Our regular column shining a light on retail trends takes a look at how food licensing has really come into its own.
As the seasonal period approaches, food at retail really comes into its own as shoppers look to treat their loved ones this Christmas. Whether that’s for the younger members of the family with food-inspired toys or with character licensed food or gifting sets representing our favourite food brands; there is something for everyone. With it being reported this year that food and beverage brands contributed $3.8 billion to the global licensing industry, there are plenty of opportunities to sink our teeth into.
When it comes to food licensing in the toy category size really does matter – whether it’s mini or macro. With ZURU’s Mini Brands launching in 2019, came the age of our favourite brands coming to life in miniature. With the likes of Subway and Pizza Hut featuring, the blind capsules are a surprise for food lovers of all ages and plenty of TikTok content to get our teeth into.
Following the success of Mini Brands, came the arrival of Snackles this year, again from ZURU, which brought the squeeziness of plush characters themed around our favourite snacks. Despite being toys, the innovation from ZURU again proves that the love of food is universal.
This was particularly prevalent in gifting with the likes of Coca-Cola’s glass, coke and keyring set, Bailey’s minis and tumbler or IPA inspired by our favourite bands – Queen, Motörhead or Iron Maiden.
Outside of more traditional grocery retailers, we’ve seen the likes of Boots expand in its 3 for 2 gifting ranges featuring Costa and Treat Kitchen with the latter including an official Storm Trooper chocolate helmet. What more could a Star Wars fan want?
It’s great to see our favourite characters come to life and there are no better examples than when walking down the cake aisle where most of us will be familiar with seeing brands from Spider-Man to Jurassic World or CoComelon to Bluey. There is nothing sweeter than seeing these much-loved characters featuring on their fans most exciting day of the year.
We also saw Universal Studios dip its toe in a bigger way when it comes to food licensing with its partnership with Ambrosia and Minions to celebrate all things yellow – a partnership made in custard heaven!
However, this does not mean we have to abstain from our favourite flavours with the likes of ‘at home kits’ growing on supermarket shelves. We can now enjoy our favourite flavour of bubble tea thanks to Bubbleology’s mixology kit at Asda and Tesco. And to add to this, Asda Milton Keynes has also set up its own Bubbleology concession to satisfy shoppers when on the go.
Examples include Nando’s long-standing sauces range to offer its famous flavour at home, as well as other restaurant chains such as Wagamama and Wahaca with their meal kits or Harry Ramsden’s, Ed’s Easy Diner and Itsu and their ready prepared meals and sides. KFC has also explored licensing collaborations more recently with its Proper Corn Popcorn Chicken and the Dead Man’s Fingers 11 Herbed & Spice Rum hitting shelves this summer.
Some of the best examples of food licensing aren’t in the food aisles at all, but what cosmetics have in common with food is that it celebrates scents and flavour without being edible. Retro confectionery brands particularly thrive in this space with Barratt, Slush Puppie, Wall’s Ice Cream and Chupa Chups all with their own lip balm collections; a throwback to visiting the local newsagents with your pocket money after school.
With confidence in our cooking varying across the UK, sometimes we need a helping hand and with celebrity chefs and foodies grasping the spoon of licensing and mixing it up we can all feel confident in the kitchen.
Most recently we’ve seen Nadiya Hussain’s partnership with Schwartz hit shelves including recipe kits, one pan mixes and seasoning and, through taking the simple quiz online we could all be matched with the recipe that suits our culinary skill level. The aim of the partnership is to make good flavour accessible to all and partnering with a well-loved cook helps deliver that mission for Schwartz and its retail partners.
Last but by no means least, we visited Iceland Foods – a retailer that is at the forefront of food and licensing. Whether its first foray with Slimming World nearly 10 years ago or its growing Barratt portfolio that started with a range of ice creams, Iceland has led the way when it comes to exclusive partnerships with food brands that resonate with their customers. On our recent visit we saw Del Monte being the face of its frozen fruit, Cathedral City covering all things cheesy in ready meals and its Greggs range offering the same great taste but baked at home. We can’t wait to see what Iceland has brewing and ready to be served soon.
This summary only touches the surface of the scope of opportunity when it comes to food and drink licensing and innovation at retail. Whether you’re a seasoned licensing veteran or seeking opportunities for a first flash in the pan, once you’ve taken your first bite you soon find you can’t stop.
If you’re looking to explore opportunities further, then the Eighty Ate team are on hand to advise on strategy or can represent your brand across licensing with its retail-first approach.
Janine Richmond is head of product and brand at The Point.1888 and Eighty Ate.
Launched in June 2023, Eighty Ate will support food businesses seeking to break into new markets and help non-food brands to enter food and drink categories by creating products that fit existing retail gaps. Eighty Ate will also look beyond traditional licensed food and drink categories, considering fresh, frozen, tabletop and impulse for original opportunities.