The Publication For The Grocery Trade
The Interview - Butterkist popcorn - a great taste of Americana, made in Great Britain

Originally launched here in the 1930s, Butterkist has been the UK's leading popcorn brand for several decades, with a variety of products on sale in cinemas and retail. Marketed exclusively in the UK, Butterkist popcorn's grocery stockists include major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Morrisons and Somerfield.

Last summer the Monkhill Confectionery factory suffered a fire, but production was quickly restored and now Monkhill is focusing its marketing activity on initiatives to strengthen the Butterkist brand's position in the popcorn market, such as its licensing deal with Twentieth Century Fox to feature The Simpsons on-pack, as well as introducing other new products. Steve Seddon, head of popcorn sales at Monkhill Confectionery, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader - First of all, how big is the total UK popcorn market, and what does it comprise?
Including cinemas and the whole of the UK, trade is around £90m (AC Nielsen 28.1.06) at retail. About £25m is packaged.

GT - What proportion of UK popcorn sales go through supermarkets?
Around £20m for both ready to eat (RTE) and microwave

GT - How does Butterkist's packaged popcorn differ from the loose popcorn sold in cinemas?
Loose popcorn is sold in bulk and served warm in open containers. However our sweet and salted packaged products are made to the same recipe. Toffee popcorn is generally sold in packets.

GT - What Butterkist retail flavours and pack formats are currently available?
Our core business is Butterkist Toffee and Butterkist Cinema Sweet, an authentic cinema-style popcorn, which comes in a 120g pack but is quite large due to its light density. Our Butterkist Toffee range has many pack sizes (see below) to cater for all types of use, including a multipack.

We have also just launched a new variant called Honey Nut, which is being supported on-pack by The Simpsons. Honey Nut is a delicious combination of popcorn and peanuts covered in a creamy honey toffee.

GT - What are the pack prices?
Butterkist Toffee 100g is 79p, Butterkist Toffee 200g £1.35, Butterkist Toffee multipack (6 packs) £1.49, Cinema Sweet 120g 99p and Honey Nut 100g is 79p.

GT - What market share of total UK popcorn sales does Butterkist have?
We have around 40% of the total market.

GT - Who are the key UK consumers of popcorn as a whole? How does this profile differ from the key consumers for Butterkist?
Butterkist equals popcorn! Our range covers all tastes. Popcorn consumers obviously like a lighter sweet snack, and cinemagoers see it as an essential part of the experience.

GT - Where does popcorn fit into the overall UK snacking market? When (what snacking occasions) are people most likely to eat popcorn?
Popcorn is a sweet snack, although you will find it in the confectionery fixture in some stores. Savoury popcorn is clearly positioned with the crisps and snacks.

GT - When was Butterkist first launched in the UK?
Butterkist popcorn was launched in Britain in 1938. In 1998 Cadbury acquired the Butterkist brand from York-based confectionery company Craven Keiller, and in 2000 the Butterkist brand moved over to Monkhill Confectionery.

GT - What's the story behind Monkhill Confectionery and how does it fit into Cadbury Trebor Bassett?
Monkhill Confectionery was established in 1999 as a division of Cadbury Trebor Bassett (CTB) - a wholly owned subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes plc - to look after the company's 'traditional' popcorn and confectionery brands, which today include Butterkist, Barratt, Jameson's, Sharpes of York and Pascall. The company employs 720 people across two Yorkshire-based manufacturing sites at York and Pontefract, and is responsible for the production and marketing of the above brands.

Monkhill Confectionery produces over two thousand million sweets per year, with product types varying from gums and jellies through to nougat and dolly mix.

GT - When did you launch Butterkist's Honey Nut Popcorn? How is it going so far?
We launched Butterkist Honey Nut in March 2006. So far it's going really well, with a great response from the market.

GT - What does the Simpsons licensing deal involve, and when does it go on until?
We took out a two-year licence deal, which runs until the end of 2006. Obviously, we have the option to extend it if we feel there is further opportunity in the licence.

GT - How did the tie-up with the Simpsons come about? What was your previous involvement with them, if any? Are you advertising during The Simpsons' breaks on Channel 4 or Sky One?
It just came up as a super fit for the Butterkist brand. Creatively the pack designs blend as one together and our target consumers are perfectly matched.

GT - Will there be more flavours featuring The Simpsons? What other products are new from Butterkist for 2006?
There are currently three products launched under The Simpsons deal; 25g Toffee, 100g Honey Nut and a large 350g family sharing carton. We are working on other developments

GT - What marketing activity are you currently carrying out?
As category managers for the UK popcorn market, we are constantly promoting the product.

GT - What does the 'Lighter, Entertaining Moment' campaign involve? How is the sampling tour going? Are you planning more such events?
Butterkist will be taking to the streets in 6 UK cities in May with its "Lighter, Entertaining Moments Tour" - a series of fun and light-hearted sampling events that are designed to engage with consumers in a relevant and entertaining way.

GT - Do you have a web site? What's on it? Can you buy Butterkist popcorn on-line there?
We have just launched a website, You can't buy popcorn direct from it but it is filled with interesting facts about popcorn, information on the Butterkist range and fun competitions.

GT - Have recent health concerns had any impact on popcorn sales? Are you planning any 'lite' or low sugar products? Will you be adding any more savoury popcorn products to your range?
We are looking critically at a number of developments in this area. The key is to maintain the great taste of Butterkist - that's the challenge!

GT - Finally, where do you see Butterkist popcorn going from here?
Following the loss of our production facilities in June 2005, we have come back stronger in the market and will arguably have the biggest and best popcorn factory in Europe by the end of 2006.

We will also be launching a raft of new products and brand extensions in the next few months, so watch this space!

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