The Publication For The Grocery Trade
Fisherman's Friend-Still Very Sales Friendly!

Fisherman's Friend, the ever popular medicated confectionery brand, has a heritage of tradition and quality going back to the 19th Century. According to Maurice Baren's classic book "How Household Names Began," the story began in 1865 when James Lofthouse, who had opened a pharmacy in Fleetwood, Lancashire, developed an extra-strong remedy for the local trawlermen's bronchial ailments. Bottles broke easily on board ship, hence the development of Lofthouse's Fisherman's Friend lozenges, as they became known. In 1963 Doreen Lofthouse, the wife of the founder's grandson, rediscovered the old recipes' potential and she and her husband Tony started making and selling the lozenges. Sales took off all over again and, by the 1970s, Fisherman's Friend lozenges and related products were selling worldwide with famous fans including Margaret Thatcher, who is reputed to have valued their help for throats strained by public speaking! In 2006 Fisherman's Friend is still a popular brand, with over 90% of consumers aware of the product. These days the brand is marketed by the Impex Management Company and distributed in the UK by Jenks Sales Brokers. Martin Stimson, UK Area Business Manager for Fisherman's Friend, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader-First of all, Martin, what are the health benefits of Fisherman's Friend?
Although we do not make medical claims, as we do not possess a product licence, our consumers find our product provides great relief during the cold winter months.

GT-Who are the core consumers of Fisherman's Friend?
In the UK our main consumer tends to be over 40 and slightly more male than female. Fisherman's Friend is enjoyed across the UK, with a particular strength in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Wales.

GT-Who owns the Fisherman's Friend brand now? Does the Lofthouse family still have any connection with the Fisherman's Friend brand?
The family is very much involved in the business, and the board consists of three Lofthouse family members.

GT-Martin, can you talk us through what's involved in your role as UK Area Business Manager for Fisherman's Friend?
We use Jenks Sales Brokers as our UK distributor and my job is to plan the marketing strategy for the brand in the UK, both consumer and trade activities, and then work with Jenks to ensure the plan is implemented at trade level. With the help of some colleagues, I also manage the above-the-line budget and work with various agencies to ensure we get a cost-effective advertising, PR and supporting programme for Fisherman's Friend in the UK.

GT-How does the Impex/Jenks relationship work-which company is responsible for doing what?
As a broker, Jenks is responsible for working towards achieving an agreed budget. They warehouse the stocks and deliver to the trade. They have a sales team responsible for obtaining listings, promotions, order capture and merchandising, as well as invoicing and cash collection. They have total responsibility for the trade, although I do like to visit the major accounts with the account manager from time to time.
Impex's role, together with the Lofthouse family, is to plan the marketing strategy for the brand, with input from Jenks, and to manage its implementation. We are also the link between Jenks and the factory. This is important to ensure good supply of product.

GT-How big is the Fisherman's Friend in retail sales terms in the UK?
Fisherman's Friend is worth about 5m in retail value in the UK. The UK accounts for less than 4% of total production. The brand has continued to successfully grow its share in a market that is declining by about 2-3%, depending on which report you read.

GT-How big is the UK medicated confectionery category in retail?
The UK medicated confectionery market is worth around 110m, and our share is around 4.5%. I believe the market is declining slightly due to a number of reasons such as milder winters, lower indices of coughs, colds, sore throats and similar diseases, lack of NPD from some of the market leaders and a reduction in advertising spends by the major players.

GT-Which other countries are Fisherman's Friend products sold in?
Europe accounts for about 70% of this business, but we are also strong in the Far East, Australia and North America. The largest volume markets are Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden with the UK featuring about tenth. The largest consumers per head of population are the Norwegians, followed by Sweden and Singapore.

GT-Has Fisherman's Friend won any special awards?
Yes, Fisherman's Friend has been honoured with the Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement on no fewer than three occasions. We believe we are the only confectionery company to have received this accolade so often. There have been several other awards for export success as well, which we are naturally very proud to have received.

GT-What are your latest launches in the UK?
We have recently introduced an exciting new Cherry Menthol flavour with no added sugar, which is our fastest growing variety in the UK. This "friendlier" variant was our first new launch for five years. We were always confident that it would be a great product for the UK and we certainly have a winner on our hands. With cherry flavours already accounting for 10% of sales in the medicated confectionery market, the latest addition to the Fisherman's Friend range has quickly become a popular choice for consumers.

GT-What products, pack sizes and flavours are in the current Fisherman's Friend range?
The recent launch of our Cherry variant means that Fisherman's Friend now offers retailers and consumers a range of seven flavours suited to every taste, including sugar-free for the health-conscious. The range comprises Original Extra Strong, Cherry Menthol, Aniseed, Super Strong Mint, Original Tooth Friendly, Mint Sugar Free and Lemon Sugar Free.

GT-Which is the biggest selling Fisherman's Friend flavour overall? Which flavour is growing fastest?
Original Extra Strong remains the biggest-selling flavour and has a tremendously loyal consumer following. Cherry Menthol is already firmly established as our number two favourite flavour in the UK.

GT-Is the sugar-free range growing? How important is the 'sugar-free' factor in medicated confectionery?
Sales of Fisherman's Friend sugar-free variants have grown by a staggering 190% in the last two years, and this trend is set to continue with consumers and retailers looking for healthier products.

GT-How much do you spend per year on consumer marketing support for Fisherman's Friend? What advertising do you do, and when?
This year we are spending a record-breaking 750,000 with a brand new national press advertising campaign featuring Cherry Menthol. This kicked off in October and will run until the end of February, using daily newspapers such as The Sun, Mirror, Mail and Telegraph as well as some leading regional papers, which already include the Yorkshire Post and the London Evening Standard.

GT-What are you doing specifically to attract new consumers to the brand? How successful is this activity?
In addition to national advertising, we believe very strongly in supporting the trade with powerful promotions and also in arranging consumer sampling throughout the UK. Over the winter, our national consumer sampling roadshow will promote Cherry Menthol by visiting 65 major supermarket stores, and this activity will be supported by regional press advertising and consumer magazine competitions. We will also be giving away more than half a million Fisherman's Friend Cherry samples through universities and at sporting events. As mentioned, we believe the "friendlier" taste of the Cherry flavour is an excellent way to bring new consumers to Fisherman's Friend.

GT-Is there a dedicated Fisherman's Friend website, for stockists and consumers to find out more?
Yes, they can visit, where they can find out about all the products, the company history and advertising support, and even enter a competition to design new packaging for Fisherman's Friend!

GT-Finally, where do you see the Fisherman's Friend brand going from here?
The Fisherman's Friend brand has a great heritage stretching back to 1865 and has been built on tradition and consistent quality. The brand is sold in more than 100 countries and, here in the UK, we have brand awareness in excess of 90%, which is a fantastic situation to be in. Our consumers are remarkably loyal and we have a core audience out there who will not accept any substitute for our brand and will shop around accordingly.
With major advertising, sampling and promotional support, plus our friendlier Cherry flavour with no added sugar to compliment the Original variant, Fisherman's Friend is a brand that retailers and consumers can trust. I am delighted with the recent addition to the range, and I am certainly extremely positive about the future.
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