Heinz to change baked beans recipe as it faces Branston challenge

LONDON - Heinz and Premier Foods' Branston label have traded blows over new figures showing that Branston's baked beans are eating into Heinz's dominance of the market.

Reports revealed a confidential Heinz memo saying a new recipe for the Heinz Baked Beanz will be introduced in April or May, after the Branston brand captured nearly 10% of the baked beans market in three months.

Branston Baked Beans launched a £7m TV advertising push created by DLKW on January 20 to fight the brand leader Heinz's dominance of the £250m UK baked beans market. Premier bosses claim their beans will be become a big hit within two years.

The launch campaign stars an animated baked-bean "Richer Branston" can singing the praises of the beans to the tune of the Hot Chocolate song 'You Sexy Thing'. It was backed by a nationwide blind-tasting promotion and press and radio ads.

Nick Rabin, Branston Baked Beans marketing manager, said the new product was selling at twice the predicted rate and had already captured a 9.4% market share.

Rabin said: "Put it another way, Branston has taken a 1% share every 12 days since it launched in late October 2005. That's proof that consumers are looking for choice."

Branston has also launched new canned Spaghetti and Spaghetti Hoops.

Heinz says it has held on to its 68% share of UK baked beans market, up 6.2% on 2004, and claims the memo was not in response to the Branston challenge. Heinz, meanwhile, is facing a probe over its takeover of HP Foods last June.

The Office of Fair Trading last October referred the £470m acquisition by Heinz of HP Foods to the Competition Commission, saying it feared the takeover could mean higher prices for brown sauce and tomato ketchup. UK-based HP Foods, which also makes sauces under the Lea & Perrins, Daddies and Amoy brands, was sold by French group Danone to Heinz in June.

The Competition Commission has 24 weeks to report its findings, although Heinz has said it is confident the takeover will be approved.

Branston launched Branston Baked Beans last October, claiming they contained more tomatoes than the Heinz equivalent. Branston is part of the Crosse & Blackwell group, best known for pickles and sauces.

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