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The Licensing Lookout: Supermarket sweep

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes discovers the licensing friendly nature of Waitrose this week.

I popped into my local Waitrose this week for a pint of almond milk and left with a bagful of licensing.

Waitrose is a retailer that doesn’t often feature in licensing chatter, but my quest for milk revealed it is a licensing friendly retailer. Maybe this has been achieved by stealth as most of the licences that caught my eye were brand or personality driven ones. Despite the attention that initiatives like the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards have brought to brand licensing, it is still a category of licensing that can go under the radar.

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My Waitrose tour was a source of encouragement that there is a lot happening in the sector. Restaurant brand Nando’s has established itself well in the marinade category with a range of Peri Peri sauces – these featured prominently at the front of store within a barbecue and outdoor dining feature area. The sauces are developed by brand licensing specialist All About Food. It is also working with Wahaca on a range of Soft Taco Kits. Well presented in carry home packaging these kits allow consumers to create their own Wahaca style dishes at home.

Restaurant brands seem to work well at retail as they help consumers try new cuisines with confidence. Casual dining is a challenging category at the moment, so it is understandable that brands want to extend their reach into retail. It is not always clear on what basis these deals are structured. Reading the small print I think the Wahaca deal is not a traditional licensing one. The pack style also showed how important it is to develop stand out packaging and easy to use formats.

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The frozen ice category aka ice lollies taps into brands. I was pleased to see some of my handiwork on show with R Whites Lemonade ice lollies displayed prominently.

Other featured brands in this category included Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Crunchie and also Del Monte. Taste, flavour and ingredients are important in this sector. It is no surprise to see FMCG brands extending into it successfully. The last few weeks have been a great time to be selling ice lollies…. providing you can get them from A to B quickly enough.

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Celebrity chefs are still a factor in the market. Jamie Oliver leads the way and is the standout chef brand, not least as he has multiple products in store while others are generally featured sporadically on one or two lines. It remains tough to go toe to toe with more established FMCG brands that are category kings.

Examples of products featuring chefs included Paul Rankine sausages – this range is billed as a Rankine selection and billed as an Irish recipe. It is a clever way of using the chef’s heritage and linking to regional produce.

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Ainsley Harriott and Levi Roots still feature on shelf in the soup and sauce categories. It is likely that these lines are now firmly embedded in store and represent good repeat business for the personalities.

Paul Hollywood’s bread mix seems to be his only line in store at the moment, while Mary Berry featured in the fresh bakery aisle with products such as a Lemon Yoghurt Loaf. I believe she is also doing well in the chilled desserts category as well.

It is tough to get traction in-store even with such high profile celebrities. Existing brands put up a strong fight to retain their shelf space often using price promotions to insulate against competition from licensed brands.

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A couple of other interesting products I spotted were a range of tinned fish such as sardines from John West that were endorsed by Heart UK – the cholesterol charity. An interesting tie-up and one that I am sure other brands will be looking at. Linking a charity brand, healthy eating and FMCG products seems smart business.

I also thought Cawston Press’ use of The Very Hungry Caterpillar on a no added sugar juice range was good. A well matched character and brand partnership. Good to see character licensing being used in different ways by FMCG companies.

I also thought Marmite’s move into savoury biscuits is a smart one and the fact that the biscuits are shaped like Marmite jars was good attention to detail and plays well on the brand’s iconic status. Marmite is a brand that has been well managed in terms of food licensing with a regular raft of well thought out NPD.

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Finally I would like to thank all the licensing colleagues who joined me and Paul Bufton on our guided walk around Waterloo and the South Bank. This was a fundraiser for a hike myself, Paul and Simon Gresswell are undertaking soon in aid of Mind and in memory of my son Calum. Thanks to everyone who has donated to the fundraiser.

One theme of the tour was that it is good to talk and keep in touch with each other. Licensing is a very social community, but sometimes it is nice to know that you can talk to friends and colleagues about things that might be troubling you. Keep talking.

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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