Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“We benefitted largely from increased eating occasions within the home”: Vinay Subramanyam, Britannia

The VP marketing of Britannia Industries takes us through the company’s COVID journey and key consumption trends that emerged in the last few months.

Biscuits major Britannia Industries Ltd recently launched a campaign for its flagship brand Marie Gold. The ad features a mother, who starts a business of selling handmade crafts online. While mothers have always been a core TG for the brand, what caught our eye was the e-commerce-style storyline – a housewife taking baby steps towards selling her craft via e-commerce platforms.

The World Entrepreneurship Day (August 21) ad film is in line with Britannia’s annual activation ‘Marie Gold My Start Up’ to support homemakers on their entrepreneurial journey. But, with this, Britannia has also placed its flagship brand alongside ‘e-commerce’, an extremely relevant topic of the COVID/lockdown times. This flagship has shone bright in Britannia’s COVID journey.

Being a food company, Britannia found a default spot for its brands in the list of essential items during the pandemic-induced lockdown. The buzz is that brands in the ‘essential’ category saw healthy growth during lockdown months, starting March. While it is still difficult to put a number to the overall category growth, Britannia clocked Rs 3,384 crore in revenues during the April-June period, up from Rs 2,700 crore in the same quarter last year.

The brand had to devise a good head start in operations to maintain seamless supply across the country. “While the lockdown resulted in panic buying and people hoarding essential items, we found that consumer interest was vested on the trusted brands. We also realised that consumer and customer insights were not the same. So, we got into calls with thousands of retailers and consumers to get a sense on how life was changing on ground,” says Vinay Subramanyam, VP marketing at Britannia Industries.

Vinay Subramanyam
Vinay Subramanyam

As home consumption increased during lockdown period, folks at Britannia observed demand across the biscuit portfolio, as experimenting with food and variety in taste was a key trend. “In the last couple of months, we’ve seen unprecedented growth in our highly salient brands. The ‘occasional’ brands repertoire is likely to shrink. Marie Gold has actually led our growths,” Subramanyam reveals.

"The ‘occasional’ brands repertoire is likely to shrink."

He says that while the pandemic startled most sectors, including FMCG, it (albeit unintentionally) drafted a clear path for markets to rise up as well. “Being in the essential foods category, 95 per cent of our business is driven by the segments of biscuits, bakery and dairy. We applied the 80:20 business thumb rule to ensure seamless operations, in terms of strengthening our distribution and reach out to the retail networks.”

"20% of the brands and SKUs, which form 80% of Britannia’s revenues, were put on a priority list."

Products were prioritised basis their demand across markets. Twenty per cent of the brands and SKUs (stock keeping units), which form 80 per cent of Britannia’s revenues, were put on a priority list. The ‘list’ featured brands like Good Day and cream biscuit variants; Milk Bikis, Marie Gold and NutriChoice.

Subramanyam explains that the initiative proved to be beneficial in terms of streamlining productivity; better flexibility in manufacturing; efficiencies in factories and distance travelled by the products. “It brought laser-sharp focus in execution.”

Britannia’s MD Varun Berry, in a recent interview to a trade daily, mentioned that the company had completely shifted focus from its portfolio of value brands (like Tiger) during lockdown. Britannia didn’t produce any Tiger products for a stretch of three months.

Apart from biscuits, products like bread and rusk that fall under Britannia’s ‘adjacent business’, also grew well. In the dairy segment, Britannia Cheese witnessed better performance too.

The brand even decided to ride the trend of DIY cooking and cooking at home by rolling out a new campaign with Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan. In a series of ‘cooking videos’ on social media, Khan was seen taking lessons from a professional chef.

Speaking of key consumption trends in the food business, Subramanyam says that increased in-home consumption is here to stay for some time and this, in turn, could drive consumption of biscuits. “Early indicators suggest that families are postponing out-of-home experiences and dining out has given way to dining in. And that’s the share of stomach that biscuits and our other in-home consumption products have gained.”

“Biscuits being in a highly penetrated category, we benefitted largely from increased eating occasions within the home. It’s also one of the most value for money snacks, convenient and ready to eat, enjoyed by all age groups in a family.”

However, Britannia, despite being a food company, is among the few companies that to not board the ‘immunity boosting, hygiene and added vitamin’ bus in the Corona era. Reportedly, the company is planning to launch products in the ‘health and immunity’ space in the biscuits and dairy segments in the coming months.

"We are watching the health and immunity space closely."

“Interest in health and immunity products is on the rise. We are watching the space closely, is all I can say at this moment,” Subramanyam signs off.