Zetar has said its licensing deal with Unilever to produce and sell Marmite nuts forms part of its plan to increase sales by 20% over the next three years.

The UK confectioner and snack maker this morning (13 August) announced a deal that will see Zetar produce Marmite nuts through its natural snacks division from October.

Zetar had previously manufactured Marmite nuts for sale by Unilever but the deal means it is now the full licence holder for the product. It will manufacture, market and sell the nuts.

“Unilever believes the deal is in best long-term interest of growth for the brand,” Zetar managing director Clive Beecham said. “Unilever now feels that in order to get more innovation and push the distribution levels wider it would be better for someone who specialises in individual snacks to take those deeper into their own respective territories.”

Beecham said the licensing deal will see Zetar launch an addition to the range in the form of a “Marmite on toast” SKU, currently under review with major UK retailers. The product, he explained, comprises a Marmite-flavoured pre-prepared melba-style toast.

The agreement with Unilever, Beecham said, should help boost sales and profits for Zetar, which were down 5% and 17.5%, respectively, in the year to 30 April. On the firm’s earnings call last month, CEO Ian Blackburn indicated it sees its sales increasing by 20% of the next three years on the back of NPD at home and expansion in Europe.

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“We pretty much pioneered brand licensing in the snacking area,” Beecham told just-food. “If you marry a product like Marmite for example with the humble cashew nut you can end up with a product that is really a great product. It’s doesn’t always happen, sometimes it just works and this time it worked. We do view [nuts] as an area for growth.”

Beecham added the company sees growth coming from more added-value products and additional licensing deals.

“We are always looking for licensing deals and you always need to innovate and introduce new things. With private label you also always need to be creating new ideas for your customers.”

However, he highlighted snacks as a category that has experienced “rampant commodity price rises” over the last few years.

“The whole industry in snacks and nuts has had to realign itself at higher price points or more expensive products and that has taken a huge amount of energy on the part of retailers and manufacturers. Now that has pushed through, it’s not to say price may go up but broadly speaking … it allows you to refocus on innovation.”