Trebor slims down for leaner branding

Trebor Bassett has chosen an umbrella branding strategy and slimmed down its confectionery range to boost its modest sales.

Trebor Bassett, one of the UK’s oldest confectionery brands, is on a diet – attempting to make itself leaner following modest growth in recent years.

Part of Cadbury Schweppes’ drinks and confectionery empire, Trebor has adopted sister company Cadbury’s umbrella branding concept to provide a more coherent platform for its disparate range of sugar confectionery products. Cadbury created the umbrella brand Cadburyland for its range of children’s chocolate confectionery.

Trebor is about to relaunch its range of children’s sugar confectionery under the banner Bassett’s and Beyond, supported by an animated TV ad, as revealed in Marketing Week (MW August 19). The umbrella branding features new on-pack designs for the newly revised confectionery range.

An industry insider says: “Trebor wants to get the Bassett’s name across. In the past, it did not have a coherent branding across its range.”

Trebor began to strip out its range in March when it relaunched its family confectionery bags, cutting the range from 57 to 25 lines under the umbrella brand Bassett’s Fundays.

The move has had a mixed reception in the industry. One confectionery buyer says: “I know it has a lot of different brands and wants to put them all under one banner, but what it fails to realise is that a lot of people identify with the old brand names.”

Another buyer disagrees: “Trebor’s confectionery was all over the place, and what it is trying to do is get some branding conformity. I have not had one consumer complaint.”

Trebor had a 25 per cent share of the &£1.6bn sugar confectionery market in 1997, worth &£410m, according to market analyst Mintel. Its nearest rivals were Wrigley and Nestlé, with 12 and ten per cent, respectively.

Another industry expert says: “Trebor has been like a sleeping giant… For years its has rested on its laurels.”

Changes began at the company in 1997 when the sales and marketing functions came together under Kevin White. Trebor’s ad spend had dwindled to &£2.5m (AC Nielsen-MEAL) and it had failed to meet sales targets, despite the acquisition of Craven Keiller and its Butterkist popcorn brand in 1996 for an undisclosed sum.

Butterkist was relaunched last year in a &£3.6m ad campaign through WCRS, which also has Trebor’s lead brands such as Liquorice Allsorts, Maynard Original Wine Gums, Soft Mints and Jelly Babies.

The company spent a further &£3.5m earlier this year launching Bassett’s Fundays in a TV ad through Fallon McElligott. In addition, Mother created an ad for the &£2m Trebor Extra Strong Mints account.

According to Cadbury Schweppes’ own figures, the UK confectionery market saw a four per cent increase in sales in 1998 to &£5.5bn. Chocolate sales rose by two per cent, accounting for 70 per cent of the market – at &£3.7bn. The remainder was accounted for by sugar sweets, with sales rising three per cent to &£1.8bn.

Cadbury Schweppes UK’s half-year results show confectionery sales worth &£412m, down from &£419m on the previous year, and &£52m trading profit, up from &£49m.

Analysts believe the business needs greater focus. One says: “It’s definitely a business that needs cleaning up. It has streamlined the product range and is continuing to do so.”

Some City analysts see the diversion of marketing funds to core brands as a short-term strategy. They believe even core brands cannot grow forever and, when sales begin to slow, there will be nothing to fall back on.

Analysts seem to agree there is no mileage in rolling out Cadbury’s chocolate brands across mainland Europe. While the company’s milk chocolate products perform well in its core markets – the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and South Africa – tastes in mainland Europe differ, as people are accustomed to brands with a higher cocoa content.

However, after selling off most of its beverages business to Coca-Cola, except for Dr Pepper in the US, observers believe Cadbury Schweppes needs to make acquisitions in the sugar confectionery market to balance the chocolate side of its operation, the profits of which fluctuate according to world cocoa prices.

Sugar confectionery is suitable for a wider variety of markets, including hot climates. Sugar confectionery brands such as Philip Morris-owned Hollywood chewing gum and Ferrero’s Tic Tac have proved this.

Confectionery companies Lindt & Sprungli and Herschey are seen as potential targets for Cadbury. But it remains to be seen what acquisition strategy the company will adopt in the long term. Trebor looks likely to remain a core part of the UK business. Observers will examine closely its full-year sales figures this winter to see what effect the umbrella branding strategy has had on profitability.

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