Trouble for a category can come from unusual places. And, that's the peculiar situation faced by cheese. A decade ago, Britannia's campaign emphasised one slice of cheese being equivalent to a glass of milk. Today, the scenario is completely different, what with the category gaining notoriety as an unhealthy food item.
Explaining the intention of the current campaign, Ashok Namboodiri, head of Britannia Dairy Products, says that with the explosion of fast food chains, people's first association of cheese comes from the kind of food dished out at fast food chains such as McDonald's (300 restaurants), KFC (223 restaurants), Domino's (over 500 pizza outlet).
The context in which cheese is viewed and consumed by people is with fast food. So, while cheese, per se may not be unhealthy, its being clubbed with fried patty, French fries and cola drink results in an unhealthy combination.
"There is a perceived linkage of these foods as junk food and fattening food. This is usually attributed to cheese also, whereby consumers today perceive cheese to be fattening," he explains.
Through the current campaign, the brand reasserts its proposition - A glass of cow's milk in every slice - and informs consumers about how the brand's cheese is nutrition-rich.
Despite popular perceptions, cheese has been doing very well for itself. In fact, the category has seen 10 per cent compounded growth year on year. The other players in the category include Amul cheese, Gowardhan's Go Cheese and Le Bon Cheese.
Yet, the challenges remain in educating consumers about the product and growing the category further. "There remains confusion among consumers. They are not sure whether cheese is healthy or unhealthy," he acknowledges.
Britannia cheese's last campaign was in 2005, when it introduced Britannia cheese's brand positioning. According to Namboodiri, the campaign worked very well for the brand over the years. In fact, efforts such as information on product package, modern format retailing and below the line activities have sustained the communication launched during the campaign.
For the current campaign, the brand went to mass media through its ongoing programme on consumer research. Besides television, the brand will engage with consumers through on ground consumer activations, and interactive activities on the digital space. "We are focused on building on the earlier proposition," Namboodiri states.
Given that consumers spend a lot of time online for information and recipes, cheese lends very well to this, says Namboodiri. He adds that the duality of the digital medium helps the brand to put forth its brand proposition but also inform and educate consumers. The brand has an interactive microsite, which not only engages with the children in an appealing manner but also educates them about various ranges of cheese on offer.
Unlike the Western countries were cheese is a part of daily meals, it is still fairly unknown to Indians; the closest thing to it that Indians are familiar with, perhaps, is paneer. Besides, the Indian consumer is less concerned about the origin of the cheese and more occupied with the form in which it is available, Namboodiri reveals. Also, cheese being a premium category product, the consumption pattern is higher in metros and mini-metros.
Interestingly, the campaign was launched because the sales figures saw an upward swing in the months of July-August. This was attributed to the start of the school year. Cheese slices are used primarily with bread and also find their way onto breakfast tables and lunch boxes. In fact, the sale of cheese slices slow down during summer holidays, Namboodiri reveals.
As for cheese cubes and blocks, they are mostly grated and added to enhance the taste of food, a practice that is catching up in households, too. Cheese spreads are also seeing increased acceptance. Namboodiri says that people who experiment with cooking and baking use it to give the extra edge.