Through conversations with some of the brands that populate it, we explore this emerging sub-segment of the e-commerce universe that's slowly changing the way urban India shops for meat.
The very mention of e-commerce throws up two names - Amazon and Flipkart. Next is probably a Zomato/Swiggy, followed by a Grofers or a Big Basket. But there are a bunch of relatively new e-commerce platforms spreading their roots across Indian cities, trying to get urban Indians to buy meat and fish online. Gurugram-based Meatigo and Zappfresh and Bengaluru-based Fresh to Home are a few on this list.
Zappfresh and Fresh to Home were founded in 2015 and Meatigo was started in 2016.
While converting the largely unorganised non-veg market into an organised one is the task at hand, sourcing and delivering items 'fresh', is a challenge. Also, for years Indians have brought their meat/fish from 'traditional' open markets after making personal selections. However, apart from the 'freshness', another common proposition for these platforms is delivering items 'ready to cook' and 'free of antibiotics' and 'preservatives'.
The Target Group
"Our TG, in short, is anyone who loves meat. In this regard, it would be SEC A1-A3 (socio-economic classification) living in metros - consumers between 25-55 years who shop online and are concerned about their health," says Siddhant Wangdi, business head and co-founder, Meat & Spice (Meatigo).
Co-founded by Shan Kadavil, Fresh to Home's target audience is an age group between 25-50 years. "For those who enjoy cooking, we have a variety of cuts of meat and fish that are fresh off the coast, not frozen and free of added chemicals," Kadavil says.
Zappfresh also has the young working class and higher SECs as its TG. "There is a huge gap in terms of expectations and delivery in our domestic meat industry. Millennials have a paucity of time and are looking for standardised quality and service," says Deepanshu Manchanda, the brand's founder.
The brands are riding on the busy urban life of office-goers.
Reports suggest that the Indian meat industry is valued at around $30 billion with 90 per cent of the business located in unorganised wet-markets. While consumption reduces during summer, it peaks during winter. These businesses also suggest that consumption in India is influenced by religion with a spike occurring around festive occasions.
Seventy per cent of Meatigo's consumers fall in the 25-40 age group and are spread across Delhi/NCR, Bangalore and Mumbai. The platform has an average order value of Rs 1,250 per order. "It's an interesting basket to observe. It is in tune to their increasing travel habits abroad with evolved taste buds looking for meats beyond the basic chicken cuts with growing exposure and knowledge of different cuts," Wangdi says.
Zappfresh boasts of serving 2, 00,000 customers in Delhi/NCR with a 90 per cent repeat rate and is set to launch in new cities in 2019.
Fresh to Home claims to receive over 7000+ orders per day processing around 10 tons of fish and meat, daily. The brand operates in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi/NCR and has recently launched in the UAE.
Advertising in the category primarily plays the key roles of education, behaviour change, customer acquisition and retention. Brands are exceedingly looking at digital as a medium of choice. Meatigo has limited itself to digital advertising at the moment.
"No other medium provides us with a more targeted approach to get high-value audiences onboard besides helping lower our CAC (customer acquisition cost). We have a repurchase rate of 80-90 per cent which is aided by retargeted ads in line with shopping behaviour. Via our referral program, consumers bring in more buyers through word of mouth," says Wangdi.
"Mainstream media may not be very effective because of cost and segmentation challenges of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. We do targeted marketing both online and offline and look at a mix of ATL and BTL. Advertising is critical as we are triggering behaviour change and educating," Manchanda says. He opines that meat advertising needs to be done carefully. "We do not indulge in any controversial campaigns which can impact the sensitivities of Indian consumers," he adds.
In Kadavil's approach, mass media and digital go hand in hand. "We believe in an integrated approach. Although digital ads are taking over, a large segment of our audience still subscribes to mass media over digital and they are equally important to us," he states.
While 'farm-to-fork' and delivering 'fresh' and 'antibiotic/preservative-free' goods is the common proposition, players boast of a strong network of procurement, supply and distribution as the main framework of the business.
There are a few key differentiators too. Fresh to Home weaves a story around sustainability. "We sell seasonal fish and need to be mindful about the breeding season and cannot risk endangering marine life. So it becomes imperative for us to only sell fish that is in season," Kadavil adds.
Zappfresh has a focus of bringing about transparency in the farm-to-fork journey. "The opportunity to bring transparency to the customer in fresh produce requires a significant amount of effort and we are a 100 per cent committed to bringing around change," Manchanda says.
Meatigo offers options "beyond chicken and fish". Apart from the regular cold cuts it also offers a range of imported products. The brand also has its in-house team of chefs, experts and advisors "for innovative products each quarter in tune with customer demands and tastes." The brand's founder also boasts of a team with over 30+ years of experience in meat sourcing, quality control, processing and manufacturing and maintains that it has been instrumental in setting Meatigo apart from the competition.
When food delivery platforms provide almost all sorts of cuisines, who would want to spend time cooking elaborate meals?
Kadavil maintains that Fresh to Home's target audience differs from that of food delivery platforms and considers those who enjoy cooking. "We cater to those who understand the importance of consuming fresh and chemical-free food. We believe in making fresh food accessible to everyone, that's our aim. However, we do have a range of ready-to-cook products that eliminate the hassle of preparing a dish from scratch," he explains.
People experimenting with food opens doors for Zappfresh. "We are seeing an increase in people experimenting with food at home and getting more conscious about their health. They look at living a healthy lifestyle. And let's not forget, 80 per cent of India is protein deficient," Manchanda says.
"There is a lot of compromise in the quality of ingredients in restaurants ('affordable' ones). We've seen that some of Meatigo's own consumers who would delegate the task of cooking to cooks/maids have understood the quality difference we offer. We got a lot of feedback that they themselves have started enjoying the entire cooking process, sharing their photos and videos with us," says Wangdi.
In Manchanda's terms, the cold chain in India poses a great challenge in the ecosystem. Kadavil maintains that the challenge is to educate consumers about the health hazards that come along with buying meat and seafood the traditional way. "Educating them about the long-term risks of consuming meat and seafood with chemical content in it is a challenge for us," he says.