How Tyrrells moved away from the ‘drug of promotion’ to grow sales value

After a “race to the bottom” caused Tyrrells to lose value, owner KP Snacks decided investment in brand was the path to grow the hand-cut crisp brand.

When KP Snacks acquired Tyrrells in 2018, the crisp brand was losing money and its premium proposition was just not cutting through with consumers.

The business acquired an excellent product, but a brand which required “quite some work”, said Tyrrells global marketing controller Dan Winslet,  speaking at Advertising Week Europe today (17 May).

While the crisp brand was “loved” by consumers, he claimed, and consistently outperformed competitors in taste tests, people simply were not prepared to pay the premium price tag. With Tyrrells still produced on a Herefordshire farm, there was a great deal of value in the supply chain, Winslet explained, but in 2018, consumers weren’t prepared to pay more than a pound for a packet of crisps.

“What happened was an absolute race to the bottom,” he said. “That’s why the business was not making any money whatsoever.”

We were looking to create a brand that matched the quality of products that we had.

Dan Winslet, Tyrrells

At this stage the hand-cooked crisp category was growing in volume, but not in value, due to this “race to the bottom” on pricing. Winslet noted that primary competitor brand Kettle had adopted more of a volume mode, whereas Tyrrells was just “not designed” to be sold at low prices.

Seeing that a strategy of lower prices was not working for the premium crisp brand, KP Snacks knew it had to get off “the short term drug of promotions”.

It decided to shift tact and invest in brand, as opposed to looking to lower prices to drive growth.

So in 2019, it increased the price of Tyrrells products by around 30%, and immediately saw a volume sales drop of almost the same percentage in the second quarter of that year.

Winslet called this “a real squeaky bum moment” for the business, and one where the brand team had to bring the whole business along. One of his key learnings from the process is that everyone in the business, from sales to finance, must understand “the rough old journey” of brand building and the long-term nature of this venture.

“We were looking to create a brand that matched the quality of products that we had,” he said, in order to create value for its consumers, retailers and the KP Snacks business.

After this moment of realisation in 2019, KP Snacks began working with creative agency St Luke’s London to build a brand which could add value to the business.

The brand and its agency set about determining a target consumer, one who would be willing to pay the more premium price tag for Tyrrell’s. The brand had the goal of “delighting someone but appealing to everyone” through its brand. The “someone” identified were adults over 45 in the UK.

Market research found that this target group were already pleased by the quality of the product; however, there was a clear lack of distinctiveness in the product, with consumers conflating Tyrrells with rival hand-cut crisp brand Kettle.

In order to build a brand which stood out from the competition, the marketers and agency looked to tap into its DNA.

Presenting with Winslet, St Luke’s planning director Charlotte Walters said it looked to build on the “idiosyncrasy” and English character of Tyrrells in its work with the brand. It launched the “Tyrrellbly Tasty” brand platform on channels like TV, cinema and social media, with the goal of emphasising these characteristics.

The result of this work was an uptick in consideration, particularly among its target consumer group of 45 to 65-year-olds. It also saw a halo effect among younger consumers, suggesting its “delight someone, appealing to everyone” tact has been realised.

People are prepared a little bit more for a brand that has a brilliant product and a brilliant equity.

Dan Winslet, Tyrrells

Walters also cited statistics suggesting the brand has become more liked by consumers after every iteration under the “Tyrrellbly Tasty” platform.

In terms of commercial results, the 52-week rolling sales value of Tyrrells Sharing Crisps has grown 40% from £33.3m in September 2019 to £46.6m in December 2021. It has also grown its share of the premium sharing crisps market to 15.3% from 12.6% in the same time frame. Winslet noted that Tyrrell’s has recently passed Kettle in the “two horse race” of hand-cooked crisps to hold the most share in the category.

He said that crisps are not a luxury product, the price increase that Tyrrells made saw it being sold at around £1.50 versus around £1 previously.  However, it took an investment in brand to convince consumers that this new price was worth paying.

“People are prepared a little bit more for a brand that has a brilliant product and a brilliant equity,” he said.