Manufacturers achieved their goal in 2001, edging the sweet

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The catalyst for growth has been classy premium jams and marmalades containing more fruit and less pectin, and healthy, reduced sugar preserves. These lines have made headway in the battle for the breakfast table, commanding a higher price and appealing to consumers prepared to pay that little bit extra for quality. Baxters says investing in these two growth areas, luxury and extra fruit reduced sugar, will help revitalise the category and help win back the declining number of consumers eating breakfast who have a choice between sweet spreads or heavily promoted cereal based breakfasts. Centura Foods and Premier International Foods, too, have recognised that the traditional premium route is the way forward, both learning the hard way that not all sectors succeed in the convenience route. Their attempts at breathing new life into the fixture with premium squeezable packs ended in failure with Centura's Robertson's Squeezable and Premier's That's Fruity discontinued after just 18 months. The reason: people prefer their preserves in glass jars. Centura's head of marketing Ian Greengrass says: "It's a traditional market and people didn't understand the squeezable concept. We were targeting children but I'm not sure mums were happy about giving it to kids to put on bread." The two companies have now launched their first premium lines to rival the premium sector's brand leader Bonne Maman made by Andros. Centura's Robertson's Absofruitly is a four-strong jam and marmalade line-up. Greengrass says time and money have been invested to make its new sexy product work on shelf. "We are big in standard, but it is the premium sector where it's all happening, and for the future we needed to get a premium offering out there," he says. "It had to be different ­ a unique jar shape, a high fruit content, but only 50% sugar. We wanted to build distribution as soon as possible and early indications are good." Premier's huge project last year to re-evaluate its portfolio came to the same conclusion ­ that premium was profitable. It has now gone head to head with Centura with Hartley's Luxury Conserve, a soft set product with lots of fruit pieces, aimed specifically at older consumers. The product, made in France by sister company Materne/Boin, delivers the quality and expertise required for a premium line, says group brand manager Michelle White. The demand for Continental style products continues to grow. Andros claims a retail sales value of £8m for Bonne Maman [ACNielsen MAT June 2001]. Its stranglehold on the premium sector is because people still view French products as superior, says Andros' category manager Sandra Sherratt. "The soft set using less pectin, the jar, simple labelling, that home-made feel ­ all these attributes cannot be replicated," she says. The reason premium will grow is because the number of people holidaying and owning property in France has increased and people generally are becoming more discerning, she adds. Since its acquisition of Elsenham Foods' premium preserves and marmalades, G Costa has been assessing the brand and hopes to capitalise on its heritage and quality in 2002. Already there are plans to launch four jams and, in the long term, a new factory is in the pipeline. Another acquisition is Premier's purchase of Nelson's preserves business based in Aintree, Liverpool. However White says it's too early to say what will happen there. Although the reduced sugar sector is small, it has found its niche in the market as more consumers look for a healthier spread. Leading the field ­ which also includes Robertson's Light and Bonne Maman Light & Fruity ­ is Streamline Foods which, latest figures from ACNielsen show, has increased its volume share to 58%, up 2.1% year on year. The company says growth has been helped by the fact the name Streamline is synonymous with its objective ­ it does what it says on the label. An added bonus is its 45% fruit content which, but for the reduction of sugar, would qualify it for extra jam' status ­ "a foot in both sectors in taste delivery". The company manufactures 15 reduced sugar lines ­ 12 under Streamline of which three are organic. Three marmalades are made under the Zest label. These too are reduced sugar but are higher in fruit content than Streamline. Despite the aura of success surrounding premium, standard jam still represents more than half the jam sector. It has been slightly commoditised through pricing. EDLP has had a negative effect which has attracted promiscuous consumers, but standard jam still has a loyal consumer following. Taking a break from the competitive retail arena can bring dividends, and this has been done by F Duerr. Canny Duerr's has taken a rain check and diversified into other areas such as foodservice and bulk sectors, where it says business is growing steadily. Marketing director Richard Duerr says: "Demand for single portions and bulk order is significantly outweighing the decline in demand in the retail jam market. This shift has seen us increase our overall tonnage production by double figures last year." The break, it says, has allowed it to concentrate on npd, and 2002 promises a raft of activity which it says will be "more quirky and a departure from the traditional". Around 75% of the jam market is represented by the core flavours ­ strawberry, raspberry, apricot and blackcurrant. Strawberry remains the bestseller with raspberry as runner-up, although Andros' number two is Bonne Maman apricot because, it says, the strength of the apricot flavour has been more popular with consumers. Most of the main players, however, have overhauled their ranges, ditching the dead weight and giving the rest a contemporary new look to increase sales potential. Premier's range has dropped from 21 to 12 variants. Even the much hyped banana spread has gone. "The discontinued lines were odd flavours people weren't buying, or even aware of," says Premier's White. "Banana has gone. Although kids love bananas, this product never took off despite it being innovative and delivering in taste." White says all its brands were old fashioned and not speaking today's language ­ hence the makeover of all the packaging for Hartley's, Chivers and Rose's. Centura, too, has given its classic range a packaging makeover, and is looking to rationalise its range to get rid of what it says doesn't work, and bring in new lines. Even last year's newcomer from Spain, Gabry, distributed by RH Amar, has dropped a line ­ peach ­ because it did not live up to expectations. To improve on shelf appeal, its dinky 210g jar has been given a new tray to make it more visible on shelf. Meridian Foods, now part of Hazlewood Foods, has already overhauled its organic range with new labels and cap designs to increase on- shelf appeal. A new look non- organic range is planned which will also include new lines. Lack of investment and marketing support has long been mooted as part of the reason for previous decline. But next year promises a raft of activity in addition to the successful multibuys and extra-free jar promotions. Premier is the biggest spender splashing out £500k on its brands using press, link ups with other manufacturers and collectables. An ad campaign for Elsenham kicks off this month using the strapline It's something Elsenham'. And the failure of Squeezable hasn't put off Centura from targeting kids. The phasing out of its Golly character on labels and collectables coincides with the arrival of Roald Dahl characters on packs and badges. "We got rid of Golly and replaced him with something more relevant with kids today," says Greengrass. "Dahl fits the Robertson's image. He is still the number one author, with particular appeal to parents and kids." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}

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