Daryl Newlands, marketing manager at Finsbury Food Group, on the growth of the licensed cake market – and what makes a successful licensing partnership.

Food-specific licensing has seen an upsurge recently, and the explosion of gaming in popular culture has opened up exciting new areas of growth for licensed cakes.

As a category that is completely trend-led, we are being presented with a new market and type of consumer to target, as well as new partners to work with.

However, no matter who we are working with, the same principles for creating a successful long-standing relationship always apply.

In our 25 years of experience, Finsbury has learnt that the relationship is just as important as the products you are developing. No licensing relationship will be a success unless you’ve agreed from the outset on a joint measure of success. You have to be able to clearly demonstrate to a licence partner that you are passionate about their brand and will work to maximise its potential within the marketplace.

You also need to build trust, and sometimes that means not being afraid to be honest. It can’t always be plain sailing in such a fast-moving category and when there are differing business objectives to take into account, setting up an honest and open relationship from the beginning is vital. 

You can’t rush the relationship either. Despite the fact the category is trend-led – and in our fast-moving world trends are changing from day to day – you have to be wary of rushing a product to market too quickly.

For example, we spent two years developing our Mary Berry range, knowing it had a great chance of success but that we only had one opportunity to get it right and could not compromise the reputation of the brand owner – Mary herself.

Finsbury was the first to bring licensed celebration cake to the UK market over 25 years ago. Since then it has grown to become one of the largest categories in cake, worth £44m. Licensed cakes are a 365-days-a-year opportunity, being purchased constantly to cater to a wide range of occasions.

Yet despite its size, success and the opportunities it offers, it is still classed as a secondary opportunity by businesses, which are putting a focus on traditional categories such as toys and clothing first when looking for a licensing partner.

We would hope that as we move into new areas of popular culture, and as products continue to delight and amaze, businesses will consider food licensing to be as important as some of the other categories.