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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes focuses on the licensed food and drink sector.

It was a good week in licensing for me this week – Start Licensing and our client Britvic Soft Drinks won a B&LLAs trophy for Best Food or Drinks Brand Licensing programme.

It was a genuine, but very welcome surprise. Great recognition for the licensing programme and the work of our licensees – it is also confirmation of the growth in this particular part of the licensing mix. FMCG brands are recognising the value and opportunity that licensing can bring them.


With this in mind, and inspired by the award, I checked out the grocery aisles this week and was impressed by the strength of the Cadbury’s brand in the celebration cake aisle.

Cadbury’s has used licensing and brand extension to take its brands beyond the confectionery channel for many years – examples of this include ranges of ice creams, cake bars and desserts. However, it seems that the celebration cake sector has been given renewed focus and effort.

I saw three of Cadbury’s signature brands sitting side by side on shelf – Flake, Crunchie and Mini Rolls all had celebration cakes. It was certainly shelf domination. I am guessing this is a good product category for Cadbury’s as it reinforces its credentials as a player in the ‘celebrations’ category, it creates new ‘eating occasions’ for its brands and creates a good margin business in a very visible retail category.

In a world where brands and brand identity are becoming increasingly important, it is good for a brand owner to get more visibility for their brand at retail.


The products themselves looked to be very ‘on brand’ and I am sure delivered a very faithful brand taste experience. Regrettably, after the B&LLAS lunch I had used up a lot of my ‘treat’ calories quota for the week and so didn’t try them… maybe next week.

I also noticed that Despicable Me/Minions have been working hard in the food category.


Near the Cadbury’s cakes was a Minion celebration cake – a great example of a bespoke cake delivered at an affordable price. The commitment to  NPD in celebration cakes is high and as a result product quality has risen over recent years, particularly in regards to the visual appeal of product.

Minions also feature on a range of Frubes drinking yoghurts in the chilled category.


I was also surprised to see Weetabix featuring Despicable Me 3 on an on-pack promotion – Win Despicable Prizes Every Hour. I had formed the impression that Weetabix had moved away from licensed promotions, but I guess I was wrong about that. Weetabix used to be a frequent user of licensing and licensed promotions in the 1990s – a trip to the factory was a badge of honour for any licensing exec selling promotional rights.

A well matched on-pack promotion can be a win/win activity for both parties – it is important to get the match right, get the promotion out on time and, where possible, create an original promotional idea or mechanic.

One of the most successful promotions I was involved in was with Cereal Partners and Digimon. We held back a trading card collection and used it with Cereal Partners ‘exclusively’ but in tandem with the trading card licensee – it worked really well with consumers seeking out the cards and enjoying the ‘random’ nature of collecting the cards via an in-pack promotion. It is worth planning ahead when running promotions and thinking about the mechanics.


Good to see more innovation and creativity in the ice cream sector by Brand of Brothers (we work with them on Tango and J20). It has just launched Gruffalo Ice Tusks – Chocolate Flavoured Milk Ice Sticks. These products sold in multipack format in Morrison’s launched recently. They represent the character well and clearly thought has gone into product development.

Another consistent point in terms of Gruffalo product is the quality of the artwork used on packaging. This consistency and attention to detail really pays off – consumers recognise the product and trust it. The Gruffalo really uses its unique identity well – this sounds obvious but often licensed characters and brands fall at the final hurdle by not thinking about design, packaging and presentation on a category by category basis.


Finally, a big well done to the team behind the Adventures in Moominland activity at the Royal Festival Hall. I noticed that it had been extended until August 20. A sign of success and popularity. A great example and reminder that licensing and licensing activity comes in a range of forms these days.

Brand owners should be mindful of opportunities in the experiential sector – leisure operators, theatres, shopping centres and theme parks are increasingly open to discussions about licensing and content, but are not looking for quick wins: they want to nurture long-term partnerships based on strong creative ideas and IP.

The Moomins have created a great case study and success for the industry.

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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