Measuring success in the food and beverage space

A dedicated Navigating the Food Aisle panel during Brand Licensing Europe last week, saw Beanstalk’s associate vp Sheelagh Li and director of brand management Katie Hall, Brandgenuity md Teri Niadna and Richard Pink, md of Pink Key Licensing, come together to discuss what makes a successful licensing partnership in the food and beverage space.

Explaining that corporate clients are looking for “fewer, bigger, better partnerships”, Teri Niadna kicked off the presentation with a case study on the collaboration between Nestlé’s Coffee-Mate and liqueur brand Kahlúa. Building on existing consumer behaviour – research revealed that customers were already adding Kahlúa to their coffee – the resulting non-alcoholic Kahlúa & Creme flavour was the first alcohol-flavoured coffee creamer on the market and a huge success at retail.

Teri pointed out that certain food types make natural partners, such as alcohol brands and confectionery. “One thing that we’ve learned over time is that it’s important to continuously scout the market and look for those opportunities that are maybe a bit less obvious, that can move the needle and surprise and delight your customer,” said Teri. “The protein powder category, for example, is growing, and has the right consumer base [males in their early twenties] for alcohol brands.”

Sometimes, Teri continued, the key driver for a collaboration is exposure rather than revenue. She pointed to a recent collaboration between Fireball Whiskey and DC Shoes for a single-item holiday gift set featuring a co-branded sneaker and red leather-covered flask. “Fireball was really interested in the snowboard and extreme sports consumer, and they challenged us to find a brand that was relevant to that market. The gift set launched globally and sold out very quickly, backed up by an extensive marketing campaign, including a photo shoot, social seeding and social media activation and a lot of PR support as well. The client was thrilled with the exposure that they got from it.”

Beanstalk’s Katie Hall spoke about the work the licensing agency has done for Diageo’s Baileys Irish Cream.

“What’s interesting is that Baileys rejected its strategy as an alcohol brand about seven years ago,” she explained. “Through their research, they found that Baileys doesn’t really act like an alcohol, it acts more like a treat brand. It helped us imagine what the licencing strategy should look like and how we can help Baileys play meaningfully in those treating occasions and ladder up to their ultimate aim, to become the ultimate adult treat.”

Cake, chocolate and cocktails are all fruitful spaces for Baileys, with ice cream a standout category. A partnership with Carte D’Or has seen great success for Baileys ice cream in Hungary, Poland and Spain, and branded ice cream will hit UK retailers in time for Christmas.

Staying in the frozen aisle, Sheelagh Li expanded on Beanstalk’s work with TGI Friday’s and Iceland, explaining that products hitting stores just as Covid lockdown hit “gave consumers a bridge to the brand at a time when the restaurant experience was inaccessible.”

The partnership has been a stand-out, and has been cited by Iceland as one of its most successful exclusive brand launches ever, with 35 million products sold and counting and the range having been expanded outside the frozen aisle into sauces, condiments and flavoured nuts.

Keeping the core range of hero items from the TGI Fridays menu refreshed with limited-edition products has been critical in keeping the range relevant and appealing to a broad range of consumers, said Sheelagh. While sales and revenue are important, she pointed out the benefits to the core brand: research carried out by Iceland around the launch of the range found that four in 10 purchasers had never been to a TGI Friday’s restaurant, but they were 85% more likely to visit a restaurant after having experienced the retail range. “The halo effect of the partnership has seen other categories such as cakes, chilled meats and food gifting boom as other retailers sat up and paid attention to Iceland’s success story,” she concluded.

Finally, Richard Pink spoke about two very different programmes developed by Pink Key Licensing, for Slush Puppie – for which Rose Marketing has produced a wide range of confectionery, sold in discount chains and supermarkets – and Kellogg’s.

Kellogg’s partnership with fashion designer Anya Hindmarch began with Tony the Tiger bags and is still going strong after 10 years, with the latest products including Coco Pops pyjamas and a sequinned Rice Krispies tote “It shows how the back catalogue of a well-known brand can be adapted into something other than food. Kellogg’s has been developed into art,” said Richard.

Looking to the future, Richard foresees an increasing number of “surprising” collaborations in the F&B space. “It’s as if permission has been given to move out of some of the more traditional kinds of collaborations we’ve seen towards partnerships driven by matching consumer interests,” he said.

He pointed to Primark’s collaboration with Greggs, “which nobody saw coming”, but was based on a shared interest between the Greggs customer and Primark consumer. “It’s actually allowed a number of things that are more unexpected to happen, and more and more we’re going to be seeing that kind of collaboration coming through.”

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