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A fully licensed meal plan… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes heads to Iceland to look at how its use of exclusives is giving it a competitive advantage in a crowded market.

Seemingly if you want to lookout for licensing at the moment you should go to Iceland.

Iceland is continuing its run of exclusive products that use well known brands. From the outside, it seems that Iceland has recognised that there is a value in its market sector in offering its customers’ exclusives. In addition, it has recognised the value of licensing well known brands and using these in a strategic way to develop products that fill gaps in its inventory.

Of course, exclusives also give it a competitive advantage in a crowded market. It is quite a testimonial for licensing to see a retailer like Iceland using licensing so frequently and in such depth.

LL5Iceland has linked up with cheese brand Cathedral City to develop a product range of ready meals and products such as Mac’ n’ Cheese, Cheese and Onion Pies and Pork & Cheese Sausages. This is a great use of a well known brand that has a well established brand identity and, of course, a well defined flavour.

From a consumer perspective you can see how a range like this works as it features a brand they know, trust and recognise.

It is a broad range and one that I imagine consumers will dip into regularly as there is a variety of products in it.

LL4Iceland has also recognised that there is an appeal and value in restaurant brands. It has a range of products developed under the Chiquito brand, the Mexican restaurant chain. Iceland has developed products such as Spicy Chicken Enchiladas and Vegan Burrito Bowls. Working with a chain like Chiquito gives Iceland access to a well defined offer within a popular food cuisine and, of course, it is working with category experts. Chiquito knows the sector and what appeals to consumers. I presume it has created a range that reflects the popularity of dishes and styles in the restaurants.

Restaurant brands are, I think, working on a mixed economy model now that blends in restaurant dining, at home dining and using licensing to penetrate new parts of the market. Iceland also has a range developed under the Harry Ramsden’s brand. Harry Ramsden’s is a well established fish and chip restaurant brand. Again Iceland has chosen a restaurant brand that helps it create a range that stands out and offers a point of difference in a traditional category. Licensing like this also allows Iceland to innovate within traditional categories and create product ranges that consumers will find interesting. Products in the range include Jumbo Battered Cod Fillets, Scampi and Cod Fillet Strips. Again, the branding on this range is very strong and uses the Harry Ramsden’s brand well – it will catch the eye of a busy shopper.

A new brand that Iceland has launched from the restaurant sector is Piccolino, an Italian restaurant chain. Iceland has worked with it to deliver a branded range in the Italian food category. Products include Garlic & Cheese Flatbread and Spicy Lasagne. Restaurant brands give Iceland a great way of delivering newness in well established categories and also to position products in a premium way. For the restaurants themselves I am sure they feel there is a marketing benefit to being featured in a national retailer and having product ranges that showcase their restaurant offer.

LL3Iceland also works with licensee suppliers to develop new products in other categories.

Three new products that I noticed on my most recent visit were in the frozen desserts category. The products were a Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Creme Ice Cream Cake, a Cadbury Creme Egg Mousse Dessert and Dairy Milk Chocolate Brownie dessert. In all three cases the brands used are high profile ones, with well defined flavour and taste profiles.

There seems to be a growing consumer trend and interest in luxury or premium desserts – for example the recent winner of Dragon’s Den’s business idea was centred on Ice Cream and Dessert Parlours. Another indicator is the success of ice cream and milkshake parlours that use well known brands as ingredients. Consumers are more adventurous and are looking for value for money ‘luxuries’ – desserts like this are very appealing and of course feature brands that consumers trust.

LL2Another interesting development in Iceland was a range of energy drinks developed by Tyson Fury. The range – Furocity – features four flavours. It was featured in its own space near till points and also promoted on posters near the shop. I understand that this range has been developed with Tyson Fury’s direct input and Iceland was the launch retailer for the range.

It is a really interesting development, not least as some brands can be a bit wary of boxing and boxers as it is a sport that carries risk. Anthony Joshua has a long running partnership with Lucozade and also works with Lynx which may have encouraged other commercial partners that there is merit in working with boxers. Tyson Fury has a tremendous profile and is PR gold dust. Energy drinks are a fast growing category but also one that is quite price driven. Furocity brings a new dynamic to the category.


Outside of Iceland, it was great to see licensee Geeky Jerseys launch its Judge Dredd Ice hockey jerseys this week. 2000AD and Judge Dredd are celebrating their 45th anniversary this year and there have been a number of partnerships put into place to help celebrate the anniversary.

Geeky Jerseys is a great example of a licensee which has created a category and embraced fan communities. It has developed a product that appeals to fans, but also represents the brand really well, making great use of comic artwork. This is a really good example of very focused licensing with a company delivering a unique product to a fully engaged fan community and a product that the brand owner feels comfortable with. It is a premium priced product, but one that fans have responded well to.

I think we will see more companies like Geeky Jerseys emerging – ones that understand fans, use social media well and that have a passion for product. Fan driven licensing is a great opportunity for licensing, but it is a category that needs to be handled with care and done in a responsible way. Geeky Jerseys has managed to strike the right balance.

I’m off to Iceland now to stock up for an ‘exclusive’ Easter featuring a fully licensed meal plan!

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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