Magazine article Marketing

How Walkers Made a Packet

Magazine article Marketing

How Walkers Made a Packet

Article excerpt

Crisp marketing took on a whole new lease of life with Walkers' imaginative campaigns. Claire Murphy looks at how the Pepsico brand turned itself around

Fifty quid says that Martin Glenn, outgoing marketing director of Walkers Snack Foods, has had more approaches from headhunters in the past six months than his peers.

Glenn, who has managed to boost the market share of the Walkers brand from 43% to 55% (IRI InfoScan) during two years at its helm, is to be groomed for the higher echelons of the Pepsico organisation with a country management job early in the new year.

Just four years ago, the brand was a distinctly unsexy one in the unexciting crisps sector. United Biscuits' KP Foods was setting the NPD agenda with snack products, and Walkers, although crisps market leader, was one of a portfolio of sluggish brands worrying Pepsico.

So what changed its fortunes? The cola giant bought the Walkers and Smith's businesses in 1989. It became the third owner of the brands in three months after French group BSN (now Danone) bought the brands from RJR Nabisco as part of a wider deal, then sold them straight on to Pepsico.

Pepsico started making its ownership felt immediately, bringing over a series of US executives to sort out the management of the Leicester-based firm, and cutting costs.

But the company was accused of trying to achieve too much too soon. It introduced Cheetos and Ruffles - both US brands - in 1990 and 1991, but they faltered as the marketing strategies were not sufficiently tailored to the UK.

In 1992, Glenn was poached from Pedigree Petfoods to head the new product development function, a crucial post for Walkers, and set about preparing for the launch of corn-chip brand Doritos.

By the time Doritos was launched in 1994 to subsequent acclaim, Pepsico had merged the Walkers and Smith's operations and focused resources on a few key brands. …

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