Spotlight On...Emma Hunt, Group Marketing Director at Nichols PLC.

From its creation in Granby Row, Manchester in 1908, Vimto continues to reinvent itself to appeal to new generations of consumers and has grown to become one of the UK’s biggest and best-loved soft drinks brands. As Brand guardian, Vimto fanatic and champion of all things refreshingly different, there’s no one better than Emma Hunt, Group Marketing Director to share the secret of marketing endurance brand Vimto - that was born right here in the heart of the North-West over 112 years ago! 

Vimto is so of the time, but a true heritage brand, what is the secret to endurance?

"Vimto has been doing things differently since 1908 and there are only a very small number of people in the world who know the secret recipe today! We pride ourselves on that IP. And wherever you go in the world, the taste of the product will be the same. Things such as sugar content and colour can change depending on the rules and regulations in the country. But in essence, the Vimto taste is the same all around the world.  And the Vimto Brand Value is now £96.5m.

Also, the family still own over 30% of the company. And that's very important to us and really creates the values and the ethos of what we are as an organisation. 95% of our 350 employees world-wide say they are proud to work for Vimto! This engagement with our people has been the key ingredient (along with our secret recipe) to our achievements."

What is it about the NW that helps brands thrive?

"Ever since the days of the Industrial Revolution, the region has been at the heart of manufacturing as well as boasting a strong infrastructure of both connectivity and talent that has served the region well nationally and internationally. It has a heritage of innovation, a pioneering spirit and a way of telling stories.

A story I love to tell is that my grandparents met over a glass of Vimto in a Temperance Bar in Manchester many moons ago, so it’s fair to say, if it weren’t for Vimto, I wouldn’t be here today. And it’s those stories that lie at the heart of our business. We take our Head Office on the road, so to speak, so whoever represents Vimto shares the same culture and values creating a group of passionate people and great brands which is a winning combination to ensure the footprint of our business grows at home and around the globe."

How do you stay ‘refreshingly different’?

"The foundation of everything is a really great product, one that is flexible and adaptable and has great people and partners that enthuse the brand at its heart.

Vimto started as ‘Vimtonic’ — a herbal tonic made to give people ‘Vim & Vigour’. This new tonic drink was one of a number of products the founder delivered to small outlets, cafes and temperance bars. The unique blend of herbs and spices that contribute to the distinctive taste were sourced from around the world. Later, it became known as ‘Vimto’ and has been quenching thirsts in 73 countries worldwide.

We have a diversified business model with three distinct routes to market – UK packaged, Out of Home and International.

Our portfolio spans still, carbonated, post mix, coffee and frozen drinks. We sell our range of owned and licensed brands through major grocery stores, wholesalers and convenience stores, in addition to thousands of ‘out of home’ venues including cinemas, theme parks, pubs and restaurants. As well as selling Vimto in a variety of formats internationally.

For example, it might sound surprising to hear that Vimto sales go through the roof in the Middle East during the holy month; many worshippers fast from dawn to dusk, and love nothing better than a refreshing glass of Vimto at the end of the day.

For this market Vimto retains a high sugar content which goes down a treat at Iftar, the sunset meal when Muslims break their fast, giving them a much-needed energy boost after a difficult day without food or drink. But it is the same flavour, traditional manufacturing and secret recipe that keeps our brand at the table."

Has the pandemic impacted on plans?

"Whilst recognising the current and near-term impact of the pandemic on the soft drinks market, the Vimto brand has continued to achieve strong growth. The UK and the group’s international business have largely offset significant declines in the UK Out of Home (OoH) route to market.

It’s fair to say that the strength of the Vimto brand and our diversification strategy has minimised the impact we could have otherwise faced. We’ve been able to stay relevant and of course continued to listen to our customers, it is their insights that has lead to the most recent product development ‘Now with added vitamin C & D’, born out of consumers desire to stay healthy throughout Covid19. To promote the addition of vitamins to our products, we’re encouraging consumers to “Find Your Different” through our biggest-ever communications campaign."

International Market Expansion is at the forefront of your growth why?

"It provides revenue growth (access to more consumers), enables diversification which creates competitive advantage, and that competitive advantage builds brands. Today Vimto is in over 73 countries, 25% of households, 400 million litres of Vimto globally, 60% daily penetration and Vimto is a globally loved brand.  Our consumers now protect our IP."

How do you make the decisions to help grow the brand and how does innovation play its part?

"Decisions are made on evidence. We have a seven-step approach to access new markets: Firstly, we undertake a thorough market assessment looking at the economy, the demographics, in-country regulations, people and cultural fit and the competition.

Next, we look at the market opportunity: what is the category size, value chain, growth potential and undertake consumer research – to gain insights to support the opportunity.

Following that we look at product innovation or brand stretch: whilst the secret recipe stays the same, our products vary per market for example we introduced Vimto malt in 2015 in West Africa and more recently Vimto watermelon variants, along with licensing opportunities with the like of Krispy Kreme, Eezy Freezy seeing the brand enter sweets and confectionary markets."

What piece of advice would you give to other marketers to support marketing & innovation?

"It’s about the fundamentals – great product, great partners, market adaption and people."

This interview was with our Vice Chair of Communications for the North West board of directors, Rachel Emson.


CIM Webinar Express:

How to build a global brand the Vimto way

Join the team and Emma Hunt on the 28th July to hear all about how Vimto have stayed relevant in an ever changing market – Register for the webinar here!