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Small producer food and drink brands – what now?



Last week’s news that Planet Organic, the UK’s largest organic supermarket, has a new majority stakeholder that will help fund the retailer’s expansion in London, shows just how far the healthy eating category has come since Planet opened its doors in the early 1990s.



Back then, the store, and others like it, was the domain of passionate, small producer brands that could only be found in the specialist health shops frequented by what people called, the 'sandal brigade'. Twenty five years later and Planet’s new stakeholder, Inverleith, sees their new partner as the ‘future of the high street’. And who could argue? The big food companies and multiples have now well and truly moved into the space, either through acquisition or an extension of their own ranges into the plethora of healthy eating formats.


Brands like Mrs Crimbles (Wessanen), Seeds of Change (Mars), Pukka tea (Unilever), Vita Coco (Red Bull) are just a few examples of the big companies using acquisition to ensure a slice of the health and wellbeing category. Not to mention the healthy eating and free from ranges that the much loved big brands and retailers have introduced into their portfolios.


So, where does all this leave the smaller producer and artisan brands? Surely, they cannot compete with the big budget spends and resources of the big food companies?


Well, I think they can. With the changing landscape of how and where people shop, this can work in favour of the challenger brands. Whilst they might not have bucket loads of cash or endless resources to call on, they typically have a great product and a genuine story to tell. The small producers, I believe, are still the lifeblood of the healthy eating movement - like they were back in the early nineties. Indeed, they still get copied, acquired and envied by the big food companies.


We work and have worked with many entrepreneurial challenger brands, like Planet Organic. And we understand how they can use their attributes to good effect to stand out and be successful, albeit with fewer resources.


In our experience, there are 4 key principles that should be adhered to, to find their space in the category and succeed:




1. Packaging

Get your branding and pack design working to best effect.

Create a brand identity that has some individuality and pack graphics that present a clear, single-minded message. Packaging design should be simple but don't then think that it can't be creative. It most certainly can.


2. PR/Social Media

Make some noise among your key audience group.

Either through a trusted PR company or using social media yourself, build relationships with those that are most likely to share the values of your brand. Better still if you can turn some of your followers into real brand ambassadors.


3. Distribution

Find your best routes to market.

The multiples are not the only way to success nowadays. There are lots of online channels, smaller retailers and independent shops to sell your brand through. And, of course, there are some fantastic distributors such as Marigold and Cotswold Fayre that support their brands really well.


4. Innovate

Keep innovating.

Big food companies move relatively slowly. Use your agility to innovate from a product as well as a marketing perspective.


Get these things right – or mostly right – and your brand will be up there challenging the big guns!

Lawrence Barnett, Managing Director Wonderland Design

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Wonderland Design | The Space | 69 Old Street | London EC1V 9HX

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