When Unilever decides to do something, it does it properly. Take its relaunch of Pot Noodle. The brand is being reinvented with new products, formulations and packaging. New-look pots will be available from the end of the month; recipes will contain, on average, 28% less salt; and images of noodles and vegetables will feature on pots for the first time. And it's all costing a hefty £10m to accomplish.
"The May relaunch isn't just about tweaking the range, but improving every aspect of it," says brand manager Rachel Broad. "Unilever is really behind the brand and the investment will bring Pot Noodle up to date. It's something that's needed as there hasn't been a fundamental change to the brand in 20 years. New Pot Noodle should soon be flying off the shelves."
Broad says that early customer feedback shows mums and other health-conscious consumers are pleased the snack has been improved. "Mums are very happy about the fact there are now no artificial colours and preservatives in Pot Noodle," she says. "The product also contains more noodles and better quality vegetables, and we've been able to make the changes without compromising on taste. We've looked at current trends and the two themes that keep coming up are health and convenience. Pot Noodle fits into both."
The snack will continue to be available in four formats - standard, king pot, mini pots and multipacks of four - but one major addition to the 10-strong product range is the reduced salt chicken & mushroom variant. It will be available in standard and king pot formats and its 33% less salt content is expected to help the variant appeal to a wider audience.
Broad believes smaller independent retailers should concentrate on stocking the best-sellers - currently chicken & mushroom, original curry and beef & tomato. She says: "The key thing we need retailers to do is to stock up on the top-selling lines. We have a convenience sector-specific marketing team who will be offering support and there will be a huge amount of pos material available."
The £10m spend includes TV, poster and print campaigns and new TV ads will air on May 12. "We want and expect the nation to put their arms around Pot Noodle again," explains Broad. "It's about getting Pot Noodle back on people's radar and we'll be doing this by focusing on our benefits. There will be traditional TV adverts to appeal to a range of shoppers, but there will also be adverts in women's magazines to get the message across to the mums. We'll also run sampling campaigns and attend summer events to increase customer awareness."
New packaging will have greater shelf standout, according to Broad. "We've increased our food quality cues on the packaging and there are more images of noodles and vegetables on the pots. We're also using a better print quality that will give the pots a more premium feel."
Broad believes that retailers can do more to increase sales and adds: "Through research we've found that Pot Noodle is often not easily spotted in stores. But c-stores are the ideal place for people to buy Pot Noodle with it being an impulse product. Retailers should try to place Pot Noodle in a high footfall area, close to items such as sandwiches and pies."
There will be a 10% price increase on Pot Noodle, although Broad says it is not connected to the relaunch. "The slight price increase is necessary because there has not been a price rise since Unilever took control of the brand in 2000," explains Broad. "It is linked directly to an increase in material costs."
Broad concludes: "All our efforts are going into making sure this launch gives retailers the best chance of boosting sales, but there will be further activity taking place later in the year. The message now is that Pot Noodle is convenient to prepare and that shoppers shouldn't feel guilty about eating it."