"Develop something to take care of people's immunity and on the lines of an Indo-Western concept," says the brand's MD Naresh Pagariya.
"If you're not into immunity, what are you doing with your life?" It's perhaps the most important question today for people and especially for brands. It's no wonder then a good number of companies are now offering products or tweaking their existing product line to include immunity and health in some form.
However, when we read that Kwality Foods was offering muesli with turmeric, honey, and ginger, it made us stop for a second. A western breakfast dish infused with ingredients that have been consumed in India for thousands for years, talk about globalisation during a pandemic. We caught up with Naresh Pagariya, MD of Kwality Foods to understand the brand's motivation behind this concoction, the competition, and what lies ahead.
How did you come up with the plan to introduce muesli with haldi, turmeric, and ginger?
Muesli was one of those categories which was coming up very rapidly and even though it started as a western concept, a lot of Indians have accepted it. During the pandemic, immunity has always been on the top of people's minds. It's a new disease and doctors recommend you to develop your immunity. And that's where our traditional turmeric, ginger, and honey came into the picture.
As a food products company, we had a lot of discussions and asked our internal teams how do we develop something that will take care of people's immunity and at the same time do something on the lines of an Indo-Western concept- combine Indian things like haldi and turmeric (loads of benefits) and the western concept of muesli that is healthy, nutritious, and convenient.
Muesli and corn flakes are accused of being coated in sugar. Was it the 'immunity' aspect that led you to get rid of the sugar?
Previous to the pandemic, we had this question in mind: Whatever products as a company Kwality makes, how can we make it healthier? We, urbanities, have a big problem: We don't exercise. When the sugar aspect came in front of us, we asked what can be done? Our R&D team said we can look at an alternative; we completely removed sugar from our products.
Does the increase of in-home breakfast cooking and consumption concern you about sales?
The pandemic changed a lot of food and eating habits. During the lockdown, people to some extent tried different or elaborate food menus (in-home). But, post the lockdowns when offices and businesses restarted, the old food habits returned especially among the urbanities - busy mornings and quick breakfast.
How're you apprising the ready-to-eat breakfast brands?
It's an upcoming range in the market and to be very frank, we've been working on certain more innovative things like that in the category. If we can combine our traditional products and make it more convenient for people, it will be another great category to be in.
Many Indians are particular about their food and don't want to change but want convenience. It's a good emerging trend and it's a matter of one or two quarters before we (Kwality Foods) will be there in that category.
Distribution was a challenge during the lockdown, what's your challenge now?
During the pandemic (lockdown), the supply chain was disrupted. Even to source raw materials was hard and through Sales Force Automation, my team only called them to take orders and fed into the system. Technology helped us a lot. Now, it's coming back to very normal these days and we're in quite a comfortable stage.
What's selling more these days?
In the last two months, we've observed the online thing come up strongly because people preferred to stay away from stores and muesli as a category is emerging with strength. Apart from that, we've seen a huge uptick in baking powder, custard powder, cornflour, and a lot of masalas. These categories are still enjoying their uptick and 50% of the consumers will stick to these products. Many were first-time customers.
Going forward, will digital lead your marketing mix or is the offline retail market your biggest strength?
Even though, as a company, if you ask me, 12-15 months back, we were 98% offline and only 2% online. Today, we're almost 8 to 10 per cent digital and I feel we can cover 25-30 per cent in the coming three to four quarters. The Amazons and the BigBaskets of the world have really taken up and people have developed a habit for it.
Who's your core customer?
Muesli was more of an aged category (above 50). In the last three-four years, the urban young have taken over the product in a big way because it combines goodness and wellness, and taste to a large extent because of the addition of nuts; it's wholesome nutrition. Even Tier II towns, where muesli was an unknown product, have begun to consume it. The difference between urban and rural has begun to come down especially because of the digital explosion.
Can you tell us about your advertising strategy going forward?
This year, we haven't spent much of our budget because we had the pandemic but going forward, we will do a big campaign on health and nutrition and our work on it will begin in the fourth quarter of this year.