Matt Wilson Marketing Controller, fruit carbonates at Britvic

Matt Wilson, Britvic Marketing Controller, fruit carbonates, describes himself as a commercially astute marketer with a range of industry insight under his belt, having worked on some of the UK’s most beloved FMCG brands.

Over a tightly packed career, so far, Matt has proved to be an invaluable asset while leading brands such as Maryland & FRijj Milkshake and now Tango, 7UP, R.Whites and Mountain Dew. Matt’s drive and thirst for a challenge has seen him quickly rise up the ranks, first to Marketing Manager, fruit carbonates at Britvic in November 2017, then to Marketing Controller just a year later.

Matt Wilson spoke to Wholesale Manager.

Matt, what do you see as the most exciting aspects of your job which call for your expertise to achieve the best outcome?

The most exciting aspects of the job is the ability to plan and execute brand initiatives that make a big impact in the market and more importantly, are well received by our consumers, shoppers and retailers. A recent example of this was the Tango re-launch I led last year. The much-loved brand re-launched in March with new products, a refreshed packaging and a brand-new TV campaign. The results to date have been hugely impactful with a Retail Sales Value (RSV) growth of +34% YOY1.

My role is a balance between helping to set the strategy and direction for the brands and executing the plan with the help of our brilliant cross functional team. On a day to day basis I particularly enjoy the variety of the role and working with wider teams and external agency partners. This allows us to pay close attention to the performance of our brands, consumer responses to our products and campaigns and the execution of activity within the market.

Over the years that you were at Burton’s and then Britvic, the pressure to reduce sugar has driven manufacturers to slash sugar content. Are you now expecting further growth in low sugar products or have we reached a reasonable level of market share?

There is a macro trend for people seeking to reduce the amount of sugar they consume. As a result, health concerns around full sugar juice drinks and cola have led to a rising demand for low sugar variants in fruit carbs. As such, the category has seen growth in both penetration and volume purchased per buyer for low and no sugar variants2.

Sugar free products within fruit carbonates have recorded strong volume growth (+42.7m litres3) and currently hold a 40% share of total volume consumed4. We expect this trend to continue, particularly with the introduction of new and exciting flavour innovations within the sugar free fruit carbonates category.

Did you move to Britvic at the time of the sugar tax or was everything complete when you joined? As with biscuits are you seeing a similar drastic cut in sugar content in dilutables?

The sugar levy went live from April 2018 and I joined Britvic in Nov 2017. The strategy, implementation and communication plan therefore, was well underway with our customers when I joined.

Health is an ever-increasing concern for customers, with 65% of people agreeing that they are proactively trying to lead a healthy lifestyle5. With this being the case, we have seen an increase in the value of low-calorie soft drinks (+6.0%6). This was on the Britvic radar well before the sugar levy was introduced, and as a business we are proud to say that 99% of our GB owned portfolio is below or exempt from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Britvic’s leading approach to reformulation has seen us remove billions of calories from GB diets since 2013. In 2018, we removed an additional 3.5bn calories through the reformulation of J2O, whilst maintaining great taste. The complexity around health continues to evolve with taste still the number one consumer motivation for drinking a soft drink7, meaning that delivering healthier drinks which also deliver on taste remains a priority for many manufacturers and retailers.

While the biscuits category doesn’t currently have a levy in place, there are certainly efforts being made to cut sugar content. One of my proudest achievements for example, was the work we put in to reducing the sugar content of Jammie Dodgers biscuits by 20% in 2016. We executed this plan alongside a brand re-launch and an improved ‘best ever’ recipe.

This was ahead of the voluntary 20% sugar reduction target set by the Government and Public Health England in 2017.

Britvic recently issued a news report saying that 25% of the UK population had not drunk any water in the last few days. Given the growing number of kidney stone disorders, etc. that we hear about, what can a soft drinks and water company like Britvic do to encourage consumers to be healthier?

Through our leading and much-loved brand, Robinsons, we continue to play an important role in encouraging the nation to hydrate regularly. Previous examples of this have included projects like the ‘Happy Hydration’ campaign launched last summer for Robinsons. The project was designed to spread awareness of the importance of having enough to drink and to encourage everyone to consume their recommended daily amount of water.

To highlight the importance of staying properly hydrated, we teamed up with pioneering technology company, Sixty, to introduce ground-breaking technology that assesses hydration levels and alerts customers if they should be drinking more liquid. We are committed to helping people understand what healthy hydration is and supporting them in their efforts to drink more water. Whether that be through traditional water or brands like Robinsons which offer the additional benefit of added flavour.

This interview is set to appear in February, by which time Christmas will be over and everyone will be getting down to the gym. How important to you as a company it is to provide a range of products that are visibly designed to help consumers make major reductions in their sugar intake?

As soft drinks span a multitude of occasions across the day for individuals and families, I think Britvic plays a crucial role in offering consumers choice and variety when selecting a soft drink. Whether it be brands, flavours, or different pack sizes and formats, we aim to offer a product which perfectly suits the occasion they are bought for.

Within soft drinks, despite the growing trend for no and low sugar products, it is still important for us to offer consumers a choice. As such, we offer a range of products with no, low or full sugar content to allow our customers to make a decision which suits them.

As a marketer, how have you seen the way suppliers work with the wholesale sector change since you came into the business? How important are new means of sales such as online and digital to Britvic’s wholesale business, and how rapidly is this part of your activity growing?

From my personal experience, I believe there are certain fundamentals within the wholesale sector that remain important. Having the right balance between brand favourites and NPD or ensuring you are stocking the right formats for example, are still absolutely key.

The wholesale sector is diverse, and services the licensed, foodservice and retail sectors. At Britvic, we are fortunate to have brands that are relevant in all of these areas, in different pack formats that can be tailored to each environment.

We are working with customers to support with best practice when it comes to digital, with both traditional desktop websites and customer apps growing in importance to all retailers and operators. We have a dedicated e-commerce centre of excellence and we work with customers to optimise how our brands, promotions and prices show up on their digital sites to maximise sales.

Finally, as a food and drink marketer you have already achieved a considerable amount in your career. What other challenges would you like to go on to explore?

Outside of work I have two young daughters (aged 5 and 2), so the majority of my time is spent keeping them both entertained! Within Britvic, there are a number of exciting activities in the pipeline. Our fantastic portfolio of brands and our brilliant cross functional teams, means there are always plenty of opportunities to develop your career and take on a new challenge.

1 Nielsen, Total Coverage, Tango Value sales, MAT 52wk, 07.12.19

2 Kantar Worldpanel, Total Market, Rolling 52wks, Data to w.e. 06.10.19

3 Nielsen Grocery and Impulse, 52wks, Data to w.e. 31.08.19

4 Nielsen Grocery and Impulse, Volume Share of Fruit Carbs, 52wks Data to w.e. 31.08.19

5 MCA & HIM Healthier Eating Report 2019

6 Nielsen Scantrack, Total Coverage, Value Sales, MAT 26.10.19

7 Kantar Worldpanel, GB Usage, Juice Drinks MAT to Aug 19