Never before has it been more trendy to expand a brand into a fizzy drink or a bag of sweets, with kids and adults all embracing their favourite property or character in the form of something edible.
This last year alone we have witnessed the launch of Game of Thrones wine following a collaboration with Vintage Wine Estates and RHS-inspired confectionery from the Gourmet Candy Company, while this Easter sparked a craze for Pot Noodle and Marmite Easter eggs from Unilever.
Even chat show host Graham Norton has bucked the trend, launching a South Australian Shiraz in 2016 with New Zealand’s Invivo Wines.
Suffice to say the food and drink category is having a moment in the licensing space.
According to LIMA research, the food and drink segment in product terms is worth around six per cent of the overall $241 billion market. A small percentage in the grand scheme of things, nonetheless companies are continuing to take on new licenses to boost the market.
“There is great scope for more food licensing,” LIMA UK’s Kelvyn Gardner tells Licensing.biz.
“Exploring healthier lifestyle foods is one big area, as are celebrity products."
So how can licensors and licensees take advantage of this flourishing market? Endorsing a celebrity is a sure-fire way to get a brand noticed, for example iconic ice cream firm Ben & Jerry’s celebrated Bob Marley’s legacy this year with a new flavour dubbed One Love.
Meanwhile, Gardner notes that working with a non-competitive firm is intrinsic to the success of a licensed food or drink product.
He continues: “Also, food brands can expand their licensing by partnering with other non-competitive food companies. A great example is the Hershey range of cakes marketed in the USA by Scots company Lightbody Ventures.”
It certainly seems like this market is picking up traction, with entertainment and lifestyle properties looking to the food and drink segment for brand extensions. However, in such a crowded market place, firms must ensure that their extension has meaning and a purpose, to ensure that their food or beverage will resonate well with fans.
For example, collectables brand Shopkins has expanded its offering by developing a new ice cream flavour inspired by the exclusive Shoppie doll, Bubble Gum Pop Bubbleisha.
The clue definitely is in the name, which helps to link the Shoppie Doll to the food and drink category, inspiring a strawberry-flavour ice cream for fans to enjoy.
Similarly, TV presenter and bakery chef, Mary Berry, lent her expertise in baking to create a new line of cakes with Finsbury Food Group. Based on some of her original recipes, Berry launched cakes including lemon drizzle, chocolate, banana fudge and carrot.
Thanks to her iconic presence on TV heading up The Great British Bake Off, Berry’s expansion into licensed cakes is a crucial example of how a brand extension can have meaning and prove to be a success.
Of course, healthier options are viable alternatives for licensors or licensees to tackle. And with a Minion or PAW Patrol character inked on the packaging, kids will likely be more inclined to tuck into a yoghurt or fruit pack.
Food brands can expand their licensing by partnering with other non-competitive food companies.
Kelvyn Gardner, LIMA UK
However, there is no doubt, snacks and treats such as cakes, chocolate and confectionery can win over the majority of foodies, which may suggest why so many brands choose to embrace this section of the market.
“While I mentioned healthy options above, let’s not forget that some foods, like birthday cakes or Easter eggs, are once-a-year treats, so I wouldn’t like to see these products forced to comply with nutritional standards as applied to everyday items,” enthuses Gardner.
“If you can’t have a slice of cake, with icing and everything on your birthday, when can you?”
But it isn’t just the launch of food and beverage products firms can get involved with. Recently there has been an increase in pop-up cafés that offer consumers an array of appetising treats, all inspired by a particular brand.
For example, Nutella, Pop Tarts, Shopkins and Hello Kitty are just some of the brands welcoming the trend for a pop-up store, giving fans the chance to sample drinks, cakes, snacks and more all inspired by the property, while taking part in a new experience.
Bulls Licensing’s licensing director, Gustav Melin, concurs: “It is a great way to introduce the property to people who are perhaps not that familiar with the brand.
"They go to the café for a coffee and end up with a coffee, an experience and more knowledge about the brand as well. And for all the fans it is of course a great opportunity to buy branded goods and meet other fans at the same time.”