Brand Health Check: Goodfella's

LONDON - The frozen-pizza brand is losing sales, despite steady growth across the sector.

Thanks, in part, to an ad campaign by Birds Eye aimed at making products from the freezer aisle more acceptable to cash-strapped consumers, there has been a sharp rise in the popularity of frozen food in general, and frozen pizza in particular. However, Goodfella's has failed to capitalise on this trend.

According to Nielsen, the 15-year-old Northern Foods brand suffered a 15.1% fall in sales in 2009. In contrast, the frozen pizza category as a whole was up more than 5% over the same period.

Competition from rival brands such as Dr Oetker and Chicago Town, as well as own-label products, has highlighted the brand's difficulties. While Goodfella's sales slipped to £86m in 2009, Chicago Town's increased by nearly a quarter year on year to almost £100m.

In response, Northern Foods has said it will relaunch the brand with fresh packaging and a TV ad campaign in an attempt to 'better engage with consumers'. It will now offer four ranges -Deep and Thin, Takeaway, Speciale and Pocco's - comprising 33 variants.

Will this be enough to encourage consumers to choose a Goodfella's pizza over all of the other branded and unbranded alternatives cluttering up the freezer cabinet, or will it amount to nothing more than a short-lived tinkering with the brand portfolio?

We asked Chris Ridd, a senior planner at Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw, who works on the Waitrose account, and Dan Hagen, managing partner, strategy at MPG, who has worked on marketing for Tilda Rice, for their views.

 

CHRIS RIDD - SENIOR PLANNER, KITCATT NOHR ALEXANDER SHAW

The recession hasn't been good for Goodfella's, judging by the drop in its sales over 2009. It's probably safe to say Northern Foods won't be sending any Christmas cards to everyone's favourite food evangelist, Jamie Oliver, as his attack on the humdrum mass-market persuades us to make more meals from scratch, or at least buy more fresh food.

The tough times apparently meant we were all going to turn into 'super-size-mes', as the good eating habits we'd started to pick up as a nation were all to be ditched in favour of larding out on unsuitable foodstuffs.

Well, it seems that after a small blip, we didn't change that much - although with financial concerns came a need for control, simplification and purification (purging the excess perhaps?), and family goodness.

Therefore, if brands like Goodfella's are to continue to be successful, they need to acknowledge this and be truly relevant. They should start being and delivering, rather than merely hinting at why they might be right for today's consumer.

REMEDY

- Get back to basics with the customer. Get to know them again, what they want and what they're up to, and do not make any assumptions.

- Reinvigorate the category. Think about doing a Birds Eye and pushing the benefits of frozen quality harder. Make it an easy choice for parents and families.

- Relentlessly differentiate the product - make it impossible for consumers to substitute when standing at the frozen cabinet.

- Resist the urge to over-promote - it will just make the job more difficult in the long term.

DAN HAGEN - MANAGING PARTNER STRATEGY, MPG

Whatever way you slice it, pizza is on the rise - frozen, chilled, takeaway and in-store have all enjoyed slightly better-than-inflation growth over the past several years.

The majority of brands in this market (including Goodfella's) are responding to this with various product launches and line extensions designed to attack different market challenges - healthy organic ranges and takeaway substitutes are two recent additions.

However, there isn't anything in this context that singles out Goodfella's for ill-treatment. I would argue that the brand is suffering mainly from a lack of saliency - its last campaign of note was in November 2008.

Thinking about the average supermarket shopping trip, you're going to be exposed to on-offer chilled own-label pizza long before you hit the freezer cabinet. Without a brand-inspired destination in mind you're likely to pick up three Tesco pizzas for £5 and freeze them when you get home.

Chicago Town and Ristorante have enjoyed a far more consistent level of support ensuring their brands have maintained a better position top of mind.

REMEDY

- Simply put, spend. TV is the medium of choice in this sector and should be, given the broad audience (70% of us eat pizza) with the family core.

- Look to use other media to engage beyond the convenience of pizza in the freezer for when you need a quick meal. Make pizza night a destination for the whole family to enjoy.

- Continue to innovate with products and promotions aimed at secondary audiences - meals for £10, including beer/wine and dessert - or make your own products for the AB crowd.

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