Trade Matters

Volume vs value: Clarion explores what the quest for volume growth means for grocery brands and how it impacts trade communication strategies.

‘What’s happening with your volume growth and unit sales?’ FMCG brands looking to secure coverage in the trade press are likely to hear this question A LOT in 2024.

After a prolonged period of inflation-driven growth, publications and their readers want to understand who is managing to grow not just through price increases but by driving underlying demand. 

Recent coverage speaks to this. ‘With own label slurping up sales, just six of the UK’s top 30 cereal brands are in volume growth,' The Grocer's category report on cereals and on-the-go declared in January. Its Focus On Jams, Spreads & Honey that same month explored honey’s ability to grow volume in a tough market, while its report on ready meals called out strong branded volume growth versus own label.

In Marketing Week, meanwhile, a recent piece highlighted volume growth as “an important marker for the long-term success of a consumer goods brand" and an article on Premier Foods focused on the company's "strong toolbox" for driving volume growth. 
National and business publications, including The Times, have also drawn attention to the importance of volume growth in their coverage. 

Of course, volume has always been central to brands’ performance. However, the level of focus it's attracting right now is different. As inflation eases, who is – and isn’t – managing to return to volume growth is set to be one of the key questions being asked this year.

From a trade PR perspective, there are three main implications for brands: 

(1) Expect to be asked about volume and unit sales: Experienced trade journalists have long made a point of asking brands for value as well as volume figures, but this is now standard. Eye-catching value sales figures, as impressive as they may be, are not enough. Not every brand will choose to proactively put volume and unit figures into their trade communications, but nobody should be surprised if journalists request them.

(2) Shout about your volume growth: If you are managing to grow volume and/or unit sales in this challenging climate, that's a story worth telling. Whether it's in press releases, commentary for category reports or interviews, be sure to highlight where you and your brands are driving volume growth. This is especially true if your performance bucks wider category trends. Conversely, if your volumes have been lacklustre, be prepared to talk about how you plan to turn this around. 

(3) Pinpoint the new volume drivers: The cost-of-living crisis has had a profound impact on grocery buying habits. Long-standing truths about what drives volume in certain categories may no longer hold. Instead, new drivers could be emerging. This is your chance to showcase the calibre of your category and shopper insight. In so doing, be aware that insight has a shorter-than-usual shelf life at the moment. The last four years have been extraordinarily eventful, so stats from 2020 or even 2022 already look outdated to journalists and readers.

If you think your brand has a positive volume story worth telling or would like further information about our services, you can get in touch with the Clarion trade team here at [email protected]