“In every product category represented in the Top 100 table from soft drinks to savoury snacks, biscuits to butter, hot beverages to frozen food, confectionery to cooking sauces, the leading brands are incorporating concerns for the environment in their sourcing, new product development, and packing and distribution plans,” said report editor Fiona Briggs.
Justin Sargent, managing director, Nielsen UK, added: “The grocery industry has indeed risen to the challenge of ethical consumerism. From plastic bags and local sourcing to chicken farming and low energy light bulbs, the consumer has shown that they are increasingly concerned with the welfare of our planet, food provenance and the ethical credentials of the food they eat.
“We have seen the implementation of ethical and environmentally friendly strategies and foresee a future where such initiatives are utterly intrinsic to the operations of our retailers and grocery manufacturers.”
Smoothie brand Innocent is the fastest-growing brand overall, with sales up 45.6% to £141.2m, moving it up 30 places to 33rd in the Top 100 table.
It ticks the ethical box with recent initiatives including the launch of 100% recycled bottles and a switch to greener electricity.
Walkers Crisps, the third biggest brand with a sales value of £424.5m, grew by 5.2% last year. The first company to declare its carbon footprint on the pack, Walkers has subsequently launched a campaign promoting its sourcing and use of only British potatoes.
Elsewhere, leading laundry brands Persil (14th), Comfort (64th) and Lenor (69th) have up-weighted their environmental credentials and launched concentrated products reducing pack sizes and packaging, the amount of water used, and the number of trucks required to transport their end products.
Other examples of brands aiming to lower their environmental impact include Cadbury Dairy Milk (5th), Andrex (8th) and leading biscuit brand McVitie’s Digestive (67th).
Cadbury is launching foil-wrapped eggs with no outer box this Easter to reduce packaging; and Andrex’s Longer Lasting roll, launched last year, offers 50% more roll making it more space efficient and thus reducing the number of deliveries to retailers which in turn cuts CO2 emissions considerably.
Similarly, McVitie’s leading biscuit and snack manufacturer, United Biscuits (UB), recently launched its strategy to reduce the impact its operations have on the environment in a move towards sustainability.
Brand movers and shakers
The top six brands remain unchanged, with Coca-Cola heading the table. Warburtons – with sales of more than £609m – maintained its position as the number-two grocery brand in the UK with an increase of 17.7% in sales, the highest growth rate of any in the top 10.
But it’s not all good news. Bernard Matthews Cooked Meats is the biggest casualty of 2007 with sales plummeting by £64m to £110.6m following the outbreak of Avian Flu at its Suffolk farm last year.
Last year’s Top 100 report highlighted the trend to healthier eating. While this trend remains, there has been a shift from diet and low fat brands to naturally healthy and/or organic offerings. The fastest growing brands, for example, include: Innocent (smoothie); Cravendale (milk); Cathedral City (cheese); Uncle Ben’s (rice) and Danone Activia (pro-biotic yogurt).
Whatever the weather
The great British weather has played a part in shaping this year’s Top 100. With the exception of juice and energy categories, sales of soft drinks suffered at the hands of the wet weather. However, the un-seasonal summer benefited sales of hot beverages, soup, confectionery and frozen food, excluding ice cream. The star performer was Galaxy, which jumped 16 places with a 17.6% increase in sales.
Rising prices have resulted in growths for some categories, driven by increases in the cost of raw materials due to increasing global demand combined with poor harvests worldwide. Butters, spreads and cheeses have been impacted by increases in milk and oil prices, for example. The bread category has also faced soaring raw material costs.