Retirement not the only valid message

(Re: Viewpoint: 'AGF paints its canvas with pure branding message,' by John Burghardt) Dear John: I read with interest your recent article in the Feb. 28 edition of Strategy. I concur with many of your arguments in which you...

(Re: Viewpoint: ‘AGF paints its canvas with pure branding message,’ by John Burghardt)

Dear John:

I read with interest your recent article in the Feb. 28 edition of Strategy.

I concur with many of your arguments in which you make the point that the category has become so cluttered that ‘we’re into a pure branding phase’. As a mutual fund marketer, our challenge is clearly to stand out from the crowd, but with more individual mutual funds in Canada than stocks – each of which making the claim that ‘theirs is a higher performer than the next’ – one has to focus on a ‘pure branding message’ in order to differentiate.

What I also contend, however, is that AGF has successfully served to focus the investor’s attention on the topic of ‘retirement’ as the focal point of one’s investment behaviour. If we look at the variety of ads being served up both here in Canada and in the U.S. by our formidable competitors, it’s clear that retirement has become the rallying cry for investment.

While not necessarily a bad thing in its own right, this focus on retirement does open up a whole other end of the spectrum for those investors who are not necessarily investing for retirement which, according to our research, is quite large a group.

Be it a vacation, a child’s education, a mini-van, a legacy for one’s family, retirement is but one overall objective in one’s overall financial planning process.

And that’s where we feel we’ve identified and capitalized on a different niche, a different message, which gives investors permission to ‘live their whole life’ by not just investing for retirement. I hope you’ve been able to catch our TV and print spots – we’re getting some great feedback and look forward to continuing to start a new wave of mutual fund brand awareness.

Eric W. Grove

Vice-President, Marketing

Elliott & Page

Toronto, Ont.

Meat and plant-based sales are both strong at Maple Leaf

Both priority areas performed well in the company's full-year results, helped by a boost in marketing for new products.
Maples Leaf All Natural 4

Maple Leaf Foods reported higher Q4 and full-year 2020 sales, driven by its sustainable meats and plant-based proteins. 

The CPG co. reported quarterly sales of $1.13 billion, up from $1.02 billion for Q4 2019, as well as net earnings of $25.4 million, compared to $17.5 million for the same period the year prior (an increase of 45.2%).

For full fiscal 2020, the company reported a total increase of 9.2% in sales, driven by what it says is “strong growth in both the meat and plant protein groups.”

“We have repositioned our portfolio towards two high-growth categories now representing 20% of our annual sales generating a compounded growth rate in excess of 25% over the last three years,” says Michael McCain, the company’s president and CEO.

Meat protein group sales  comprised of prepared meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-serve meals, snack kits, value-added fresh pork and poultry products that are sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels, and agricultural operations  grew 11.3% for the quarter. 

Meanwhile, sales of plant protein products  refrigerated plant protein brands such as Lightlife and Field Roast, premium grain-based protein, and vegan cheese products sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels  was up 5.5% over the same period. 

Sales growth for its meat portfolio was driven by “a favourable mix-shift towards sustainable meats and branded products,” but also growth in exports to Asian markets, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases, according to the company. Strong demand in the retail channel was offset by lower volume in foodservice as a result of COVID-19.

For its plant-based offerings, sales for 2020 were $210.8 million compared to $176.4 million last year, representing a growth of 19.5%, or 18.1% after excluding the impacts of foreign exchange. The segment was driven by expanded distribution of new products, continued volume increases in its existing portfolio, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases.

SG&A expenses totalled $144 million for the plant group alone in 2020, with investments focused on advertising, promotion and marketing to build awareness, as well as supporting brand renovation and new product innovation. SG&A for meat proteins were $346.6 million for the full year, and the company says it expects SG&A levels and marketing investment in 2021 to be largely in line with where they were in 2020.

The company, which in 2019 announced it had gone carbon neutral, says it’s amplifying this commitment while “focusing on eliminating waste in any resources it consumes, including food, energy, water, packaging, and time.”