Putting the fizz into independent sales

Vimto had more than its centenary to celebrate this year as sales topped pound;35m for the first time in its history. Paul Weston, trade sector manager for wholesale and cash and carry, says this performance was on the back of “exponential growth” during the past four or five years, and points out that in the wholesale channel Vimto is outperforming the market.

According to the latest figures from Nielsen, Vimto was up 1% in impulse compared with the overall market for the same categories as Vimto at -6%, and in independents it did even better with growth of 4.7% compared with -7.7% for the overall market. Weston says: “In the wholesale channel we focused on fewer products, which enabled us to deliver more and give even greater visibility in depot and on PLOFs. This meant retailers were buying more from depots and selling more in their stores.”

To celebrate its centenary the company ran Nintendo Wii giveaways with key accounts such as Bestway, Parfetts and Blakemore and this encouraged depots to build bold displays.

Flavoured carbonates have been the company’s biggest performer in the wholesale channel. Weston says: “We focused on them this year and they have produced the majority of growth.” There were particularly strong performances in impulse from 330ml cans, which were up 12.5%, and the two litre fizzy pack was up 16.4% in independents.

Despite the record sales, Weston says there is plenty of scope for further growth, particularly in the wholesale channel. “We had a reputation as a regional brand but that is no longer true. There are strong regions but we have national exposure.” Nevertheless he believes increasing distribution offers the greatest opportunity. “We are in less than 50% of independent stores and the figure is lower in foodservice and the on trade. There is an opportunity to get into far more independent stores and there is also an opportunity to drive growth in dilutables and ready to drinks. For instance, we are the third largest branded squash so alongside Robinsons and Ribena retailers should be selling Vimto.”

Weston says that it is important to get the right core range to generate growth in the on trade, and to help with this the company has introduced a 275ml glass bottle which has obtained its first national distribution deal through Coors. In foodservice too, he says it is a matter of concentrating on one or two core products.

Looking ahead to 2009, Weston says: “There is no doubt next year will be a testing time but there could be an opportunity for the independent sector with consumers choosing to do more top-up shopping in local stores, thereby increasing sales opportunities.”

For Vimto it will be a case of maintaining the momentum. “In 2009, we will be surrounding the consumer in the same way as 2008. We had a good model this year so why change it radically?” There will be further promotions to surround retailers in depot and consumers in stores. He says Vimto wants to produce that ‘wow’ factor in depot to move product off shelves and into independent stores.

‘Extra fill’ deals such as 24 for 20 on 330ml cans were very successful and Vimto will be running similar deals in 2009 and extending them to 725ml cordial and two litre fizzy. Weston says the brand will be continue to increase visibility with advertising on TV and near the place of purchase such as at bus stops.

In terms of marketing he says the company is working to ensure it fully understands the target consumer and ensuring it has the right packs for their needs.

He adds: “We want them to buy more often and to encourage lapsed drinkers or people who don’t currently drink Vimto to become consumers. New products will reflect consumer needs and usage occasions and there will be some big new promotions to meet these needs.”

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