Armed with confidence, innovation and charisma, these canny newcomers have disregarded etiquette and, rather than wait for leaders to let them join in the game, they created their own. Many have grabbed consumer attention so effectively that they are now market leaders. German yogurt giant Müller, for example, now accounts for almost 40% of the chilled dairy desserts market and is the second largest brand in the UK grocery market, with sales of more than £300m. American orange juice brand Tropicana has carved out a premium not-from-concentrate niche for itself in which it has a 70% share, despite the fact that its products cost more than double the price of its nearest competitor. It has helped to treble the UK chilled pure juice market Both companies were singled out as paragons of marketing virtue at a recent Marketing Society conference. Other successful foreign brands include Japanese probiotic yogurt Yakult and Italian-founded Sacla, which pioneered the UK branded pesto sauce market in 1991, and still wears the sector crown. New World wine producers such as Australia's Jacob's Creek and Californian brand Gallo spotted a demand for drier, more sophisticated wines around 15 years ago when importers and distributors who were already here could only see a future for the established, Old World brands. The two pioneers still command the top two places in the wine sales league. And the influx hasn't finished yet. Quaker brought rice-based, low-fat snack brand Snack-a-Jacks over from North America two years ago, and claims £30m in sales. German food company Dr Oetker has just unveiled a £5m campaign to launch its frozen pizza brand Pizza Ristorante, while other names to look for include Bahlsen's biscuits and Henkel's Glist dishwashing tablets. It is hard enough for UK producers to see a long-term rival or a new member of a Procter & Gamble-style dynasty pouncing on a gap in the market but a Johnny foreigner new boy with no UK pedigree? Well, something's not quite right here. The successful invaders' respect for their British consumers means nearly all have since moved sizeable parts of their operations here, but the fact remains that they identified the possibilities before they arrived. How did they do it? And why did their UK competitors miss out? According to John Noble, director of trade organisation British Brands Group, a brand that has already been successful elsewhere has an advantage in a new market. "They've been tried and tested and proved themselves," he says. Andrew Czarnowski, managing director of market researcher TNS Superpanel, says some of the early arrivals' success was down to UK brand owners' focus on the growing threat from own label. When Müller made its debut in 1987, yogurt producers were trying to compete by cutting costs. Tropicana too, burst on the scene in 1991 when fruit juice here was own label dominated, commoditised and stagnant. Much of the overseas brands' success was because they had "the balls to go against the grain," says Czarnowski. But Professor Peter Doyle of Warwick University Business School suggests that it's all to be expected. "Increased globalisation has made supermarket shelves into arenas of international competition," he says. As markets become more global, eating habits converge, and companies increasingly take advantage of global media, there will be more." Moreover, Doyle points out that, far from being left behind in this globalisation process, British companies pretty much invented it. "Think of Unilever, Gordon's gin, Cadbury's chocolate, Robertson's jam," he says. "Maybe what we're seeing now is just the others catching up." Both Noble and Czarnowski agree that innovation is the key to dominating a category or creating a new one."Consumers have got to have a reason to spend more," says Czarnowski. And Noble echoes the opinion. "Radical innovation is needed to really drive growth," he says. That innovation can come in many forms. Müller's range now includes a total of 53 products in 18 ranges, while Tropicana has added fortified juices and tropical flavours to its portfolio, as well as acquiring apple juice brand Copella. Yakult has scope for further UK innovation as its Japanese stable includes various fortified fruit drinks. But it doesn't have to be only products. Packaging, as in the case of Müller's split pot format which jolted the yogurt category, offers scope, while promotional activity ­ such as Müller's original three-for-99p offering ­ increases weight, frequency of purchase and brand penetration. Running promotions with synergistic products such as cereals and morning goods proved useful for Tropicana and a strategic alliance between both these big names means distribution to independents, petrol forecourts and food service outlets, is as easy as to the grocery sector. But innovation alone is not enough, as Dutch coffee specialist Douwe-Egberts can testify. It brought preservative-free Cafinesse liquid coffee to UK chiller cabinets in November 1998 after the brand had made an impact in its native country. However, despite £9.5m in marketing, the product was withdrawn in April 2000 because UK consumers were unfamiliar with getting coffee out of the fridge Swiss company Novartis Consumer Health picked the soon-to-be-booming functional food market with its Aviva range in January 2000, but its £10m marketing and consumer education campaign failed to overcome consumers' objections to the premium price. Of course, it does no harm to pick a budding market which is about to blossom. "Desire for good-for-you products and consumers' willingness to pay a bit extra for real quality have certainly fitted Tropicana's core proposition," says Gordon Bromley, the company's managing director, and Czarnowski agrees. "If you're in mineral water or chilled foods, you've got a head start," he says. Communication with consumers plays a central role, and advertising is essential. Don't even think of trying to launch without it," warns Czarnowski. But this has to be clever. Misleading ads can be a liability and UK manufacturers will get some satisfaction from realising that even the international stars don't always get it right. Tropicana's first American-style, It tastes like you squeezed it yourself', £2.5m UK TV campaign failed to explain why the products were so much more expensive than rivals. "We'd taken it as read that the tried and trusted message would work here," laments Bromley. "Unfortunately, the market burst into growth and we got stuck on around 7% share of a fast growing market." New consumers flocked to the cabinet, but they went for own label offerings. The company focused instead on the not-from-concentrate message and sales improved. The latest Let the Sunshine In campaign and sponsorship of Channel 4's A Place in the Sun positions it clearly as a healthy, freshly-squeezed premium product. Müller too has had to learn lessons with its advertising. The lighthearted sophistication of Joanna Lumley has given way to the Müllerlove theme launched last year. Already covering mile high-, mother- and first-love, this has great potential for future launches and tactical promotions. Czarnowski holds out hope for those UK companies who operate in a category where growth is slowing. "There are always going to be consumers looking for something different." he says. "Manufacturers must focus on the target consumer over and above the category and not be afraid to look at others and move there." This is where research comes in. "You've got to try to anticipate what consumers want, not just what they say they want," says Noble. Czarnowski is confident that UK companies will not miss out in the future. "They're getting more savvy to trying new things, and are being encouraged by retailers who need the big manufacturers to bring innovation into various sectors. The market research industry has been growing in double digits for the past 15 years and many companies also have dedicated npd managers now." Noble concedes: "It's all about getting the pieces of the jigsaw in the right place at the same time." And he dismisses any notion of luck as much of a factor. "There is an adage in marketing," he says."The more I plan, the luckier I get and there are plenty of ways to make your own luck." n {{FEATURES }}