Episode 03 | How to Achieve Brand Growth in the UK Health & Wellness Market

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UK Managing Director at Ceuta Group, an IQVIA business, Annette D’Abreo, is joined by Ceuta Group’s UK Client Director, Louise Phillips, and Director of UK Pharmacy Retail and Wholesale, Ben Knight, to discuss how to achieve brand growth in the UK Health & Wellness market.

The UK is a famously challenging market for Health & Wellness brands to successfully launch into, let alone build sustainable success. But Ceuta Group’s Ben Knight and Louise Philips have been navigating the market for years, unlocking growth for new and established brands alike. Tune in to unveil their strategic tips and advice.

If you feel inspired and want to learn more about how Ceuta Group, an IQVIA business, can unlock your brand’s full potential, get in touch.

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“We often hear from our buyers, my shelves aren’t elastic, I just can’t keep putting more products on the shelves.”

Louise Phillips


Annette D’Abreo 00:11
Hi, I’m Annette D’Abreo, UK Managing Director at Ceuta Group. And this is the original Ceuta Group Podcast. Today I’m joined by Client Management Director, Louise Phillips, and Pharmacy Commercial Controller, Ben Knight. And we will be discussing how to achieve growth in the UK Health & Wellness market, something that’s becoming increasingly challenging, but arguably, more exciting with the rising focus on health and self-care solutions in the UK and around the world. So happy to have you both here!

Welcome, Louise and Ben. Let’s start off with the first question. You’ve got a new brand or an existing brand that you feel has potential but isn’t performing in the way that it should in the market: where do you start?

Louise Phillips 00:55
Well, I think for me, you’ve got to go back to the start, which is the consumer, and put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. So we really need to understand our consumer, who are the people that would consider buying into this category? Who is actually already buying the category? And what’s stopping those that don’t buy into the category? What does the path to purchase look like? What are the key decisions that the consumer is making on that shopper journey? And what’s really driving that purchase decision? Is it an emotional need? Is it a functional need? Why would they want to buy into that category? It’s really important to understand that.

Annette D’Abreo 01:31
Yeah, absolutely.

Ben Knight 01:32
I think for me, you know, do they know about the product? Are they using the product? Can they find the product? Probably those sorts of questions and answers, I think. You know, where would they expect to find it in the retailer? Is it easy to find? Are we making it easy for them to purchase? Sending people in, etc.?

Annette D’Abreo 01:53
Yeah. All absolutely spot-on points. And I think the next step then would be, well, how do our trade customers find us?

Louise Phillips 02:01
So I think there’s a two-pronged approach. You’ve got to be physically available to your customers, but you’ve also got to be mentally available to your customers, and by that, I mean do your customers know that you exist as a brand? So getting that brand awareness out there. But, obviously, also, do they know where to find you? Is it online? Is it in store? Which stores? Is it the grocers? Is it Boots or Superdrug? Or is it a discounter? Or where would they expect to find you?

And once you know where they expect to find you, then your job is to get the listings and get the distribution with those particular customers. To do that, you’ve got to create a compelling category story, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, and deliver a story that shows them how you’re growing the category. You’re not just coming with another me-too brand or a brand that’s doing the same as something else that’s already there. You’re bringing something new that’s going to drive footfall into your stores and drive people to the category.

Annette D’Abreo 03:02
So yes, Ben, anything to add?

Ben Knight 03:03
I mean, the only bit I would probably add to Louise is just around the complexities and the differences between online and in-store.

Annette D’Abreo 03:11

Ben Knight 03:11
And actually, if you’re expecting your consumer to find you online, how you then play online and the level of engagement you probably get with the consumer and the level of education that you can deliver to them, versus sat on a shelf. It’s a different market, it’s a different operating method to get that message to them.

Annette D’Abreo 03:30
Well to that point, once you’ve got your distribution, both online and offline, how then do you grow your brand?

Louise Phillips 03:38
Well, I come back to the point I made earlier about mental availability and making sure that consumers know about your product. You have to have a 360-degree marketing plan that drives awareness of your brand, that drives consideration, and that has a real impact. It’s got to be engaging. It’s got to cut through the noise. As consumers, we’re exposed to so many different brands on a daily basis. You’ve really got to stand out, you’ve really got to have a unique selling point (USP) so that when consumers do get into the store, they already have an awareness of your brand and they’re much more receptive to purchasing it when they see it in store.

Annette D’Abreo 04:14
That’s sort of linked to the next point, which is how do you make sure that people can find you? Because it isn’t always the easiest thing. It isn’t taken for granted that once you’ve got a listing, consumers are just going to go in and see you there.

Ben Knight 04:27
I think arguably, actually, probably one of the easier pieces is just getting that listing and actually getting the product on the shelf. The difficulty is then getting that product to move sufficiently in the numbers to get off the shelf, for two reasons: one, you want your brand to be successful; but second of all, that buyer from the retailer that’s put it there will be under some pressure at some stage from somebody else trying to get that space or expand the category.

So for me, you know whether or not you’re looking at Boots or Superdrug, within a pharmacy or Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, etc., it’s around high-level visibility and making it just dead easy for the consumer to purchase.

So I would split it in two ways. First of all, if you look in-store, you can take things like your mid-gondolas, you can take things like your free-standing display units (FSDUs). I wonder how many consumers actually know how much people are paying to take that sort of premium space, you know, and I mean, it’s expensive. And then whether or not you run sort of price overlay offers, you know, or multi-buy, I guess that sort of depends on the brand that you’ve got.

And actually, if you’ve got something like a vitamins, minerals, and supplements (VMS) product, the idea that it’s on a multi-buy is probably quite sensible that you take people out of the market for sort of two, three months on end. If you’ve got a product like a head lice product, actually, probably doing a depth of discount, so you stand out, versus your competitors there. You know, let’s face it, it’s fairly seasonal, you get sort of one use out of it. People shouldn’t be buying 2,3,4, you know, throughout the course of the year, so price is probably better there than that multi-buy.

But I think the visibility is massive, it gets more product on shelf. You know, if you look at the mid-gondola, you get sort of a metre of space taken up, if you look at an FSDU, you can get many products on there and you’ve got a huge premium space. And, actually, yes, it’s good to sell the product, but it’s good for the brand to get that brand awareness. And you think about how many consumers are walking past, versus when you’re doing your above-the-line and how you’re sort of targeting them that way.

Annette D’Abreo 06:21
I think also, Louise, it is really to make sure that once you’re visible, you need to get that purchase — and Ben’s talked about the different mechanics — but it’s about above-the-line and below-the-line, isn’t it?

Louise Phillips 06:34
It’s understanding the shopper as well, because I talked about that earlier. Is a shopper more likely to pick it up if it’s an impulse purchase, in which case it wants to be sighted near a till point, somewhere out of aisle, or is it something that’s a destination shop that they’ve made a conscious decision beforehand that they want to go and buy that product, in which case you want to be sighted in the main fixture with all the products within that category. So again, understanding your shopper has implications for how you merchandise and where you are in-store. It feeds through the whole decision process.

Ben Knight 07:08
And I think, Louise, it’s also understanding the retailer that you’re in. It’s that, actually, fundamentally, if you go into Boots or Superdrug, you’re going in there to pick up a healthcare product. If you go into a grocery shop, 9 times out of 10, you’re going in there to pick up your grocery shopping and then adding something to the trolley on impulse.

Annette D’Abreo 07:21
And so, Louise and Ben, when we approach a retailer with a brand, we have quite a specific approach, don’t we, because we know what the retailers are looking for. Louise, can you just give us the outline of how we go about it?

Louise Phillips 07:37
Yes, we have a very category-led approach. If you think about it, a buyer is not really interested in a brand that’s going to come in and do the same thing and steal sales from another brand that’s sitting on the shelf doing exactly the same. They’re looking for brands that are going to grow your category and that are going to drive consumers into your stores.

We have a category team that will really examine what’s going on in the market. They’ll look at the environment through a number of different lenses. They look at macro-environmental factors, they look at the consumer, they look at the shopper — the retailer’s understanding of exactly what’s going on. And we’ll pull together a category proposition that is really relevant to the retailer and it’s really relevant to their shoppers. But most importantly, it delivers insights. It explains why shoppers are shopping in that category, it explains what they’re looking for in that genre, and it helps us to figure out what we could do differently in the category to drive more sales. And really importantly, from a retailer’s point of view, if they’re going to take a punt on a new product, they want to know what the size of that opportunity i, so we need to quantify what we think we can bring to the category in order to get the buyer’s buy-in.

Annette D’Abreo 08:49
I think sometimes people forget that they are saying, actually, I’m giving up this shelf space where I know what I’m returning for something else, so you’ve got to tell me, this is going to improve the return from this 2, 3, 4, 5 inches.

Louise Phillips 09:04
We often hear from our buyers, “My shelves aren’t elastic. I just can’t keep putting more products on the shelves.”

Ben Knight 09:13
Probably one of those common phrases in all the years I’ve done it, they don’t have elastic shelves, and actually, you know, over the years, .com has been almost like a go-to place, because they’re not hindered by their shelves. And even now, they are sort of struggling just because of the picking and packing slots that they operate out of a DC or an FSC. So I think the elastic shelf point is correct. And, you know, ultimately you’re asking somebody to take a product off the shelf, which is a known figure and a value that they’re getting. And what you’re trying to do is convince them that actually we’re going to be generating something new, something extra, something value-added there.

I think what we’ve probably seen more recently is an appetite for “real new”, i.e. not just shifting from one brand into your brand, because that’s great for us and it’s great for the brand owner, but it’s meaningless, relatively speaking, for the buyer, because actually, it’s the same set of numbers that’s generated, just across a different brand. So if people are sat on ideas that are in a category where there isn’t a direct competitor there, i.e. it’s category additive, I think that’s what the buyers are really looking for now. You know, “I don’t want a third or fourth version of what I’ve already got. Give me something I haven’t got and I’d be tempted to get rid of the third or fourth version of what I’ve got for that in that space.”

Annette D’Abreo 10:27
And it’s actually a great exercise to do, isn’t it? It’s really enjoyable. We all have very inquisitive minds at Ceuta and I think one of the things that we love doing is just digging to find the story and working with our clients to say, actually, “This is the bit that’s going to unlock it.” And actually, Ben, when you and your colleagues are talking to the buyers and there’s something that the buyer didn’t know, that’s a great Eureka moment.

Ben Knight 10:52
Yeah, and I think the buyers probably enjoy that, because it’s something different, you know, it’s a learning process for them.

I equally think because, you know, my team and all of the teams, actually, because the personnel have been there, they’re well experienced. They’ve got those relationships with the buyers and they’ve launched brands, whether or not they’ve started off with small budgets, medium budgets, big budgets, and across, you know, off the top of my head, probably 30, 40 different categories, anything from the top of your head down to your toes. So, you know, they’ve got the experience.

And I’d say everything that we’ve launched, has done — I’m just making sure I’m not missing anything — has been a success, clearly on different levels, some have been astronomical, some have been just exceptionally very good. But I think the buyers value what we take because they know that we’ve sense checked and we’ve done a lot of that work beforehand, you know, in terms of that data, what the plans are, etc. and we’ve seen that opportunity exists for them. And of course, it’s then sort of just converting them or convincing them.

Annette D’Abreo 11:57
So we did touch on this a bit earlier, but there are some very specific mechanics that you can use that the retailers give us. Just sort of outline briefly what those key areas are that we tend to look at.

Ben Knight 12:11
So I think, you know, Louise earlier touched on data and understanding our consumer when we’re presenting. The retailers and their understanding of the consumers is probably second to none, you know, if you look at the data that they can now harvest, whether or not that’s Boots with their Ad Cards, whether or not it’s Tesco or Sainsbury’s with Nectar, they know their consumer incredibly well. But equally, that also enables us, probably better than ever, to target exactly who we want to.

So if you’re a mum of children of a certain age, and we think we’ve got a product that ticks the box, then we can sort of target that individual, you know, whether or not that’s through email, whether or not that’s through coupons through the post. And they’ve continued to see data as a massive tool for them. One of the main drivers behind Boots’ price advantage scheme, if you look at what Tesco has done with it and Sainsbury’s and those prices only being available to their loyalty card holders, is to get more and more data and get more loyalty card holders so they can sort of then harvest and tap into that consumer even more.

So it’s important that we know what we’re going in with. It’s equally important that once we’re in, we start understanding really quickly as to who is purchasing it, you know, who’s purchased similar products? Or who’s purchased products in that category? How do we go about targeting them? You know, if you look at baby, just as an example, you know, if we had a baby product, targeting people that have sort of picked up some nappies or something like that, all of a sudden, you know, we’ve got a tick box. Our product would be unrelated to nappies, but we’ve got a product that sort of complements it. You know, I think, at least that way, I say we’re more likely to convert them. We’re talking to the right consumer.

Annette D’Abreo 13:57
I think it’s about minimising wastage as well, isn’t it, really? I mean, nobody tells us, “You can have whatever money you want.” You know, this is about managing budgets in the right way, in a prudent way, and getting the maximum return for the money. And we have to make choices in that respect.

Louise Phillips 14:14
Absolutely. And I think having all of that data at our disposal means that we can make really smart choices and make the right decision so that we’re investing our money smartly and we’re getting the best return on investment that we can get.

Annette D’Abreo 14:26

Ben Knight 14:27
And I think on the data, you know, yes, it’s the loyalty cards. But it’s equally, you know, when you look at the EPOS data that we get generated from all of these retailers — I say daily, you know, this sort of largely comes through on a weekly basis — but drilling into what stores are selling what, how many of those units, what stores are suffering, how much stock is in-store, why one is sort of doing particularly well versus others, and how that’s looking like at the category level.

I think there are two elements to this: one, which is their consumer and then the other in terms of sort of drilling into those stores. And I touched earlier on the activity that you can do in-store, whether or not it’s the mid-gondolas or the FSDUs. Actually, the idea that you can now see how those stores perform with that in is really super useful when you start to analyse how effective it’s been.

Annette D’Abreo 15:15
Oh, absolutely.

Ben Knight 15:15
Especially when you look at how some of those retailers have adapted over time and the point of sale options that they now give, you know, whether that’s aisle fins and floor stickers, which historically didn’t use to really exist. The idea now that you’ve got those, and you can get a report that sort of says, “Okay, well, you’ve run them in 150 stores, and it’s generated this, but in this other 150 where they’re not, you’ve only got this,” I think this is really useful.

Annette D’Abreo 15:37
It’s a very rich data that we get now. And it’s critical.

Ben Knight 15:41
And I think, sorry, Annette, one of the points, which is really useful for clients if they’re doing above-the-line or advertising of sorts, but they’re doing it in a location, the idea that all of a sudden, you can drill into those stores, which overlap where they run, whether it’s the TV advert, the print, I’m not saying it’s test-and-learn, but it can almost encourage them or give them the confidence that they can then expand that into other regions.

Louise Phillips 16:07
It also means that if you have a limited budget, you can use that data to select which regions, for example, you want to invest in. Most advertising businesses now will enable you to advertise in certain television regions, for example, so you don’t have to invest in a nationwide campaign. So using that data is really, really important.

Annette D’Abreo 16:26
For a brand to be on the shelf, stay on the shelf, grow and develop that word of mouth, that great experience, it’s a matter of consistent investment, isn’t it? It’s a matter of keeping your brand visible as long as possible.

Ben Knight 16:41
I think it’s the investment. I think it’s about having a good product as well and possibly adapting that product.

Annette D’Abreo 16:47
Fundamentally, it’s having a good product.

Ben Knight 16:49
And the reason I always sort of say when we look at a brand when it first comes on, how good is that product, what’s the need for it? Because fundamentally, if you’ve got that really, really good product, all those other bits then sort of start dropping into place, you know. You get the support from the retailers, the buyers, you get the support in terms of getting the activity that you want in-store, which is not particularly easy, as it stands.

And actually, you’ve then got sort of a run rate in terms of rate of sale, you know. Your distribution should follow, other retailers should follow and, you know, sales build on the back of it. And I guess equally, the more that you sell, the more it probably unlocks for you to sort of spend in terms of that above-the-line or below-the-line, you know, and building your brand going forward.

Annette D’Abreo 17:30
And it’s up to us to communicate as well as be very visible, which is what we do through our sales managers. We’re making sure that we are telling them all the great support that’s going on and what’s happening. But it’s a nice collaboration with our clients, isn’t it? When it goes right, it goes very right. Are there any final thoughts from either for you in this area?

Louise Phillips 17:51
I think I would say it’s not easy launching a new brand in the UK consumer healthcare market. There are lots of failed brands out there. We can help with that. We’ve worked in this area for a long time. And getting the category proposition right, understanding your shopper, understanding your consumer, and knowing what the retailer is looking for, that’s something we can help with.

Annette D’Abreo 18:13
Great. Good.

Ben Knight 18:14
And I think for me, engagement with retailers really early doors, you know, certainly in the role that I do. The idea that you sort of take them as part of the journey, I think buyers really enjoy that and it helps them sort of build an attachment to the brand. And I think you know, just in terms of numbers, both above-the-line and below-the-line, all of the brands really need to have some sort of sufficient investment behind them just to get that sort of turnover and the traction going and it really spirals from there.

Annette D’Abreo 18:45
If you have any questions or feedback or would like to find out more about launching or growing a consumer healthcare brand in the UK, please feel free to get in touch with us at CeutaGroup.com We’d love to hear your thoughts and we welcome suggestions for another potential podcast. Don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast and share it with anyone you think will find it interesting.

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