The agency change has been partly prompted by ABF’s £171m acquisition in October last year of Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis’s beverage brands. Fuel already handles PR for two of them, the malt drink Ovaltine and low calorie hot chocolate drink Options.
From August, Fuel will also take on Twinings Speciality Tea (including Assam and Earl Grey), Twinings Infusions (fruit and herb flavours), Twinings Iced Tea and Jacksons of Piccadilly. Fuel’s remit will include corporate work as well as an issues and crisis element.
Twinings hired Jane Howard PR in 1995 and stayed with GCI when it took over the consumer shop in 1999. GCI London CEO Sue Ryan said: ‘We are working notice and will end our association with Twinings at the end of August. After eight years they decided it was time to look outside their existing PR operation. We are disappointed but philosophical – such reviews are not uncommon when clients and agencies have worked together for a long time.’
Neither Fuel nor Twinings would say what form the new campaign would take, but it will be overseen by Twinings UK marketing manager Elizabeth Edwards.
She also denied a refreshed consumer campaign was required for Twinings to combat the threat posed by the increasing popularity of coffee shop outlets such as Starbucks and Caffe Nero. She said: ‘The upsurge in coffee culture is not reflected in the retail sales of coffee. They are not providing particular competition for us.’
The UK tea market is worth around £78m a year in retail sales, with speciality teas accounting for £40m and infusions growing to £25m. The remainder is made up of other tea brands such as organic and decaffeinated.