FMCG cos bank on speed to win

Cut Time To Market Amid Downtrading Fears During Slowdown

Mumbai: Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are using speed as a competitive weapon to win in the market place, especially when talks of a slowdown bring the possibility of downtrading into sharp focus.

Growth in the FMCG Industry has not lost steam even as other sectors have slowed down, but there is concern about a possible impact considering a deficient monsoon this year. The industry believes there is one weapon which can help companies win, and that is speed.

A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report, ‘Speed To Win’, says increased agility can solidify a competitive position, boost profitability and reduce risk. It says for standard new product development, a seven months time to market can separate the best in class from average players. But would it also work in a slowdown? “In slowdown situation it is even more important as the consumers typically start to change their consumption patterns and it is important to refine the offerings (in terms of price pack architecture, composition and packaging) to ensure alignment with the consumer requirements,” said Abheek Singhi, partner & director, BCG.

A company can outpace its rivals by increasing its market share, boosting its negotiating leverage towards trade and positioning itself as an innovator and the mantra is: standardize, prioritize and mechanize. Take the case of Nivea lipcare. Speed helped the company redefine this category with the trade in terms of merchandising and distribution. The category was treated like an “impulse confectionery” and not like a traditional skincare category. “Our actions have followed out thoughts and results are there to be seen. We have been quicker than most of competition in developing the premium lipcare category for Nivea. All our initiatives have hit before competition, be it variety/price points/distribution. This has given us leadership,” said Rakshit Hargave, MD, Nivea India.

With compressed product life cycles, especially in some of the newer categories, being quicker to the market is a great advantage. “Speed to market is important, not just with new product development but also with reaching out to the consumer and ensuring that even the remotest of corners of the country get the products in a short period of time,” said Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India.

Dabur integrated its consumer care and consumer health businesses and this was the genesis of ‘Project Speed’, which was designed to help the firm cope up with challenges by leveraging the power of its combined product portfolio through a unified sales & distribution structure. Dabur has also put in place an initiative to double its rural reach. The company is hopeful that this would enable it to have a direct access to 3,000-population villages across 10 states that account for 72% ofthe rural FMCG potential.

Some other examples are brands from mid-sized companies like Paras and Emami which were successful in gaining share as their product development times were shorter than others in the sector. When Emami conceived the idea of a men’s fairness cream, it knew it had a winning concept. What was important, however, was to ensure that it was put into market at a speed before others. “We were able to go to market within just under a year from the time the idea was conceived. This requires great agility. It took our established competitors by surprise as elements of marketing were in place within the short time,” said N Krishna Mohan, CEO, sales, supply chain and human capital, Emami. As a result, Emami enjoys market leadership in the category.

“Empowered companies with flatter and decentralized decision making structures can outpace its rivals in speed to market. This, when accompanied by stronger local consumer insights can develop into a potent competitive advantage,” said Saugata Gupta, CEO, consumer products division, Marico.

‘Smart’ packaging opens digital opportunities for food brands

As noted in our recent trend report on food, packaging can be a gateway to more information and content via QR codes and similar technologies. The idea isn’t new (especially in some markets), but consumers are only gradually taking to it—5 percent of American adults with a mobile phone scan any kind of 2D barcode, up from 1 percent in 2010, according to a recent Forrester study—and brands are still testing ideas around it.

Games are one value offering. In the U.K., Cadbury uses Blippar technology to enable augmented reality-style games on chocolate bar packaging. Tic Tac recently launched an AR game in which the mint box serves as background as the player tosses mints into the mouth of a 3-D character. Codes can also lead consumers to more information, like recipes or sourcing. Kraft recently added QR codes to several cheese products, giving users ideas about how to use them. In Vancouver, Foodtree is teaming up with restaurants to offer QR codes on menus that tell diners about where ingredients come from.

Another idea: General Mills’ CMO suggested to USA Today that the traditional surprise inside a cereal box could become a phone-based “visual surprise.” The cereal box is an appealing platform, with plenty of real estate and a spot in front of people eating breakfast. Last year Kellogg’s saw a respectable response to QR codes on its newly launched Crunchy Nut cereal in the U.S.

Watch for a wave of experimentation from brands seeking to tap new opportunities to extend their message and create a new channel for everything from coupons and loyalty rewards to education and entertainment. See “What’s Cooking?” for additional examples.

Rural India Laps up Diapers, Colognes, Sanitary napkins.

Rural consumers are buying diapers, salty snacks, colognes and even contraceptives other than condoms like never before, despite signs of falling demand for traditional FMCG categories such as shampoos and soaps in hinterlands due to unabated inflation. Data from Nielsen, a global provider of insights and analytics, shows that tens of contemporary and indulgent product categories including sanitary napkins and chocolates are growing at high double-digit rates in Indian villages (see graphic).

“The rural mindset is open to consumption of newer, more contemporary categories, as a result driving consistent growth,” says Nielsen India VP Prashant Singh.
Nielsen categorises rural markets as those with population of less than 5,000, but there could be some exceptions. It estimates that the country’s rural FMCG market will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $12 billion in 2011.
For MNCs like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, it’s an achievement of sorts to have broken ground in rural markets, by initiating consumers into newer categories such as diapers and salty snacks and upgrading them from unbranded or regional products to branded ones like in the case of cooking oils.
So, how did they achieve this?
P&G adopted the classic and tested strategy of betting on low-volume, lowpriced packages — sachets in the case of detergents and shampoo, and, for diapers, a pack of two at Rs. 15.  The move has paid off.
“We have seen a near doubling of the diaper category in rural India over the last two years,” says P&G Brand Manager (Pampers) Girish Kalyanaraman.
P&G launched the country’s first lowpriced trial pack of two Pamper diapers two years ago, educated people in rural areas about the benefits of uninterrupted overnight sleep for babies; and ran an awareness campaign on Doordarshan and satellite channels. Result: Demand for diapers has grown 90% a year in the last couple of years.
American snacks and beverages maker PepsiCo is another company that achieved tremendous growth in rural areas. Besides using fixed low price points such as Rs. 2, 3 and 5, PepsiCo has been using innovation, backward linkages for procurement and expanded distribution to drive growth in the hinterlands, a PepsiCo spokesman said.
“There’s a massive under-served demand for hygienic packaged snacks; we are expanding our manufacturing footprint and investing heavily in expanding distribution,” he said.
The company has moved away from centralised manufacturing and, instead, partners with local entrepreneurs across the country to cater to regional preferences and tastes, using locally grown ingredients. Examples for this include the extension of Kurkure brand to three local variants — Mumbai Usal, Bengali Jhaal and South India Spice—and testing of Lehar Iron Chusti puffs and biscuits at Rs. 2 in Andhra Pradesh. Kolkata-based Emami—maker of Boroplus anti-septic cream and Zandu Balm pain reliever—broke into the rural cooking oil market with a Rs. 5 pack of its edible oil Healthy & Tasty. “Rural consumers are used to buying unbranded or loose oil from local kirana shops for Rs. 5 or 10,” says Emami Group of Companies Director Aditya Agarwal, explaining the idea behind the low-cost edible oil packet.
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