Burton’s loses sales and market share as it shuns deep discounts

Burton’s Foods - producer of brands including Maryland and Jammie Dodgers - has said it lost share in the sweet biscuits market in 2015 after refusing to participate in aggressive category price cuts.

The company also suffered a 9% slump in turnover from £315.4m to £287.4m in the year to 2 January 2016, according to results filed at Companies House this month.

News of the decline comes two months after Burton’s sold the licence to produce Cadbury-branded biscuits to Cadbury brand owner Mondelez International.

In its accounts, the company said aggressive discounting and retailer promotional activity had resulted in value sales in the overall biscuits category growing 0.2% - behind the 1.9% volume growth.

“In this environment, Burton’s strategy was to ensure that its pricing and promotional architecture generated long-term value for Burton’s and its retailers, whilst continuing to represent value for money, rather than participate in aggressive discounting and promotional activity to maintain market share.”

The company said this resulted in its share of the sweet biscuits market falling 1.3 percentage points to 7.6%.

But it reported the reduction in promotional activity had improved gross margins, with adjusted EBITDA up 2.3 percentage points to 26.5%. The company also said profitability had benefitted from it exiting some lower-margin own-label manufacturing contracts.

Burton’s said the Fish’n’Chips brand was continuing to drive its growth in the savoury market, with sales up 38% in 2015 – and market share increasing 1.3 points to 4.5%.

The company added it expected its savoury business to increase further in 2016 with the relaunch of Cathedral City Bakes and growth in Fish’n’Chips.

In the accounts statement, chief executive officer Nick Field – who replaced Ben Clarke this summer – said the company expects the market to remain “highly competitive” during 2016 as retailers continue to seek to improve the value for money they offer consumers.

He added that he expected new product launches and continued overseas expansion to drive revenue and profitability in the coming year.

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