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The Licensing Lookout: The Easter countdown

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes checks out some of the early licensed Easter offerings this week.

To an extent my Lookout this week is more about what I didn’t see rather than what I did.

Easter has fully landed in retail primarily in the form of Easter Eggs and cards. Bunches of daffodils are another sign that Easter is around the corner. No licensed daffodils sighted yet!

Kinnerton has a number of licensed Easter eggs including Peppa Pig, Moon and Me and PAW Patrol.
Kinnerton has a number of licensed Easter eggs including Peppa Pig, Moon and Me and PAW Patrol.

The Easter Egg aisle used to be very licensing friendly with companies like Bon Bon Buddies and Kinnerton leading the way, joined from time to time by companies like Divine. Of course, Bon Bon Buddies is no more.

Outside of this, the use of licensing seems to have been curtailed. I popped into Sainsbury’s and Iceland this week and licensed Easter Eggs were thin on the ground. The big confectionery brands like Cadburys, Nestle and Mars dominate the shelves with strong offerings linked to big name brands. While companies like Lindt are more active. Licensing has been squeezed out.

That said, in Sainsbury’s Kinnerton had a number of licensed ranges in-store featuring PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig and Moon and Me. Good on it for holding back the big brand tide. But it must be more and more challenging to compete with the big budget brands. The bigger brands have recognised there is value in Easter and also it is a great opportunity to further their brand’s relationship with consumers.

Kinnerton's range includes eggs which come with ceramics.
Kinnerton's range includes eggs which come with ceramics.

Kinnerton has done well to keep the licensing flag flying and is obviously a supplier that retailers trust. For licensees like Kinnerton, there may be opportunities to add value to the product offering by linking with other licensees to deliver product that the others can’t.

Its ranges include eggs that come with ceramics and there is scope to build on this, but price will always be a challenge. Maybe it could also reach out beyond character brands to further embrace brands that might help it to go toe to toe with the likes of Mars and Nestle.

Of course, I haven’t been into all retailers so there is every chance the share of egg is bigger in other retailers for licensing, but it is certainly a tougher category these days.

Cadbury's is featuring Peter Rabbit in its Easter offering.
Cadbury's is featuring Peter Rabbit in its Easter offering.

Against this backdrop it was encouraging to see Cadbury’s featuring Peter Rabbit in its Easter offering. In association with Dairy Milk, there is a Peter Rabbit product linked to the new Peter Rabbit movie. The product features a good quality plush Peter Rabbit and is a neat package which stands out well on shelf. Again this is a style of product that might inspire future NPD and gives some encouragement that there is still room in the market for licensed characters.

We should be aware that licensing is facing challenges on a number of fronts and the Easter Egg category is a reminder that market dynamics are changing.

Despite the challenges in seasonal confectionery, it is clear that the food and drink category is one that can still deliver some interesting partnerships and activations. The Grocer reported on two such ones this week.

Bob Dylan's Heaven's Door brand is launching in the UK this year.
Bob Dylan's Heaven's Door brand is launching in the UK this year.

Legendary musician Bob Dylan has a whiskey brand – Heaven’s Door – in the United States. It is due to launch this year in the UK. There will be three whiskies in the range with labels that feature artwork based on ironwork sculptures that Bob has created. He is a multi-talented man it seems.

Associations like this add depth to a product and create a marketing story which helps compete with more established brands. This joins the likes of Motörhead and Iron Maiden beer in a growing category of music to alcohol crossovers.

Food and drink companies are increasingly using social media and ‘live events’ like sampling to help sell their products. A product with a backstory can really stand out and this is where licensing can have a role to play.

Newby Teas has partnered with The Van Gogh Museum on a trio of teas.
Newby Teas has partnered with The Van Gogh Museum on a trio of teas.

Another news snippet I picked up on via The Grocer was that Newby Teas has partnered with The Van Gogh Museum to launch a trio of teas inspired by the museum’s collection. Products include Sunflower Dew. This is a good example of how heritage brands can make a difference in a competitive category and help a manufacturer achieve stand out.

Newby Teas has to build distribution but you can imagine this product working well in delis, gift stores and independents. I am sure it will also have strong gift potential. Licensing can help manufacturers compete and protect margin in ultra competitive categories.

I look forward to buying a bunch of Van Gogh Sunflowers next Easter…

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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