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Future Brands is helpful, but must evolve; third party.

Byline: Ian Hills

Sainsbury's Future Brands launched in April 2018 to proactively track down and champion category-changing 'challenger brands', in the process wrong-footing Waitrose and Ocado, who many might deem 'better fit' incubator environments for brands of tomorrow.

It's stated that in the space of two years, more than 150 brands have passed through Sainsbury's pioneering scheme, with 12 million Sainsbury's customers purchasing a Future Brand product in the same timeframe.

From the outside, the idea seems bulletproof. What supermarket wouldn't want to be perceived as a leading mentor within our nation's artisanal food renaissance? There has certainly never been a better time for engaging disruptor brands (especially those of a health-conscious or indulgent persuasion) to usurp the endless aisles of tired, middle-of-the-road brands that still clog up vast swathes of precious shelf space.

And Sainsbury's Future Brands mission has been an extraordinary success on many levels, helping many brands take their first tentative steps. Those who achieved permanent listings describe it as a "game-changer". Even those who didn't say their Future Brand trial gave them a "much better appreciation of our product and potential".

It's not perfect, though. The

Future Brands bays are appallingly branded and often housed down the tumbleweed aisles where few people venture. Staff seem to have little appreciation about what the initiative stands for, or which brands are participating, making shipper replenishment random at best.

And does any real thought process go into the mishmash bundles (12 at a time) of products that are brought together? Surely focused clusters are an alternative: adult soft drinks, healthy snacks, vegan would be better placed to drive store traffic.

Sainsbury's should be applauded for taking such a pioneering stance, as supermarket presence is still the 'golden snitch' of brand ambitions. But with the rise of Amazon and online shopping, Future Brands needs to keep evolving at a healthy lick, or face passing on the challenger brand hero baton.

Ian Hills is a marketing consultant at Purple Pilchard

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Author:Ian Hills
Date:Dec 12, 2020
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