Since the start of Covid-19 ‘togetherness’ has become an even more important part of the nation’s routine, as shoppers are spending far more evenings at home.

Even after lockdown eventually comes to an end, shoppers may be watching their budgets and might spend less on nights out.

This could mean the ‘Big Night In’ will be as popular as ever this year – and pladis has a range of NPD to help wholesalers drive sales.

Scott Snell, Vice President of Customer at pladis UK & Ireland, tells Wholesale Manager what effect Covid-19 has had on the biscuits category and what trends are driving the market.

Can you talk us through your brand portfolio?

The pladis portfolio includes many of Britain’s best-known snacking brands, from the nation’s favourite biscuit brand1, McVitie’s (RSV £462m2), and the number one in savoury biscuits3, Jacob’s (RSV £72m4); to our popular ‘swavoury’ pretzel sensation, Flipz (RSV £14.3m5).

Our established brands should be right at the top of the list for wholesalers, because stocking up on the bestselling products from brands like McVitie’s and Jacob’s will ensure wholesalers’ retail partners sell through – and come back to depot time and time again.

Take McVitie’s, which is purchased by 83% of UK households6. Value sales for McVitie’s significantly outpace total category growth (at +11.4%7 versus +2.6% at category level8), and this showcases a clear opportunity for wholesalers who choose to make the brand a priority.

Within the McVitie’s brand, our core range of bestsellers like McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives and McVitie’s Chocolate Hobnobs can be relied upon to drive repeat purchase, while our trend-led NPD, like our fruity new McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Passion Fruit flavour, adds extra excitement to the biscuit aisle, helping wholesalers – and their retail partners – capitalise on impulse sales.

Does pladis have a range of PMPs?

We have a wide variety of PMPs available across our McVitie’s, Jacob’s and Flipz brands as we recognise the importance of this format when it comes to driving sales in the convenience channel.

Just 12% of SKUs in convenience stores are PMPs, but they represent three quarters of sales in the channel9, so we’d always recommend wholesalers stock-up on these products to support their retail customers.

PMPs will play an even greater role in the coming year as more households experience financial pressure due to the impact of Covid-19. Shoppers tend to perceive PMPs as good value for money and, with 91% of shoppers actively looking for savings on groceries10, PMPs are bound to benefit.

To help wholesalers and their retail partners drive sales, many of our most popular products are available in PMP format. This includes McVitie’s Original, Milk and Dark Chocolate Digestives, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes and Jacob’s Cream Crackers.

Recently, we’ve also launched PMP pack formats for a number of products which perform particularly well in the convenience channel – such as Flipz Milk Chocolate and Jacob’s Mini Cheddars Smoky BBQ.

Wholesalers should ensure these SKUs are available in depot and online to help retailers boost footfall and profits.

What is the value of the UK biscuits category?

It’s no secret that we’re a nation of biscuit lovers. Worth £2.5 billion in retail11, biscuits are a shopping basket essential for 99.4% of households12 and Sweet Biscuits represent the lion’s share of this, now worth £2.1 billion.13

2020 was a year like no other for grocery sales. In fact, shoppers enjoyed 648 million more biscuit occasions14, propelling overall category growth by +2.6%15. Everyday Biscuits (+11.5%) and Everyday Treats (+4.5%) were some of the category’s most significant growth drivers, as a surge in home-working prompted shoppers to reach for the biscuit tin – and we expect these sectors to remain important throughout this year.

In convenience, biscuits remain a crucial category for retailers to get right, worth £270m16 in this channel (up 7.2%). What’s important to remember here, though, is that a bigger range of products isn’t always better. In fact, 80% of biscuit sales come from just 8% of products17 in convenience, meaning wholesalers should prioritise the bestselling lines.

What effect has Covid-19 had on the biscuits category and what trends are driving the market?

With Britons spending more time at home due to Covid-19 restrictions, Everyday Biscuits like McVitie’s Digestives and Everyday Treats like McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes continue to perform particularly strongly (up 27% and 3.8% respectively)18. Thanks to an increase in home-working, UK consumers are enjoying many more hot drink moments (+9.5%)19 – and biscuits in the sub-categories which best complement this occasion have benefitted from a significant sales uplift.

Wholesalers should ensure they are dedicating plenty of depot space to core, biscuit barrel products like McVitie’s Digestives and McVitie’s Rich Tea, which go hand-in-hand with hot drink moments. This will enable independent retailers to continue to serve their local communities – and help wholesale drive profits.

Another key trend for wholesalers to consider is ‘togetherness’. This has become an even more important part of the nation’s routine, as shoppers are spending far more evenings at home. Even once restrictions around socialising begin to ease, mounting financial pressure means many consumers will be keeping a close eye on their wallets and may have less disposable income to put towards evenings out.

As a result, we expect the ‘big night in’ to remain popular this year – and a combination of exciting NPD, Everyday Treats and sharing bags will help wholesalers to drive sales. Perfect for evening sharing are products with big, bold, trend-led flavours – such as Jacob’s Mini Cheddars Sticks – as well as products which are ideally portioned for sharing, such as Flipz.

What’s interesting is, while you’d be forgiven for thinking shoppers might avoid snacking products when money is tight, during periods of uncertainty, we tend to see shoppers turning to snacks – particularly biscuits – as small, permissible treats or an ‘affordable indulgence’. Not only this, but consumers often look to trusted, heritage brands – such as McVitie’s – for products which they can be confident deliver on taste and quality.

As a result, this year, we believe the biscuit category will remain very important to shoppers seeking a little boost, whether that’s during an extra-special tea break, or as an evening treat on the sofa. In addition to strong, sustained growth in Everyday Biscuits and Everyday Treats, we expect to see growth in slightly more indulgent propositions, which still represent excellent value, like the new McVitie’s Fully Coated range and McVitie’s V.I.Bs.”

What ranging and merchandising advice do you have for wholesalers?

In Sweet Biscuits, the core range should be every wholesalers’ number one priority – and this is now more important than ever, as core biscuits had an incredibly successful year during 2020.

In total retail, the top 10 biscuit brands accounted for £1 out of every £5 spent (+12.1%) and represented 84% of category growth20. Similarly, in convenience, the core remained key with sales at £57m (+13.1%).21

Six of the 10 bestselling biscuits in convenience are McVitie’s brands – McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives, McVitie’s Chocolate Hobnobs, McVitie’s Original Digestives, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, McVitie’s Rich Tea and McVitie’s Dark Chocolate Digestives22. Ultimately, wholesalers who are not stocking these crucial lines are missing out.

While the core range should be the primary focus for every independent retailer – and thus wholesalers – when it comes to biscuits, there’s also an important place for NPD. In fact, biscuit category NPD was worth £45m to total retail in 202023.

We all know the feeling of excitement that comes with spotting something new on the biscuit fixture, so stocking innovative new products should be a priority for independent retailers to encourage impulse purchases. New takes on classic lines performed particularly well during 2020 as shoppers looked to trusted brands to drive excitement in-home – so wholesalers should make our newly-launched McVitie’s British Icons available.

In terms of merchandising, as we all know, wholesale depots are big places, so wholesalers should focus on driving visibility of key lines in-depot, or making this easy to navigate online, and maintaining stock of the bestselling products.

Wholesalers should also aim to generate sales growth through mindful merchandising. Clearly communicating the bestselling lines in-depot and using McVitie’s to beacon brand the end of the aisle will help to point retailers in the direction of the biscuits, whilst earmarking the bestselling SKUs – helping to drive sales.

Essentially, it’s all about making the shopping experience as seamless as possible, whether wholesalers’ customers choose to shop in depot or online.

How do you work with wholesalers to improve sales?

We work closely with wholesalers across the industry to help them maximise their sales in depot and online, by supporting them with ranging and merchandising.

We engage with wholesalers one-on-one to help develop an offering better tailored to their customers and in line with emerging category trends. We’re currently developing our online capabilities to understand what the retailer shopping experience could look like in the future for B2B wholesale.

We’re also continuously trialling and learning from different merchandising principles in depot to see which has the greatest impact on sales. Our Better Biscuits category principles have provided guidance to retailers and we’d like to help improve the retailer shopping experience within wholesale, too.

How is your latest NPD performing so far and do you have any other NPD on the horizon?

Our busy NPD pipeline towards the end of 2020 and early this year is already performing strongly, demonstrating just how well consumers are reacting to extensions to core lines. For us, the reason these perform so well is because not only do they excite our existing fans, encouraging them to try something new, but they also pique the interest of new shoppers, helping to drive incremental sales.

The initial signs for McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Flavours, McVitie’s British Icons and McVitie’s Fully Coated are already looking positive, and we’re both excited and confident to see how the ranges continue to perform over the coming months. In fact, we’re expecting that sales data for these launches won’t be too dissimilar to McVitie’s V.I.Bs – which hit sales worth £1m just 9 weeks after their July launch24.

In terms of further NPD over 2021, we have an exciting year for pladis with a raft of launches planned across various brands. We want to continue to attract younger shoppers to help retailers and in turn, wholesalers, drive incremental sales. Therefore, we will focus on our tried and tested formular of launching innovative and trend-led extensions to our established brands – watch this space.

What marketing support do you have planned for your brands this year?

For McVitie’s, 2021 is the year of the Jaffa Cakes with £4.7m investment in consumer facing spend on the brand – and in February we kicked this off with our ‘Be What You Want To Be’ TV, digital and social campaign. This is the first time McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes has appeared on TV as a solus brand since 2006 – so now is a really great time to be stocking-up our core McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes products and flavour NPD including Pineapple, Cherry and Passion Fruit Flavours.

While we can’t go into too much detail just yet, we also have substantial marketing support planned this year for Jacob’s Mini Cheddars and Flipz – and we’re looking forward to sharing more information on these campaigns over the course of the year.

 

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