The cinema chain is all set to sell PVR-branded ready-to-make popcorn on Amazon. The idea is to bring a slice of the theatre experience back into the lives of people, at home.
The year 2021 started on a good note for theatres across India, with many films being released. But the fear generated by the second COVID wave hit their business again. Though theatres are now opening up, the path to their full-scale revival seems rather slow.
Premium film exhibition company PVR wants to tap into the nascent popcorn market in the country and take it beyond the cinema experience. It recently forayed into the e-commerce space, with its F&B offering PVR PopMagic microwave popcorn.
The company has partnered with celebrity chef Sarah Todd to curate a range of microwave popcorn under the theme ‘World of Flavours’. There are four flavours on offer, Cinema Butter, Lightly Salted, Mexican Cheese and Lemon Pepper.
PVR PopMagic is available on Amazon in packs of three for Rs 269. Subsequently, PVR will also partner with multiple other e-commerce players.
Speaking to afaqs! about the idea behind PVR PopMagic, Gautam Dutta, chief executive officer, PVR, says that during the pandemic, the brand had to push itself, think out of the box and come up with ideas that would keep it relevant to the consumers. It was not a decision that was taken overnight, as the brand had to undertake extensive research.
“We figured out that PVR is a brand that stands for hospitality, great comfort and ambience. Then, the word popcorn popped up and we realised that we’re a leader, in terms of its quality and taste. We started thinking about how we can take this product to the consumers as they’re consuming a lot of content at home. A movie-watching experience is fairly incomplete without having a great snack, and what better snack there is than popcorn.”
"A movie-watching experience is fairly incomplete without having a great snack, and what better snack there is than popcorn."Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR
The brand’s team reveals that PVR PopMagic is gluten-free and made with imported corn from the US. It has the best expansion rate and zero artificial ingredients.
Before the product was launched, specific trials were done, which received positive response. These trials were mostly done in Delhi and Chennai markets.
Dutta informs “It was not just one or two trials, but they kept happening as and when there was an alteration in the quality or taste of the product. The testing was done by not only the experts within the organisation, but also our consumers.”
It took PVR a good amount of time to get the right popcorn in place. Mentions Dutta, “The quality of microwave popcorn currently available in the market is just not befitting. So, we had to go far beyond the Indian market and call for samples from the US. It made us realise that the imported popcorn we serve at the cinema (theatre) needed to be the same quality as the microwave popcorn.”
An interesting bit to note is that it’s not the first time PVR has experimented with packaged popcorn in the FMCG space, for consumption outside the theatre. Back in 2017, the multiplex chain acquired a 70 per cent stake in Zea Maize, which ran Delhi-based popcorn chain 4700BC Popcorn.
With its recent foray, the brand will compete with not just the likes of Act II and American Garden microwave popcorn, but also other ready-to-eat snacking options available for people at home.
When asked about the existing competition in the FMCG space, Dutta says, “The microwave popcorn market is extremely nascent and we’re looking at a very large segment within the space. The market can actually be five times of what it is today. The snacking market today is about Rs 40,000 crore, and for popcorn to become Rs 500-700 crore is not a tough game. People have tasted the product. The positioning will be around our core strength area, i.e., the product itself and the innovation that we bring to it.”
PVR is also planning to launch other F&B products like pour-over coffee, gelatos and ice creams. However, Dutta mentions that these are only early thoughts right now. There will be some trials and research around these products before they are out in the market.
He is hopeful of cinemas bouncing back soon and adds that the consumer sentiment is positive.
“We are hovering around 15-16 per cent occupancy since we opened up, and are eagerly waiting for the Maharashtra region to open now. Once good movies are released, we will get hordes of people back. This is exactly what is happening in most eating places, hotels and tourism spots. We just have to be cautious and follow the (COVID) protocols that have been laid down by the government.”
“We are hovering around 15-16 per cent occupancy since we opened up, and are eagerly waiting for the Maharashtra region to open now."Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR
Here is what experts had to say about the launch of PVR's PopMagic microwave popcorn:
Rajesh Sharma, VP, strategy, and planning head at McCann Worldgroup, points out that the popcorn available in theatres is different from the in-home experience.
“You don’t mind paying extra for the popcorn in the multiplex because we get it with the entire big screen experience. Popcorn sells because of the place and not because of what it is. I think it is a good tactic to remind people of what they are missing, but on its own, it may not get the brand (PVR) much traction.”
According to him, PVR is a brand that is known for its multiplex experience.
“The move by the brand is creative, but it may not help much, in terms of business. The utility is that till the time multiplexes open up, the brand can be in front of the screen when people are watching movies at home. Also, while watching a movie at home, there are many snacking options available, other than popcorn.”
However, brand strategist Jasravee Kaur Chandra opines that since cinemas are not operational, it's natural that PVR, a strong movie entertainment brand, tries to expand its relevance through the in-home entertainment sector, with PopMagic popcorn. She adds, “Pre-pandemic too, around 1/4th of the revenues of a cinema theatre were through consumption of foods and beverages at their premises.”
Chandra explains that the fight for staying relevant and salient in the consumer's mind itself has been crucial in the current market dynamics. “The longer term game for market leadership in the F&B sector, though will also involve factors like innovativeness, pricing, and credibility,” she concludes.