Bahlsen CEO Calls For Packaging Design With More Indulgence Factor
7/24/2023 Retail Brands Industry Look into Europe Article

Bahlsen CEO Calls For Packaging Design With More Indulgence Factor

Alexander Kühnen, CEO of Bahlsen, talks about the appearance of the confectionery brand after the relaunch. Consumers need to be involved in the transformation process more than before, he says.

Alexander Kühnen, has been CEO of Bahlsen since January 2023. Prior to that, he was Chairman of the Management Board of Carl Kühne KG. Alexander Kühnen, has been CEO of Bahlsen since January 2023. Prior to that, he was Chairman of the Management Board of Carl Kühne KG.

Since the beginning of the year, Alexander Kühnen has been tasked with getting Bahlsen back on track as CEO. After turbulent changes at the top of the company and a daring brand relaunch, Bahlsen is losing significant ground in the German confectionery market. In 2021, the company’s management had positioned the Bahlsen brand very aggressively on the market with a completely new design. In an interview with Lebensmittelzeitung, the Bahlsen CEO talks about the development of the brand. “We have made extremely bold relaunches, but they have partly not worked as we had hoped. As a result, uncertainty arises,” Kühnen says.

"The Design Is Artistic, but..."

Asked whether the brand relaunch in this form was a mistake, he says, “We probably should have focused more on proximity to the consumer as part of the design overhaul. The design is artistic, but doesn't completely match what consumers expect from the category.” He doesn’t want to turn the wheel back, however.

Appearance of the Packaging Changed a lot

“It’s not the solution to just go back to the old packaging. You also can’t make a small modification to the current design: just depict three more nuts and that’s it. That’s not going to work. We changed a lot of things in one fell swoop back then: new color hierarchy, iconic representation of the products, big brand lettering. Now we have to go much deeper and understand exactly what consumers’ needs are. The current look doesn’t have a sufficient enjoyment factor. I take a bite and it tastes really delicious – that doesn’t come across. So that’s where we need to get to work.”

However, Kühnen stresses that actionism would not help the company now, even if future paths were being explored under high pressure. The CEO was unable to say whether and when there will be “a relaunch of the relaunch on the shelf.” The food group is already working on new designs, he says. And confesses to the LZ: “But one thing is also clear: the last relaunch was very costly. We must not make the mistake of making things worse. In that case we would lose credibility. It was a bold statement, but not sufficiently consumer-oriented. The next step will be another bold one, but it will have to be more consumer-focused.” To ensure this succeeds, he says, the company is working with market research institutes, and employees are speaking directly to customers and consumers at the confectionery shelves.

Rising Prices

The sharp rise in the cost of raw materials such as sugar is currently a concern for Bahlsen, as it is for other confectionery manufacturers. In 2024, the company will have to raise prices, Kühnen announces.

The family-owned company, founded in 1889, produces the three main brands Bahlsen, Leibniz, and Pick-Up and is also active in the private label business. Last year, Bahlsen was the largest brand producer in the German cookie market in terms of sales, with a market share of 10.9 percent by value. Bahlsen has around 2,500 employees worldwide and five production sites.

In 2018, the company’s long-time CEO Werner M. Bahlsen withdrew from the operational business. Since then, the tradition-rich manufacturer has been undergoing a comprehensive transformation process. Alexander Kühnen (52) has more than 25 years of experience in the FMCG business: with stations at Unilever and Kühne, he knows both the dynamics in a large corporation and the special features of a family business.