Weetabix established itself as the UK's best-selling cereal during the early 2000s despite relentless pressure from much larger competitors and has retained that position ever since. Sales for 2017 were around £140m, well ahead of any other brand. The brand's long-running marketing concept is that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary feats if they have breakfasted on Weetabix: "Have You Had Your Weetabix?". It has also diversified widely into associated formats including Weetabix On The Go breakfast drinks and protein-enhanced snacks. The company's other brands include Alpen muesli and Weetos, and its also makes private label products for supermarkets. Until comparatively recently Weetabix was also one of Britain's largest family-owned companies, guarding its privacy with great care as a defence against the fierce competition which has raged in the cereal market since the late 1980s. Eventually, though, the founding George family took the opportunity to cash in their shares, selling the business in 2003 to private equity investors Hicks Muse Tate & Furst. Almost ten years later, it was sold on again to China's state-owned Bright Food. However, that deal never really gelled, and in 2017 Bright Food agreed to sell to US food group Post Holdings for £1.4bn. Marketing chief Sally Abbott replaced Giles Turrell as CEO following completion. Group sales for ye 2017 were £242m. Though it is generally regarded as a definitively British brand, Weetabix cereal biscuits were actually developed in Australia at the very beginning of the 20th century, where they were known as Weet-bix. They remain a popular Australian breakfast cereal to this day, still manufactured by the Sanitarium Health Food Company of Melbourne. British entrepreneur Frank George developed his own version of the Weet-Bix in 1932, and launched them in Britain under the name Weetabix, even using Australian wheat to make the biscuits. This continued to be the case for the next 35 years until the rise in prices of Australian wheat made imports prohibitive during the 1970s.
Capsule checked 28th September 2018
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Who are the competitors of Weetabix? The top branded cereal manufacturers in the UK in 2017 (Nielsen ye Oct 2017, The Grocer) are Kellogg (approx 32% share by value), Weetabix (approx 16%), Cereal Partners (approx 11%), PepsiCo (approx 10%) and ABF (approx 5%). Own-label, a segement in which Weetabix is also active, had 26% share. See Food Sector index for other companies and brands
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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Apr 2017: British breakfast icon Weetabix is to swap its current Asian owners for US company Post Holdings. One of the original pioneers in breakfast cereal alongside Kellogg's, Post still owns leading US brand Honey Bunches of Oats as well as Raisin Bran and other cereals. However, it has also been expanding into new sectors in recent years through acquisitions such as PowerBar (from Nestle) and egg and dairy producer Michael Foods. Weetabix is its first major step into the UK. Post is to pay £1.4bn (including debt) to buy out majority shareholder Bright Food of China and its minority partner Baring Private Capital.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Mar 2017: US group Post Holdings has been tipped as the favourite to acquire the 60% shareholding in UK cereals group Weetabix from current Chinese owner Bright Food. Weetabix is the UK's top-selling breakfast cereal brand, and the second largest producer overall behind Kellogg's. Rival bidders Cereal Partners and Barilla are understood to have withdrawn from the auction. According to reports, one other bidder remains in negotiations, possibly Associated British Foods.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Jan 2017: Chinese company Bright Foods has appointed Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for its controlling stake in Weetabix, the iconic British cereal brand. Although the brand has experienced modest success since its launch in China, now said to be its third largest market, sales in the UK have fallen sharply as a result of the continuing move by consumers away from breakfast cereals. Bright Food acquired a 60% stake in Weetabix in 2012 for £1.2bn. However group sales and profits are both slightly below 2012 levels, suggesting the Chinese company may make a loss on the sale.
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