Britain’s biggest food brand, Walkers Crisps, is undergoing its most radical transformation in a bid to lure back consumers put off by the unhealthy image of snack products.
Changes include a reduction in levels of saturated fat and salt, new upmarket flavours and packaging and a £20m advertising campaign in 2006.
It is one of the biggest investments by any snack brand and comes as the nation’s increasing preoccupation with obesity, as well as heavy discounting, eats away at the growth of snack brands.
Walkers Crisps dropped 7.3% in value to £381m in the year to October 1, 2005 [ACNielsen].
The PepsiCo-owned company has embarked on a massive planting programme, mainly in France, to produce sunseed oil, which is replacing palmolein in the production of crisps across the Walkers range. Total fat remains the same at 11.4g a bag but the level of saturated fat is 70% lower and the proportion of monosaturated fat, found in olive oil, has increased to 8.9g a bag.
Salt is the other main health consumer concern, according to Walkers, and it is cutting salt levels by 25% to 0.5g a bag. Neil Campbell, Walkers Crisps’ general manager, said: “Innovation has been at the root of our success over a long period of time. We have got to make sure we keep evolving and staying in tune with consumers’ needs. That includes addressing health, nutrition and the concern about fat and salt.”
As part of a focus on more premium tastes, Worcester Sauce, Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Pickled Onion flavours are being ditched apart from in Scotland, where Ketchup and Pickled Onion will continue to be sold. They are being replaced with Spicy Chilli, Lamb & Mint and Cheddar Cheese.
The relaunch includes revamped packaging with gold trim, a more modern logo and more emphasis on flavours. Walkers is also taking the opportunity to tweak its multipack offering, thought by the company to offer a £17m growth opportunity, which will be sold in Classic and Meaty groupings and a new 26-bag pack (rsp: £2.98).
A £20m ‘Eat Happy’ marketing campaign will include TV, press, a mailing campaign and PR. TV commercials starting on March 1 will feature the face of Walkers, Gary Lineker, in a novel way, the company is promising.
n Campbell revealed in an exclusive interview with The Grocer that the company was planning to relaunch Sensations this year to breathe new life into the brand after what had been a difficult year for premium crisps.
Claire Hu