Golden Wonder, the first company in the world to produce flavoured crisps, is to relaunch its flagship brand with the emphasis firmly on the product's heritage. But will this nostalgic approach be enough to tempt consumers away from market leader Walkers?
Walkers, owned by PepsiCo's Frito-Lay subsidiary, is by far the biggest brand in the UK potato chips category, and its distribution strength and heavy investment in marketing are unlikely to be challenged by Golden Wonder's revamp, according to market analysts Datamonitor.
But the smaller brand is nonetheless hoping to steal some market share from the category leader, whose ever more bizarre flavour combinations will also be poked fun at by new Golden Wonder adverts.
The Snack Factory, the company which now owns Golden Wonder after the brand was spun off from Dalgety in a 1995 MBO, is relaunching the brand as a 'no-nonsense' product, using the strapline 'Where a crisp is a crisp', and encouraging consumers to challenge the trend towards more sophisticated crisps flavours and assortments.
The hope is that Golden Wonder will be able to reclaim some of its former glory - it was once the category leader itself but has suffered in recent years from a lack of investment - and challenge Walkers position.
Walkers posted sales of £245 million in the year to June 2003, far ahead of any of its rivals or indeed Frito-Lay's other leading crisps brands, according to Datamonitor. Golden Wonder is currently the UK's third largest supplier of crisps and snacks, with a 14 per cent share of the £2.2 billion bagged snacks market, and it is also the leading supplier of own label crisps and snacks.
Datamonitor suggests that the relaunch is based on extensive consumer surveys designed to discover what crisps eaters do not like about the category and the brand leader in particular.
As a result, Golden Wonder's marketing campaign will mock the use of the more sophisticated flavours that are appearing in the snacks category and Walkers' reliance on celebrity endorsement - ex-footballer and TV presenter Gary Linker has been the 'face' of Walkers for many years now.
It will also make fun of Walkers for changing the traditional colouring for salt and vinegar and cheese and onion flavoured crisps - British consumers brought up on Golden Wonder were used to green packs for cheese and onion flavour and blue packs for salt and vinegar, but Walkers switched the colours around for no apparent reason.
"Golden Wonder should be able to appeal to consumers' sense of nostalgia somewhat, since many crisps consumers grew up eating Golden Wonder," Datamonitor said. "In fact, the strength of feeling that some have over their beloved crisps brands was demonstrated when a petition was signed by enough consumers to reinstate (albeit on a trial run) the previously delisted Scampi & Lemon variant of Golden Wonder's sister brand Nik Naks."
But the market analysts warn that the brand needs to do more than simply mock its main competitor if it is to make any headway against Walkers. Golden Wonder needs to offer a point of differentiation for itself, but the considerable marketing push behind the relaunch is certainly a step in the right direction.