United Biscuits to boost global presence: Martin Glenn

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

United Biscuits launched its £12M marketing campaign today (February 3)
United Biscuits launched its £12M marketing campaign today (February 3)

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United Biscuits will become the “Cadbury” or “Kellogg” of the snack world, after big investments in production and marketing, pledges the manufacturer’s boss Martin Glenn.

Speaking at the launch of the company’s £12M marketing campaign to re-launch its McVitie’s brand last week (January 28), Glenn, UB chief executive, said he wanted to expand international sales to 20% of total sales in just three years.

Glenn, who took up his position last April, added he wanted UB to be the “Cadbury”​ or “Kellogg”​ of the biscuit world.

He also said McVitie’s would become a £0.5bn brand in the next three years and it was his intention to see this happen.

“That’s about increasing our strong leadership position in the UK but as importantly, to expand and accelerate what is a very strong international success story,”​ he added.

£0.5bn brand

International sales had grown by 20% last year, UB’s international ceo Jeff Van-der-Eems said at the launch, adding that the figure was expected to grow again this year.

Great British biscuits were a “fantastic” ​export opportunity and UB was selling in more than 100 countries, “we have tripled the size of the international business since 2006​”, he said.

Emerging markets had become a major source of growth for the company in the last decade, according to Van-der-Eem.

He explained that UB’s growing success in third countries, such as Nigeria and India, was dependent on affordable and healthy products. 

“We are positively fortifying our biscuits in these markets with vitamins and minerals and what this allows us to do is give people access to affordable, tasty and highly nutritious biscuits​,” said Van-der-Eem.

Nutritional benefits of snacks in such markets were key, he claimed. Consumers in the west wanted good quality ingredients, whereas consumers in countries like Nigeria wanted a product with better health benefits, he added.

Although, he said the fundamentals of high quality ingredients were still important, even in markets where affordability and nutrition was an issue.

£12M campaign

Meanwhile, in the UK, UB launched a £12M multimedia marketing campaign today (February 3), aimed at re-introducing McVitie's as UB's master-brand for its sweet varieties.

The campaign has followed a year of research by UB into how biscuits are perceived by consumers, which revealed biscuits were an “emotional product”, ​the company said.

Sarah Heynen, UB sweet biscuits marketing director, said it was time McVitie's moved from a top 10 grocery brand to a top five brand with a 30% share of the sweet market, instead of a 25.1% share.

‘Sleeping giant’

“We believe we can do so much more with the McVitie's brand. We believe it is a sleeping giant and what you will hopefully see this year is that we are going to wake that giant up​,” she said.

Jon Eggleton, md for UB's UK operations, who spoke to FoodManufacture.co.uk in an exclusive podcast​ last week (January 31), said the company would invest more than £50M of capital into UK operations this year, compared to £38M last year.

He said this was to enable the company to modernise factories and allow it to improve its performance.

“We need to invest in a lot of elements of the business,”​ he said. “We are going to invest in factories; we’re going to spend around £50M this year. That’s on a combination of initiatives that is going to give us more capacity and pack flexibility on our main products.”

Eggleton also dismissed rumours of a buyout of the brand by Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital as speculation.

Biscuit facts:

  • 99.2% of British households purchased biscuits last year.
  • UK households bought 103 packets of biscuits last year.
  • 7bn biscuit eating moments in the UK last year.
  • 107 biscuit eating moments per person in the UK last year.
  • Biscuits could encircle the globe 28 times, if placed end to end.
  • UB makes 4% of all biscuits sold in the UK.
  • UB's Harlesden factory is the largest biscuit factory in Europe, producing 2.7M packs of biscuits annually.

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