Listening to customers informs future plans

Despite the challenges facing the long alcoholic drinks (LADs) category this year, cider has continued to put in a strong performance with Magners responsible for a good proportion of the growth.

Richard Barnes, brand manager, Magners GB, says: “We know that our brand remains in excellent health and is still the consumers’ premium cider of choice in outlet.”

After growing from its launch in 2004 to become a leading brand, Magners developed its strategy this year adding new SKUs and strengthening its sales team within the wholesale sector.

In 2008 Magners launched its new 8 x 440ml can pack and Magners Light into the wholesale channel. Barnes says: “Both of these SKUs have gained good distribution and are starting to gain real traction with the consumer. Our one litre and 6 x 330ml packs enjoyed very strong performance over 2008, proving that we are meeting numerous different consumers and consumption occasions with our product portfolio.”

He says the wholesale sector represents a key channel for Magners and accounts for a large proportion of its business. “As a company we are absolutely committed to driving the value of the category for our customers and working together to continue to drive footfall into outlet and further stimulate consumer demand.”

The company has worked hard this year to build visibility in outlet at both wholesaler and retailer level. Examples of this are its provision of wholesaler and independent retailer POS kits and competitions for independents to win fridges through their wholesaler – both of which are examples of Magners responding to customer feedback and discussion.

Barnes says: “Our view is that one solution does not always meet all of our customers’ needs, therefore we have worked together to activate bespoke initiatives. We have found this has been the best approach and we will continue to adopt this strategy until our customers feel it is not effective.” In addition, Magners intends to continue to invest heavily with a broad and integrated above the line campaign to drive consumer demand and grow the category.

Looking ahead Barnes says he expects there will be more promotional activity and continued product development from brands in 2009 with a raft of new flavours developed. He also suggests the lower alcohol sector may become more important as corporate social responsibility makes its way higher up the agenda and consumers are more conscious than ever of the number of units they consume.

However, with the intense competition and the promotional activity in the cider category, coupled with the wider economic environment, care needs to be taken to strike the right balance between growing category value and driving volume. Barnes says: “Magners aims to provide the consumer with a top quality cider at a fair price, while delivering strong cash margin to the trade. This will be at the heart of our 2009 plans going forward.”

He adds: “We are now placing a much greater emphasis on listening to our customers and consumers. This, coupled with our own insight and product development, including more blue sky innovation, will much better equip us to continue to drive the premium cider category in 2009.

“Due to the fact that off trade cider fixtures have greater scope for carrying a range of SKUs than their on trade counterparts, inevitably much of the development we are working on will lead to a greater product portfolio particularly in, but not limited to, the off trade.

“Having said all of this, we will only launch a new SKU if we believe it meets a genuine consumer need and is grounded in consumer insight. With regard to trade support, we feel our joint approach of working with customers to develop specific solutions is bearing fruit and you can expect to see much more of this in 2009 as we invest more heavily in trade marketing than we have previously.”

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