of Phileas Fogg. I dread to think how many relaunches that poor brand has now been through, not to mention how many brand managers. UB would have been better leaving things well alone when it acquired that brand. It could have used those savings to acquire Kettle at this point and completely sew up the premium crisps market.


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