Magazine article Marketing

Profile: On a Health Kick - Jon Goldstone Vice-President Marketing, Walkers

Magazine article Marketing

Profile: On a Health Kick - Jon Goldstone Vice-President Marketing, Walkers

Article excerpt

There was a time when Walkers' PR representatives would never have allowed one of its top marketers to talk about his 'slight cholesterol problem' in the same breath as discussing a snack launch.

The fact that its vice-president of marketing, Jon Goldstone, refers to it not just once, but a number of times, during an interview speaks volumes about the way the brand has repositioned itself in response to consumer health concerns.

A self-confessed optimist, 38-year-old Goldstone hopes innovations such as the relaunch of Walkers crisps cooked in sunseed oil and last week's launch of a healthier Baked line will push the brand into 'the hallowed ground of being perceived as pretty healthy and very tasty'.

'I don't think we'll ever say crisps are a health food,' he admits. 'But we can always say that they are a healthier option than a bunch of other snacks'.

The food industry's current climate, where the obesity debate rates a daily mention in the headlines, makes Goldstone's task a tough one, but he says he enjoys the challenge.

Walkers' latest test came last month when the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a mailer it had sent out promoting its crisps.

Most of the gripes came from the campaigning group Consensus Action on Salt and Health. 'It seems strange to me that an NGO group, set up to encourage people to cut down their salt intake, is having a go at a brand that has just taken 25% of the salt out of its product,' says Goldstone, who believes the group's energies 'would be better spent trying to get other companies to follow Walkers' lead'.

Having spent almost his entire career in the food industry, he echoes many food marketers in his wish that the obesity debate be widened to encompass children and exercise.

'It is criminal that the government has sold off half of Britain's playing fields over the past 10 years, but somehow that hasn't got onto the agenda yet,' he adds.

Goldstone views the health issue as an opportunity, both commercially and as a chance to make a difference to the diets of the population. 'If you're looking for a cause in what you do in your job, there is none much better than genuinely trying to improve the health of the nation,' he says. …

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