From Budweiser popcorn to Salt Bae salt: A look at food-based brand extensions at IFE

Fresh from a day at IFE 2022, Brands Untapped’s Billy Langsworthy looks at how the food and drink industry is engaging with the world of brand extensions.

This week saw the return of IFE – the International Food & Drink Event – to ExCeL for the first time in three years.

The event welcomes around 30,000 professionals from the food and drink industry, with product launches, seminars, live cooking demos and the World Food Innovation Awards making up some of the on-site activity.

The licensing industry also had a presence at this year’s show, with Start Licensing’s Ian Downes chairing a licensing masterclass at IFE’s Innovation Platform. Ian was joined by Brand of Brother’s David Taylor and Jonathan Bowden, and the group discussed the benefits licensing can bring to food firms, what sort of brands translate well into the sector and the importance of authenticity.

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Away from the seminar programme, brand extensions could be found throughout the show. On the Graze stand, the team were showcasing a range of new products, including Marmite Graze; a bag of mini broad beans and roasted corn covered in a Marmite seasoning.

Unilever owns both Graze and Marmite; it’s a smart example of cross-brand collaboration. It’ll be interested to see if Graze becomes a home for more brand mash-ups moving forward.

IFE 2022

Elsewhere, premium chocolate brand Whitakers displayed a partnership at the show with its Pink Gin Creams, a collaboration with Whittaker’s Distillery. The chocolates are infused with Whittaker’s Pink Gin, and – as well as almost sharing a name – the partnership came about as the two companies are based near each other in Yorkshire.

IFE 2022

One brand at the show well-versed in licensed was Joe & Seph’s. The popcorn firm was showing off some recent brand partnerships with Marmite and Budweiser at the show.

IFE 2022

Joe & Seph’s has also branched out into popcorn-related gifts, with its Popcorn Maker – and a Caramel Fountain is on the way. A collaboration with Brewdog will also see a Joe & Seph’s-flavoured beer land soon.

IFE 2022

The show wasn’t only a home for food and drink brands extending into other food and drink categories. FoodArt UK was displaying a collection of Salt Bae gourmet salt, which it distributes in the UK.

The official salt of the Turkish internet star and restaurateur, the Salt Bae range spans Himalayan Pink Salt, Aegean Sea Salt, as well as Merlot, Espresso and Beetroot Garlic seasonings.

IFE 2022

It was also interesting to speak with several large food brands who purposely avoid licensing currently. Several mentioned having had bad experiences exploring brand extensions in the past, with some seemingly put off the idea for life. Here’s hoping that with shows like IFE putting a spotlight on the innovative brand extensions in the food aisle, and the opportunities present, more players will see the appeal and get involved.

And without wanting to get carried away, IFE is already divided into sections like Grocery & Wholesale, Vegan & Plant-Based and Health & Wellbeing. Could a Brand Extension zone prove a useful home for exhibitors to showcase their work in this area?

Either way, the show provided a welcome reminder of why food licensing remains is an exciting space – and one still packed with lots of untapped opportunities.

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