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Hovis: best thing since sliced bread

The Grocer’s Top Products Survey 2009 puts Hovis as the Top Product with a £57m increase in sales for the year. This is up 14.6% on 2008 and takes Hovis sales to £445.8m.

Interestingly, the survey shows that sales of chocolate have fallen in the recession, while sales of bottled water have increased, confounding pundits who predicted that ‘comfort’ food would automatically benefit from the downturn while ‘disposable’ items would be left on the shelf.

The survey, which features the sales performance of leading brands in 67 categories – from alcoholic drinks to soup – found volumes of chocolate confectionery declined by 2.6%. This in spite of the fact that sales of Cadbury’s Wispa increased by 430% to £58m, and Kit Kat sales exceeded £100m for the first time, rising by 10.9%. Sales of a number of leading brands, including Mars, Aero, Twix and Milky Way all fell.

In the same period (the 12 months to 3 October 2009) volume sales of bottled water rose 0.2%, although the sales value declined by 3.2% due to promotions. In the frozen category, sales of fish and ready meals fell, despite heavy promotion, down 2.1% and 4.9% respectively. However, frozen potato sales rose and, though the Met Office prediction of a barbecue summer failed to materialise, ice cream volumes also increased.

Ice cream desserts, up 4.3%, were boosted by the relaunch of Arctic Roll, which contributed £5.8m to the category’s £15m gain. Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s overtook Carte d’Or to become the UK’s biggest selling tub ice cream; handheld ice-cream sales declined by 1.9%.

A number of big brands – including Heineken UK’s Foster’s and Strongbow, Danone Activia yoghurts, Walker’s crisps, Coca-Cola and First Cape wine – put in strong performances as own-labels lost market share. “The growth in sales of these leading brands demonstrates the power and increased relevance of brand reassurance,” said The Grocer’s editor, Adam Leyland. “As well as brilliant marketing, the UK’s top brands have invested heavily in promotions to remain competitive against own-label while helping supermarkets see off the threat of discounters.

“They also offer great value. With leading brands, you know what you’re getting. Consumers are less willing to experiment in their purchase decisions, while manufacturers have trimmed down their ranges and limited new product development to concentrate on best sellers.”

The fastest-growing category was cider and perry, growing 16.4%, assisted by a 21.9% increase in sales of its biggest player, Strongbow. Walkers crisps demonstrated that consumer engagement is key in the recession, with its Do Us A Flavour contest contributing to a £38.6m uplift in sales.

The fastest growing brands by sales:

  • Hovis +£56.9m
  • Foster's +£53.4m
  • Danone Activia +£52.7m
  • First Cape +£50.5m
  • Wispa +£47.1m

The fastest declining brands by sales:

  • Gallo - £36.3m
  • Pork Farms -£30.1m
  • Wrigley Extra -£21.4m
  • Innocent -£21.3m
  • Carling -£15.1m

 The biggest volume rise by category:

  • Liquid soap 13%
  • Cider and perry 12.7%
  • Cheese 10.5%
  • Flavoured milk 9.8%
  • Shower gel 7.3%

The biggest volume fall by category:

  • Shampoo -9.6%
  • Fabric conditioners –8.6%
  • Laundry –8.4%
  • Kitchen towels –7.6%
  • Frozen ready meals –4.9%
  • Juices and smoothies –4.9%

The biggest value increase by category:

  • Canned vegetables 18.5%
  • Rice 17.3%
  • Cider and perry 16.4%
  • Canned beans 15.9%
  • Table sauces 13.8%

The biggest value decrease by category:

  • Juice and smoothies -6.6%
  • Bottled water -3.2%
  • Gastric and indigestion remedies -3%
  • Razors -2.6%
  • Baby juice -2.5%
  • Toothbrushes -1.1%

The Top Products Survey 2009 is produced by The Grocer in conjunction with Nielsen

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