Improved taste was non-negotiable in the revamp of Boots’ Shapers range and the stance paid handsomely. John Wood reports

A relaunch that reversed a steep decline of a major brand was at the heart of the winning entry from Boots, which collected the Best Own Label Retailer award. According to the judges, the company had “breathed new life into one of the industry’s most well-established ranges of better for you products”.
In 2003 Shapers was the second largest Boots own label after No7, but sales were slipping. The retailer set about identifying what had gone wrong.
Customer feedback showed they thought the brand was out of date, bland and boring so Boots needed to reinvent Shapers to give consumers what they wanted.
The first step was research from consultant Simpson Carpenter, and its most important finding was the strong demand for healthy eating from consumers who, at the same time, were not prepared to compromise on taste. Ben Wallace, Boots buyer for snacking, says: “The principle was if people are going to eat healthily, why should they eat inferior products.”
Working with Hazlewood and Buckingham Foods and consultant chefs,
the Boots team devised 20 new sandwich varieties and upgraded a further 21. All were tested by more than 1,000 people to ensure they matched up to the requirement for improved taste.
Other chilled products such as yogurts and fruit juices were also improved and a new product development pipeline was introduced to ensure the range was frequently refreshed in line with the season and trends.
Research had found fewer taste issues
with the ambient range but it was repackaged and the range extended to give consumers more choice. Again an 18-month pipeline of new products was put in place.
Wallace says: “We didn’t view it as only one launch. We need to keep up consumers’ interest in the brand by constantly refreshing the range.”
And it wasn’t only the range that was refreshed. After the relaunch in January the previously declining brand saw a 29% year-on-year increase in sales.
Arla Foods picked up the Best Own Label Supplier award, sweeping aside competition from the top 10 category winners selected by senior buyers.
To choose the top own label suppliers across the industry The Grocer asked buyers from buying groups, symbol groups and wholesalers to nominate the top three companies in their category.
They were asked to base their decisions on key business criteria including account management skills, reliability of deliveries, consistency of product quality, value for money, ability to work with the buyer to develop the category, new product development and crisis management skills.
Ten winners were selected across the industry and these category champions went on to a final round of judging in which Arla Foods took top honours.
Arla chief executive Neil Davidson put the company’s success down to good relationships with customers and being able to consider and meet their needs.
“This is an enormously important award for us eight months into our merger and obviously we are extremely pleased to have been selected.
“I think we have won this award because of our approach and listening to our customers.
“This is a result of attention to detail and working with our customers and is a fantastic achievement for our recently merged teams.”