Ananya Pathak

Perfetti seeks 'behind the mask' market for Center fresh gum, mint

Rohit Kapoor, Perfetti Van Melle's director marketing (India), talks about consumption trends, and trying to position Center fresh as an 'essential'.

Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, we at afaqs! have analysed how brands from different categories have seen an opportunity in the current market situation, and launched, or repositioned, their existing portfolios to cater to it. So, when Perfetti Van Melle advertised its gum brand Center fresh as an add-on ‘essential’, to be kept handy when stepping out, we weren’t taken aback.

Perfetti seeks 'behind the mask' market for Center fresh gum, mint

Perfetti Van Melle is a privately held Italian global manufacturer of confectionery and gum. It was formed in 2001 with the acquisition of Van Melle of the Netherlands by Italy's Perfetti Group. Center fresh, the brand with which the Italian candy giant entered India in 1994, is today a part of the brand’s ‘Freshness Kit’, which is being presented to frontline workers.

The kit includes a face mask, wet wipes, (a hand) sanitiser, Center fresh Mints and Center fresh 3-layer Gum. It is being distributed to doctors, nurses, policemen and others frontline workers as a part of the brand’s ‘Stay Fresh Behind the Mask’ campaign. Two digital films, featuring social media influencers Aisha Ahmed and Vikrant Massey, have also been released.

In the films, conceptualised by Creativeland Asia, the duo highlight the two ‘most important’ things to carry while stepping out – face mask and Center fresh Mint, along with mobile phone, sunglasses and, of course, a (hand) sanitiser.

Rohit Kapoor, director marketing (India), Perfetti Van Melle, says that popping in a Center fresh Mint before wearing the mask can help consumers stay fresh for a long time. “As the country is slowly 'unlocking', people are going back to their jobs, but with masks. Wearing it for long time can be challenging. With this campaign, we want to convey the message that our product can help them get through the tough day, with its freshness.”

Rohit Kapoor
Rohit Kapoor

Kapoor mentions Center fresh is the campaign's best product out of the brand’s confectionery, which includes Happy Dent, Center Fruit, Mentos, Big Babool and Chlor Mint, because it is synonymous with freshness. “Center fresh is one of our strongest brands, and it is the brand that Perfetti Van is known for,” he tells afaqs!.

Aimed at young adults, especially the ones between the age group of 18 and 30 years, the campaign is currently live across the brand’s digital platforms. The branded masks, which are a part of the kit, are not available otherwise, confirms Kapoor. The reason, he says, is, “We are not in the business of selling masks.”

The masks had created a buzz on LinkedIn after Perfetti's Rajesh Ramakrishnan had shared a post with it a week back.

Kapoor joined Perfetti in 2000, and has occupied various marketing roles since then. He is today responsible for business strategy, innovation, brand communication/TVCs to drive equity, digital and e-commerce, research, media management and PR.

Over a call, he told us that there are various occasions when one can consume the brand’s confectionery. These are broadly divided into ‘in-home’ and ‘outside-of-house’ consumption. While Jelly, Eclairs, and other candies are mostly consumed inside the house, gums and mints are consumed outside, or on-the-go. Kapoor states, “Over the past couple of weeks, in-home consumption has gone up.”

"We are not in the business of selling masks."
Rohit Kapoor

He also mentions that the demand for 'out-of-home' consumed gums and mints is gradually coming back to normal. “It, of course, dropped in April, but was comparatively better in May, and has been picking up since June,” he shares.

Speaking about the sale of these products, he tells us that the brand has seen a pick-up in modern and e-commerce trade. “While we are largely an offline-driven company, with distribution across four million retail outlets, our online business comparatively has a smaller base. But we’ve seen a healthy growth in it,” Kapoor added.

Perfetti seeks 'behind the mask' market for Center fresh gum, mint

A large part of Perfetti’s current portfolio continues to be at Re 1 price point. This, Kapoor points out, is an extremely good selling point in the mid-tier and rural markets. “The demand for this price point is fairly okay in these markets. Secondary and tertiary sales are happening in rural and semi-urban regions. It is the bigger towns where we are currently facing some challenges,” he points out.

From the pre-COVID period, when the brand was focusing on building its Rs 5 and Rs 10 portfolio, it has now shifted its attention back to the Re 1 price point, given the demand for it. Perfetti will be launching a couple of products in the coming 2-3 months at the same price point. “Looking at the migration to smaller towns, we are looking at bringing back Re 1 introductions, with added functionality,” Kapoor says.

One such product in pipeline is Alpenliebe Fruity Candy, which will contain Vitamin C and fruit juice to boost ones immunity. The launch of the candy is based on current consumption trend, Kapoor says.

"We are looking at bringing back Re 1 introductions with added functionality."
Rohit Kapoor

“During these times we want to provide ‘good for you’ benefits, like immunity building that can have traction. We want to participate and leverage the current consumption trends and make our products more meaningful. We are, therefore, fast-tracking our plans when it comes to these products,” he says.

He tells us that the brand has a two-year-long pipeline of ideas - both short and long term. Depending on the changing trends, the brand acts upon them. Based on them, Perfetti also changes its communication strategies. “For example, we are today fine-tuning our spends towards digital in line with the media consumption habits during these difficult times.”

Kapoor points out that the brand is also revisiting its distribution channels. The brand’s trade marketing and sales teams are partnering with e-commerce delivery partners for undisrupted delivery of products.

“We are prioritising our resources, money and efforts to areas that are doing better for now, like the semi-urban and rural markets. Considering the intensity and extent of the lockdown, certain regions will take longer to recover. Given the current situation, the lockdown is certainly a good move. But it does impact business,” Kapoor says.

Frontline workers with 'Freshness Kits'
Frontline workers with 'Freshness Kits'

“The next 6-8 weeks are going to be crucial. We will simply have to wait and watch how the demand will be in these markets going forward, and how will the consumer react to it. We will have to tweak our business plans, accordingly,” Kapoor signs off.

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