From Bake Off to BLE: How Nadiya Hussain is taking on the licensing space

Whoever coined the phrase ‘too many cooks,’ was clearly talking absolute tosh when it comes to the topic of food and beverage licensing.

What with Brand Licensing Europe detailing an impressive roster of talks, demonstrations and appearances at next month’s big show, and with celebrity chefs and food personalities embarking on their own IP adventures, the food and drink licensing space couldn’t be more on trend at the moment.

This week, the show announced that The Great British Bake Off winner, TV personality and celebrated celebrity cook, Nadiya Hussein would be fielding a live question and answer slot with the Nadiya brand licensing agency, Start Licensing.

“A well chosen celebrity can bring credibility and authority to the Food and Beverage category,” says Ian Downes, owner of Start Licensing and the October Q&A session’s compare.

“Like all forms of licensing, brand fit and appropriateness is important and in Nadiya’s case, we have worked with her to identify product areas and categories that she can make a difference in and that she feels comfortable with.

“Celebrities of character – like Nadiya – have a voice and knowledge. Nadiya’s approach to licensing is to be as involved as she can be and for the products to really represent her values.” wanted to find out more about the world of celebrity in the food and beverage licensing, and to do so, we sat down with Start Licensing’s Ian Downes to discover why Nadiya Hussein is so much more than flavour of the month.

What is celebrity bringing to the food and beverage licensing area at the moment?

A well chosen celebrity can bring credibility and authority to the food and beverage category. A key point here is choosing to work with celebrities that have a track record of success and ‘stand’ for something.

LIke all forms of licensing, brand fit and appropriateness is important. In Nadiya’s case we have worked with her to identify product areas and categories that she can make a difference in and that she feels comfortable with. This is so important and helps us with the sell in process.

In tough trading conditions a celebrity can help a manufacturer get listings and also insulate them price-wise. A proactive celebrity such as Nadiya will be hands on and add value to the whole process but especially in the creation of recipes, choosing ingredients and developing unique products.

They have a voice and knowledge – Nadiya’s approach to licensing is to be as involved as she can be and for the products to really represent her values.

So, where does the Nadiya brand sit between celebrity licensing and food and beverage licensing?

Nadiya is someone who is well known through her media work – she has developed a public profile which has been built on her knowledge, creative flair and originality. SHe also has a public profile through her TV work, publishing and live events.

As well as that, she is also active on social media and more generally in the media. SHe has opinions and represents herself well and the public seem to have responded well to this and respect her for being authentic.

I think Nadiya is a personality that the public find credible and believable. Her heartland is the food, cooking and recipes and her TV and publishing activity are centred in these areas so she straddles both camps well as a ‘working’ celebrity.

We are developing a homewares collection with BlissHome and she has been actively involved in developing this. She has contributed to design, colourways and finishes. There is plenty of discussion around new ideas and solutions for categories such as storage for example. Nadiya uses her practical experience well and I think licensees will find this refreshing and useful in NPD terms.

How does all of this affect the licensing strategy you have employed?

We have worked with Nadiya to create a licensing plan that she is comfortable with and is fully engaged with. We had some outside input from a branding consultant who helped us identify a set of values and qualities to build the programme around.

In the early days of the programme, it is important that we remain focussed and develop a real spirit of partnership with licensees and retailers. Nadiya’s career to date has been well-managed and she has built up a portfolio of work across TV, publishing and events that have played to her strengths and reinforced her values.

The licensing programme needs to follow a similar approach.

How has the Nadiya brand been received since launch? What demand and momentum is the brand picking up?

In some respects Nadiya has already got a licensing programme before we have started – she has a publishing programme, a calendar of live events and columns in The Times and BBC Good Food, so there is a foundation to build on.

We wanted to secure a well-qualified and experienced licensing partner to help launch with and we believe BlissHome is a really good partner – experience, knowledgeable and well-known by retailers. We know they will develop the right kind of products and will represent Nadiya well with retailers.

We are now starting discussions with other licenses and response has been good. Areas like small domestic appliances and other kitchen accessories represent a logical next step. We are looking in a selective way at food products where nadiya can make a difference to a category by virtue of her flair and innovative approach.

A working example of this is sandwiches and wraps – Nadiya’s twist on a classic and traditional category could make a real difference and have genuine impact in the category.

What is the long-term vision for the Nadiya brand? What key partnerships are driving it and who is the key audience?

We see this as a long-term venture and want to nurture the programme. Nadiya is ken to work in a proactive way with people and wants to be in a position where she knows what is going on licensing-wise and has had her voice heard in the licensing process.

She is an engaging and sincere person and her licensed products need to reflect this.

I think a key vision is to build long-term partnerships with licensees and for the licensing programme to be a sustainable business which opens up new opportunities for Nadiya and new ways of engaging with the public. Nadiya inspired people and it is important that licensing adds to this and contributes positively to her career.

We have looked at who is watching her programmes, reading her books and attending her events to inform the product plan and the target market. I don’t think we need to be overly prescriptive audience-wise and the key is making the right choices in terms of categories and products.

I think we are targeting the campaign more that way than having a rigid target market in mind.

A lot of Nadiya’s popularity comes from her own brand management. How does this compare to when handling a programme for a food brand itself?

I think the principles are the same – licensing works on the basis that the brand being licensed has the ability to move people and inspire them. Nadiya certainly does that. I often look at Nadiya’s Twitter feed and reach the exchanges she has with the public. A recurring theme is that the public mention how Nadiya has inspired them and given them confidence in the kitchen. She has been really good at inspiring people but also making things achievable.

I think the process we go through for Nadiya and a brand like Britvic are similar – nadiya and her talent agent Anne act as marketing director, brand director and brand managers for their own brand and have similar concerns to other brand owners.

It is important to be selective in terms of product areas and licensees. This is understood and coincides with our outlook.

As an experienced licensing company, Start Licensing makes a big effort to represent our clients’ views and values in licensing, but also strike a balance that lets licensees bring their expertise to bear but fundamentally a successful licensing programme needs a successful brand to springboard from.

What does the future hold for the Nadiya licensing programme?

We feel optimistic. Things are developing well and since we started working with Nadiya her profile has increased and she has lots of exciting projects on the horizon. I think that it is a good moment for licensees to work with Nadiya as she is a personality that engages well with the public, has integrity and is developing all the time.

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