Food and drink brands are proving remarkably resilient in the face of the raging health debate, according to new figures published exclusively today by The Grocer.
Consumers appear unkeen to be force-fed the government’s health message with alcohol, confectionery and cakes among the big winners in The Grocer’s 62-page Top Products Survey.
Latest figures from ACNielsen show sales of lager and wine both enjoyed inflation-busting sales rises in the last 12 months, while the £800m+ cake category posted a 4.9% sales hike.
Perhaps most encouraging for retailers and manufacturers was a 3% surge in chocolate confectionery sales, while sales of sugar confectionery enjoyed a more modest rise of 1.6%.
However, The Grocer’s annual survey also reveals that certain brands and categories have indeed felt the pinch with bagged snacks being among the biggest losers. According to ACNielsen, the category suffered a 1.7% sales slide in the year to October 2, shedding £31m at the till to dip below the £1.8bn mark. Market leader Walkers saw £8m wiped off the value of its core crisps range during the period under review, although the company’s figures were bolstered by an impressive £26m rise in sales of its premium Sensations range. Kellogg’s Frosties was another big loser with the added-sugar cereal brand haemorrhaging sales of more than £5m, down more than 13%. The cereal giant’s stalwart Corn Flakes was also down, although the good news for Kellogg’s is that Special K has replaced it as the nation’s second bestselling cereal.
Elsewhere, aggressive pricing and marketing saw Tetley depose Unilever’s PG Tips as Britain’s favourite tea, while Warburtons has overtaken Hovis at the top of the bread category.
Traditional categories such as canned goods and frozen continue to struggle as consumers look for quick-fix formats, while a 1% sales drop in the £556m cooking sauces category suggests time-poor consumers are now seeking out even easier meal solutions.
Martin Paterson, deputy director general of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “2004 has been a tough year for the food and drink industry. However, these figures show that the industry maintains the trust of the consumer through continuous innovation, the production of quality products and a commitment to delivering what consumers want.”
Hugh Burkitt, chief executive of the Marketing Society, agreed that the figures were a welcome boost for manufacturers and marketers but warned against complacency.
“So-called ‘unhealthy’ products continue to sell well because they are delicious, enjoyable and relatively cheap. However, some figures suggest consumers are being nanny-ish when it comes to buying for other people, such as children, but are not so disciplined when they are buying for themselves.”
>>Top Products Survey p41
Simon Mowbray