Ali Harris Shere, ITC’s COO of biscuits and cakes cluster, tells us why it introduced a new product, why its packaging is different, and more.
Desserts and fantasies are two old siblings that will never grow old. Be it to satiate pleasure or an appetite, people will always flock to desserts if given the choice.
Most of us have our guilty pleasures but colour me surprised when I read there is a new player in town — Sunfeast Dark Fantasy had entered the desserts category with a dessert-in-a-cookie range.
Called ‘Dark Fantasy Desserts’, it is the latest offering from the Dark Fantasy family that ITC launched in 2005 as a premium biscuit with a filling. The aim was to reinvigorate the then biscuit category where innovation was sparse.
“The difference between a regular cream biscuit and a Dark Fantasy biscuit is that the liquidity of the cream inside is far better in a filled product than in a cream biscuit which has a slightly drier cream,” Ali Harris Shere, chief operating officer, biscuits & cakes cluster, foods division, ITC, tells us.
He feels because ITC Sunfeast introduced this brand to the Indian market, it is their responsibility to keep innovating. “The consumer is bored as the level of innovation in the biscuit category was not high.” Since ‘05, the Dark Fantasy portfolio has extended to include different kinds of biscuits, coffee and vanilla fills, and its latest dessert offering that comes in Choco Chunks, and Choco Nut Dipped flavours.
Shere, speaking about the Dark Fantasy Desserts, tell us “we needed to give a fantasy-equivalent kind of an experience” and that they have taken the core value of the Dark Fantasy which is molten chocolate and hiked it up a notch. A challenge Sunfeast faced with this new premium dessert cookie offering was to link to its recent campaign ‘Din Khatam, Fantasy Shuru’ featuring actress Alia Bhatt.
The campaign’s insight was the fact that even though we feel we have time, irritants will take up space and when the day ends, we will still have work. A bit of pleasure once the day ends is recommended and "the brand is urging Indians to seek personal pleasure wherever and is saying ‘din khatam, fantasy shuru’”.
How do you connect the new offering better with the campaign? “That's why we got the branding of desserts and we asked why can't it be an indulgent product you can have as a dessert.”
For a premium product like Dark Fantasy Desserts, packaging plays a crucial role in luring customers. But, we noticed the new products didn’t feature the classic red we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in other Dark Fantasy products. Says Shere, “… In this one we had the chance to change significantly because it was a new product getting into the market.”
Singapore’s ‘Innovation Kitchen’ is the agency behind the packaging and has worked on the entire portfolio of Dark Fantasy.
Who’s your TG?
I assumed the Dark Fantasy Desserts would target the young folks a la millennials and Gen Zs. Shere did not completely agree with me and said there are two types of audiences: “One is your product audience and the second is TG you target with your communication.” He feels content and advertisements for young adults (in this case the desserts) becomes aspirational for younger kids and slightly older audiences too.
Staying in tune with the Dark Fantasy Desserts, I wondered what came first. Was it the flavours or the communications? It was the former. The core of the brand is chocolate and the Dark Fantasy team asked itself, “What goes well with chocolate? How can you innovate a chocolate cookie to the next level?”
Now, the flavour’s origins are cracked and the chocolate and choco-chips on the cookie have got me drooling, where can I buy it? No, wait. First, I need to know what comes first for ITC Sunfeast, distribution or marketing?
Shere first touched distribution because this product will “premiumise the Dark Fantasy portfolio even further.” The focus will be on being highly visible at select premium outlets which are in sync with the appeal a Dark Fantasy biscuit has to offer. The marketing efforts for the Dark Fantasy Desserts will be digital-first and “we will also do contextual marketing so that our product can be served to consumers at the right moment at the right occasion which is the end of the day.”
Does this mean small stores will never access the Dark Fantasy Desserts? Not necessarily, if, within a few years, the brand’s success prompts such a move. "But, we have to make sure the way we present it even in a small store is worthy of Dark Fantasy,” signs off Shere.