On the anniversary of its move into Uxbridge House and its operational merger with Cadbury, US food giant Kraft this week claimed it was now outperforming fmcg rivals in the UK.
Kraft UK and Ireland president Nick Bunker said the company had emerged from the cloud of negative publicity and organisational upheaval created by the deal and was performing “really strongly”.
“The shackles of integration are now behind us,” Bunker told The Grocer in an exclusive interview, citing Nielsen MAT figures to the end of May showing sales up 6.5%, compared with 4% the previous year.
Of Kraft’s top 20 brands, 18 are growing, with Belvita, Twirl, Wispa and Carte Noire the pick of the bunch. Sales are booming across all its categories - chocolate up 5.4%, coffee 17%, cheese 8%, gum and candy 2.5% and biscuits up by a massive 30%. “In 2008, we didn’t have a biscuit business,” Bunker said. “It’s now worth £39m.”
Breakfast biscuit brand Belvita, named food brand of the year at The Grocer Gold Awards last week, had “blown the doors off the market” as “the largest cash contributor” to category growth, despite its 4.8% share.
Bunker credited The Olympics effect - with on-pack promotions for London 2012 tickets - for boosting sales, but also helping unite the two businesses. He added that Kraft’s £80m spend across three years to sponsor London 2012, and the advertising and promotional activity around it, was paying off.
“Have we sold a lot of chocolate? Yes we have, a vast amount.”
Despite the closure of back office operations in Cheltenham and Sheffield and the loss of 400 manufacturing jobs in Bristol, Kraft’s investment in sales and R&D staff meant its 5,500-strong UK headcount was the same as it had been before the company’s acquisition of Cadbury.
“There was a lot of emotion in 2010,” Bunker said. “We’re now two-and-a-half years into our journey and the business is performing really strongly.”
Bunker also dismissed criticism of Mondelez International, the new name for Kraft’s global snacks business. “It’s a bit like when your granny gives you a new jumper at Christmas - it grows on you.” And as well as its “sense of fun and its huge global presence”, “Mondelez is a $32bn business. At its best Cadbury was $10bn,” he added.