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Brand Sauce: A Staple Come Back
Brand Sauce

Brand Sauce is where we dive down and dig deep in trends, brands and consumer related issues, past, present and future.

Brand Sauce: A Staple Come Back

Nicole Legg


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How much can FMCG brands really prepare for an uncertain future: A Covid-19 and Smoked Salmon case study.

In a time of calamity, we’ve been keeping a beady eye on the ground in hopes to understand some of the implications of Covid-19 in our retail environment. FMCG brands have been keeping it flexi in order to adapt to our stay-at-home consumer demands, and there are plenty of them. While it’s easy to spot where brands are making tangible changes to meet our needs, it can be a little trickier to keep up with what consumer purchasing shifts are in motion during a time of chronic unpredictability. In this brand sauce we’ll be unravelling some of the shifts in consumers’ FMCG purchase behaviour to really grasp an understanding of how future-proofed a brand can be.

Eyes on the ground

By now there is already a surplus of agencies collecting data and insights into the ways consumers have changed, and will change, their FMCG purchasing habits as a response to the virus. Like them, we were curious to explore what was happening in our beloved supermarkets across the UK and we’d like to share with you a few of the things we’ve noticed.

Trust what you know

Firstly, it looks like the masses have returned to family favourites when buying. Taking some refuge in the familiar. One example of this, was Heinz baked beans seemingly the first of the baked beans tins to be ransacked from the shelves. It looked to us as if established and trusted brands were proving favourites and this seems logical. While so much change is revolving around us and there are so many unknowns for our foreseeable futures, why would we make changes to our diets now? And further to this, why would we veer away from the brands we know and love?

It’s very possible that heritage food brands will have thrived during these initial weeks of lockdown, with consumers using established brands as a linchpin for any kind of normality. By having a proven track record of reliability they remain stable in an increasingly unstable society. I would also expect that the longer this lockdown remains steadfast in the UK, the more willing people might be to start switching up their foodie lives as they adjust to the ‘new normal’. These are, of course, just our professional speculations and it will be interesting to watch the fluctuation of shoppers habits across the UK.


Image credit: Tesco

Heinz aren’t the only trusted brand that regularly adorns our shelves and they aren’t the only brand that is benefiting from this consumer shift. Long established brands not only have a more reliable reputation, but they have better infrastructure to cope with the demand. It is far more likely they are able to get back on our supermarket shelves as quickly as they went flying off. Brands like PG Tips, Marmite and Coca-Cola have all jumped into new campaigns to show support and understanding of tumultuous times. PG tips released a video compiled of Brits at home staying in touch with their loved ones over a hot cuppa, and marmite have been collecting their customers insights through social on how they’re all coping with staying at home.


Image credit:

Little Luxuries

For those who are lucky enough that their jobs aren’t directly risked by the virus’s outbreak, it is possible that consumers will turn to online shopping to treat themselves during a time of immense anxiety. With no place to turn to, to spend their hard earned money, consumers may opt to spend more money on little luxuries they can enjoy at home. Whether it’s a pamper evening with a movie and a face mask, or a virtual brunch with our nearest and dearest, lots of us are trying to recreate normal activities within the sanctuary of our own homes. This will affect our FMCG market by supplementing some products for others.

Although we’re all staying safe and staying at home, life continues on as normal as during lockdown and I celebrated one of our flatmates’ birthdays. We managed to get in party hats, balloons and lots of tasty food so we could celebrate the day in style, in our home. Poonam celebrated her mum’s birthday virtually with Matt; we’ve found ways to negotiate the physical distance.


Image credit: Nicole Legg

Long gone are the days we would traipse off to brunch on a sunny Sunday in hopes of recovering from the night before. So it’s looking like consumers are turning to these elevated treats to recreate these moments at home. These might be created with bagels and salmon or fresh juices.

But there are plenty of examples of other ways consumers can get the supplies from supermarkets to have some much needed TLC time at home. Meal deals for two, like the M&S meals for £10, are a great way to recreate the experience of eating out from your own home. Scraping the cooking and minimising the washing up. From personal experience, in my own household, we’re partial to slightly fancier packets of biscuits for when we put on a movie in the evening and try to unwind from a day working at home. With more time on our hands then we’re used to, it’s all about making our own experiences to break up the day, recipe boxes are a great treat to make dinner more experiential.


Image credit: Marks and Spencer and The Grocer

Another thing consumers seem keen to get their hands on is alcohol. Crates of beer and wine are in short supply and as consumers we’ve struggled to source these from supermarkets and online retailers. Even breweries seem to be down to their last few options as people turn their attention in their direction when supermarkets lack the stock. Online alcohol retailers like Majestic and Liqroo have extended delivery times in efforts to keep up with rapidly growing demand. While social media is convincing us that we should all keep fit and clutch on to a routine, it’s looking like we all still need our vices in times of a crisis. We’re also unable to frequent our favorite watering holes so drinking from home is becoming a popular choice.

The power of local

When the virus struck, consumers panicked and turned to the aisles of supermarkets to gather ‘essentials’ for the future. While it’s good to be prepared this caused a ripple across our shops and important household items went flying off the shelves quicker than supermarkets could cope. While some sense of normality has returned and it’s looking up, there’s still a few prized items we’re all struggling to get our hands on.

And now, with lockdown announced three weeks ago, we’re all trying our best to limit our movements and unnecessary travel. So we travel distances to get to supermarkets that might not even have what we need. Some of the lucky few have managed to snag an online delivery slot, and we’re very jealous, but the rest of us are in a tricky spot. So what’s the answer?

Go local. It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for us all to open our eyes to the often overlooked power of local. It’s close, it’s often got great products and different brands for us to try. The UK is embracing local like never before. In turbulent times we’re relying on our communities more than ever, and they’re relying on us. Not only has local shopping become the unsung hero of the supermarket dilema, but it helps to keep smaller businesses alive when so many are struggling to stay afloat. It just happens to be an added bonus that they’re stocked up with great food, especially when we look to farm shops.


Image credit: Thornes Farm Shop

How we prepared Bleiker’s Smokehouse for the future

Earlier this year we shared a brand spanking new rebrand with you, Bleiker’s Smokehouse.

The rebrand had a clear objective, to breathe life back into the tired fish aisles across supermarkets in the UK and open it up to a younger demographic with a fresh new approach, setting it up as a brand people will recognise, trust and buy into for the next decade and beyond. We targeted foodie millennials who wanted a little bit more from meal times and showed them that salmon is the perfect answer to that. We targeted ‘experience elevators’ by showcasing the fish’s best features, great health benefits and great flavours, showing salmon’s endless cooking possibilities in a new light.


Image credit: Bleiker’s Smokehouse

Bleiker’s has 26 years experience in smoking fish and this message was intrinsic in the transformative approach we had taken. We managed to revitalise the packaging to tell a colourful narrative of taste, expertise and passion that boldy stands out in a heavily traditional environment. We’d done our best to prepare them to take on the future.

There was, however, one thing no one had accounted for, a global pandemic. It isn’t just the fish and meat aisles, FMCG or retail in general that is affected. It’s absolutely everyone. While we’ve been out shopping for our necessities all of us here at Kiss Branding have noticed all these shifts in consumers purchase habits in supermarkets in the UK. We love nothing more than using insights and trends to help us on our journey to the best results, but we have all suddenly found ourselves in uncharted territory. There was no trend package that could have predicted the rise of Covid-19.

Bleiker’s kept up

We hoped that with its fresh face on Bleiker’s Smokehouse was ready for the future and it seems to be withstanding the global pandemic. Utilizing their 26 years of smoking fish gives them a sense of heritage. They may not be the nations favourite yet, but this bit of history evokes an air of reliability and trust, an important quality in trying times. It has been pivotal to the brand that they highlight their best features in order to prove that they are a major player in the supermarket aisles. With an increasingly growing need to compete all brands need to put their best feet forward.

Bleiker’s Smokehouse supplies to local delis and farm shops, so that’s a plus for them. And behold, they even smoke their fish in Yorkshire showcasing their ties to the surrounding area matching the need for local produce.

The UK has also become more foodie than ever, and brunch had become a big part of our British culture, smoked salmon being a perfect food for this. If the public is looking to recreate moments from within their own homes, brunch is a great way to do this. My Instagram feed has been brimming with homemade brunches; smoked salmon and avocados being a key player in this trend. Bleiker’s is now in a perfect position to leverage this.


Image credit: Instagram @stayfitstevi

So the 411 is that brands need to stand out, with competition in supermarkets being more heightened than ever as consumers now have nowhere else to buy their food. By leveraging heritage, quality and occasion illustrating their best features through packaging and having a strong message, brands can keep up with the ramped up competition.

Although the Bleiker’s Smokehouse wasn’t done with a pandemic in mind, it was futureproofed and ready to hit the shops. We cannot always predict the way the world will turn but if we’ve learned anything from this rebrand and Covid-19, it’s that there are key ways to stay relevant and be on top to be ready when the world throws the next thing at us. Stay true to your brand, highlight your benefits and true value and make sure that your track record proves your reliability to the public.

Back to the present

While consumers’ habits seem to fluctuate daily as a response to the latest government guidelines and supermarket policies, it probably won’t last forever. The longer our world’s upside down, the higher chance there is of any long term change to consumer’s purchasing behaviours, but I think it’s rather unlikely. While all of these observations may affect FMCG businesses for the foreseeable future it’s not likely to cause long term change when this is all a horrible dream. This isn’t to say businesses don’t need to adapt to their strategies to keep up with the shifting consumer demand to stay afloat in turbulent times, they need to be best prepared for it as they can.

So the long and short of this case study is while we can’t plan for a pandemic, we can future-proof our brands for the long term. All the businesses, campaigns and products will still be relevant when this is over, but we’re putting a pin in them for now and focusing our gaze to the present. Supermarkets are quickly adapting to the needs of the UK and producing campaigns to address the current state of the world. Some brands will be lucky and just so happen to align with changing consumer needs during this time, while others are working hard to adapt their offering. Now’s a good time to be integral within consumers lives and make that emotional relationship, if you’ve helped a couple have a romantic dinner or part of a birthday, high chance you’ll create a bond with them in a long term to continue buying your brand after this is over.