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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes has his eye on the food licensing sector this week.

I must have felt hungry this week as my eye was caught by a number of interesting new developments in the food licensing sector. The first of these is a new launch from gourmet popcorn brand Joe & Seph’s. They have worked with Unilever to develop and launch ‘the first ever’ Marmite flavoured popcorn.

Marketed in the popcorn brand’s signature pouch format, the packaging features the recognisable Marmite colourways and branding well. It builds on other forays into the snacking market such as crisps , cashew nuts and rice crackers. Marmite’s strategy seems to be one to push the boundaries but in a controlled way with new food lines being added inviting consumers to taste Marmite in different ways, in different places and on different occasions.

It seems to be working as Marmite has a strong line of food extensions in the market. All of which support the mother brand and build further momentum for the general licensing programme. I am a Marmite lover so I would give a thumbs up to the popcorn – it is a very good product and true to the Marmite flavour profile.


I also spotted the Iron Maiden’s Trooper beer from Robinson’s Brewery in a Nisa Local ranged next to classic beers such as London Pride.

The association with the band gives it a point of difference on shelf, is a talking point and also allows the brewer to tap into some fantastic graphics that develop the trend for craft beers. Of course, it also delivers a ready made audience with the band’s fans being natural customers for the product.

It also allows a smaller player in a competitive sector to have some really powerful PR and advertising messages. I understand the band were hands-on with this development which adds further authenticity and credibility to the enterprise. I think this is a great example of the potential licensing can offer smaller companies in competitive market sectors.


I also read in The Grocer this week of two new pieces of NPD from crisp manufacturer Burt’s.

They have added a Caribbean Coconut Curry flavour crisp to their Levi roots range and are also launching a further line under the Hobgoblin beer brand – this is Hobgoblin Hamageddon crisps: ham, beer and pickle flavour. Both of these developments are new additions to existing licensing ranges. A strong indication that these licences have worked well for Burt’s and that their decision to build a licensed portfolio has worked. I believe they also hold the Guinness licence for crisps.

Interesting all three of these brands offer a distinct flavour profile, a clear brand identity and a consumer following all elements that have contributed to their success.


As an ex-media buyer I am always on the look out for good examples of media buying and I spotted one this week – Ghostbusters advertising wrapped around phone boxes with the slogan “Who You Gonna Call?” promoting the movie release.

Very clever media buying and a good ‘on the street’ boost for the film. A reminder that when licensees buy into a movie it is an event which they hope has momentum – some of which will be created by clever marketing like this example.

As an aside I am glad there are still phone boxes on the street – when your mobile battery is low it is quite useful although the minimum charge is 40 pence these days.


Events like movies and sports events offer licensees a great focus to launch and sell products.

Of course conversely events can be challenging in that they are relatively short opportunities and subject to outside forces – like the performance of teams for instance. However within this context I am always impressed how advertising, sponsorship and licensing partners leverage the Wimbledon tennis championships.

I pass through Wimbledon a lot and the commitment at grassroots levels of retailers to the event is great and big players such as Ralph Lauren run some fantastic supersized advertising.

In my own world, Robinson’s Fruit Squashes capitalise on their partnership with limited edition flavours and products plus themed advertising. They, of course, still have their distinct logo on the Umpire’s Chair and the bottles on display.

From the licensing arena I think Links of London jewellery and accessories range really stands out. It is well produced, beautifully designed and merchandised well. It represents the Championship well and I am sure it is a product range with international appeal. Links use the event as a focal point and a call to action – using the event’s momentum to build up a sales story and to offer retailer’s a strong theme to merchandise product around.


Finally, I was pleased to see that the trend for using licensed characters in the babywear sector was in evidence in Sainsbury’s this week with a range of babygros and bibs using Superman and Batman. Good to see licensing being used in this way – bright,  vibrant design work well presented on garments and merchandised together.

It also suggests that licensing and the use of licensing has growing applications now as the consumers have been ‘exposed’ to licensing at a mass level for c 25 years or so now so many of them are parents and grand-parents now. They are used to seeing licensed products and buying them.

This opens up potential for new sectors and types of products with consumers that now expect to see licensed products at retail and dare I say it may even love licensing!

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