Brand Health Check: Homepride

Article excerpt

The sauces brand has suffered from lack of investment and a consumer shift toward upmarket rivals.

Premier Foods' Homepride cooking sauce range has gone off the boil, its sales falling across its portfolio in recent years, according to Mintel.

The brand's ambient Italian pasta-sauce range has been particularly badly hit, suffering a 13% drop in sales between 2002 and 2006. Its other ambient wet cooking sauces fell by 6.7% over the same period. To compound its woes, the decline has come at a time when rivals such as Masterfoods' Dolmio and Unilever's Bertolli have experienced sales growth.

Homepride was acquired by Premier Foods a year ago as part of its purchase of Campbell Soup Company's UK and Irish brands in a pounds 460m deal. This month Premier began a review of its pounds 26m UK ad business and will be aiming to return the sauces to growth.

Investing in the brand would be a start. According to Nielsen Media Research, while Masterfoods lavished pounds 7.3m on advertising Dolmio last year, and Unilever spent pounds 5.1m on Knorr, Homepride sauces were afforded a paltry pounds 42,000.

In common with most other food sectors, the sauces market has seen a shift toward premium products and the use of natural ingredients. But whereas brands such as Sacla and Loyd Grossman have capitalised on this, the latter having grown in value by 84% over the past four years, it is bad news for Homepride, which has a more basic positioning.

Consumers have also been favouring chilled products, but here it has been own-label rather than their brand rivals that have made hay.

Homepride's brand icon, Fred, a distinctive black-and-white bowler-hatted character, is a key differentiator for the brand and has featured on its products since 1965. However, while Fred's relevance to flour is strong - he is, after all, a flour grader - his connection to Italian pasta sauces is somewhat more tenuous.

On the plus side, Fred does denote heritage and authenticity, which cannot be discounted as consumer interest in food's provenance grows. But it remains to be seen whether Homepride can build on this image sufficiently to fuel growth.

We asked James Bennett, head of marketing at Discovery Foods, and Tom Morton, head of planning at TBWA\London, whose clients include Masterfoods and Muller, how it can reverse its recent fortunes.

DIAGNOSIS 1 - JAMES BENNETT HEAD OF MARKETING, DISCOVERY FOODS

Homepride has found itself stuck in the middle of a polarising market; the premium end is driving growth and the mainstream end increased relevance, via product positioning and lifestyle ads.

While Loyd Grossman and Sacla have focused on the premium market, Knorr Chicken Tonight, Dolmio and Ragu have added value to the mainstream segments with successful brand extensions. …