Interviews

Stuart Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer, Burton’s Biscuit Company

Stuart is responsible for devising, planning and implementing the marketing strategy for Burton’s market-leading brands

Tom Holmes

Founder & Chairman

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Tom Holmes talks to Stuart Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer at Burton’s Biscuit Company and leading player in the UK biscuit market.

Stuart is responsible for devising, planning and implementing the marketing strategy for Burton’s market-leading brands, in particular driving breakthrough performance for the iconic Jammie Dodgers, Maryland Cookies and Cadbury biscuits portfolios.

Stuart joined Burton’s from Premier Foods, where he was Director of Grocery, responsible for the Sweet Business Unit, comprising Cake, Desserts, Home Baking, Spreads and Beverages.  Prior to that he was Vice President, EU Biscuits Category at Kraft Foods, having held a number of positions with the company, both in the UK and internationally.

 

Creativebrief: As Chief Marketing Officer at Burton’s Biscuit Company what is your primary focus?

Stuart Wilson: I’m fortunate to work in a business that has a stable of iconic and much loved treat brands that include Cadbury’s Biscuits, Wagon Wheels, Jammie Dodgers and Maryland Cookies. A key focus of my role is to continue to expand the footprint of these favourite brands through new products and formats, as well as strengthening our domestic capabilities and expanding our international offer, delivering top and bottom line growth. This strategy has progressed Burton’s significantly – our Power Brands have grown by 16% since 2009, leading us to achieve our highest ever market share of recent years.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned Burton’s Biscuit Company, Premier Foods and Kraft Foods, what have been the high points?

Stuart Wilson: Across any business I’ve worked in, I’ve always been motivated by creating a high performing and winning team. Though it might seem like a cliché, I’m immensely proud of what my team has achieved during my time at Burton’s. We have launched some great new products and rejuvenated our core brands through highly effective and innovative marketing programmes – the Power Brand results speak for themselves. 

We’ve also managed to give new energy and focus to the whole business though our corporate rebrand to the Burton’s Biscuit Company in late 2011, encapsulated by our strapline, ‘making every day more of a treat’. Being the only major biscuit manufacturer focussed solely on biscuits has allowed us to be more nimble, delivering the best possible results for the business.

Creativebrief: Can you tell me more about your company vision?

Stuart Wilson: ‘Making Every Day More of a Treat’ is the guiding principle behind everything we do and means that we are 100% committed to quality and innovation. To us, a ‘treat’ is nothing less than a deliciously tasty biscuit that will delight our customers every time and ensure they come back for more.

In business terms our aim is to build on our current position as a leading producer of quality biscuits by focusing on our four main strengths:

Quality: We have invested heavily in our operational infrastructure to ensure that we continue to produce premium quality products that are good value for money. A £25m capital investment programme was recently launched across our operation to enable us to enhance our production capabilities with state of the art technology and equipment and best-in-class training initiatives for our employees.

Innovation: We continue to invest significantly in our Power Brands to ensure that we are leading the way in the biscuit market place. New and innovative products such as the Cadbury Biscuits portfolio have meant that our share of innovation in the biscuit category is much greater than that of our competitors. This is crucial to our success and an essential part of our four year plan.

Pace: In recent years we have become a much more agile business and can respond quickly to changes in the marketplace, on both a corporate and brand level. This means we can bring new and exciting products to the market faster than other biscuit manufacturers.

International Expansion: Part of our future strategy involves taking some of Britain’s most iconic and well-loved brands to the international market. Over the past year, we’ve significantly upweighted our distribution capabilities through partnerships with some of the world’s leading retailers. Further exciting plans are in place which will allow us to realise our ambitious international expansion plans.

TH: What work have you done recently makes you really proud?

SW: In just 18 months we’ve built Cadbury’s Fabulous Fingers into an £8m brand, achieving household penetration of 8.5 per cent. This has been achieved with no cannibalisation of our main brand and is a significant achievement for our category. We have also transformed our Maryland cookies performance, not only through innovation, but also through very smart management of our pack and promotional programme. Finally, Wagon Wheels’ sales have increased by over 70% since the brand was relaunched a year ago. Our investment priorities remain focused on brand building, manufacturing excellence and R&D.  As a result, we’ve been able to build our core Power Brands and gain significant value from brand innovation.

Creativebrief: What work have you done recently makes you really proud?

Stuart Wilson: In just 18 months we’ve built Cadbury’s Fabulous Fingers into an £8m brand, achieving household penetration of 8.5 per cent. This has been achieved with no cannibalisation of our main brand and is a significant achievement for our category. We have also transformed our Maryland cookies performance, not only through innovation, but also through very smart management of our pack and promotional programme. Finally, Wagon Wheels’ sales have increased by over 70% since the brand was relaunched a year ago. Our investment priorities remain focused on brand building, manufacturing excellence and R&D.  As a result, we’ve been able to build our core Power Brands and gain significant value from brand innovation.

 

Creativebrief: How are Burton’s iconic brands Jammie Dodgers, Maryland Cookies and Cadbury biscuits performing?

Stuart Wilson: Our Power Brands are central to Burton’s position as a leading biscuit manufacturer, both domestically and internationally. Domestically, we’ve grown from 8.9% market share to 9.6% over the past year, demonstrating the success of our Power Brands investment.

Jammie Dodgers is the number one in kids’ biscuits and still in growth and Maryland is the nation’s favourite cookie, having seen £7.5m growth in value last year to become the sixth biggest brand in sweet biscuits. Cadbury Biscuits and Wagon Wheels continue to perform well both internationally and at home. We’ve also invested in the Lyons brand to consolidate our everyday products which is showing promising performance.

Creativebrief: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?

Stuart Wilson: Continued pressure on consumer spending is a challenge as well as an opportunity. We want to ensure we remain competitive without compromising on quality, staying true to our value of “making everyday more of a treat”.

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

Stuart Wilson: Developments in online continue at pace and for us ‘broadcast’ or mainstream advertising is a robust medium to drive sales. In the long term, it’s about creating mass appeal and engaging at a broad level but also leveraging new approaches to communicate one-on-one with our consumers or fans.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?

Stuart Wilson: We tend to work with individual specialists or disciplines. We’re a lean team so the most important thing for us is that we work with the right individuals, with the right skills, who really understand what we’re about and can help drive our business forward. 

Creativebrief: When you ran international business, did you prefer to use local agencies by market or global agency networks?

Stuart Wilson: I’ve used both models.  What works best is when you’re working with people who understand what you’re trying to achieve and have the right skills to deliver.

Creativebrief: When choosing agencies in the past were you ever influenced by awards?

Stuart Wilson: Not particularly. It’s all about the individuals and whether we really believe that we have the right team with the right skills who get our business and what we’re trying to achieve.

Creativebrief: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?

Stuart Wilson: Rarely, we have long-term relationships.

Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

Stuart Wilson: We have long-term partnerships with our chosen agencies. We’ve got the right dynamic with our agencies, rooted in understanding our business and brands but that allows us to deliver the best possible work and result.

Creativebrief: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?

Stuart Wilson: Yes. We’ve found this helpful in identifying a good fit for our needs, managing the process and also providing the right sort of follow up advice and care.

Creativebrief: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?

Stuart Wilson: Yes. I look for an agency to demonstrate an understanding of our business and give relevant evidence to back up creative approaches. We’re commercial in our approach and we have agencies that understand our business dynamic.

Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?

Stuart Wilson: Understand your audience. You need to demonstrate an understanding of our business, your approach needs to be tailored and you also need to bring the right people to the table. We absolutely have to have confidence that we can work with the people we meet and that they really understand what we’re about.