Ananya Pathak
Post Lockdown

"The absence of household help has helped fuel demand"

Sachid Madan, chief executive - frozen snacks, fruits and vegetables, ITC, talks about how the frozen food market will change after lockdown.

Earlier this year, ITC introduced a new range of over 50 frozen food products under the ITC Master Chef brand. This included Hara Bhara, Beetroot, Dahi, Rajma ki Galouti, Falafel (vegetarian) and Chicken Galouti Kebab, Chicken Mediterranean Kebab - targeting both retail and food service players. During an interview then, Sachid Madan, chief executive - frozen snacks, fruits and vegetables, ITC, told us that the traditional target audience for the brand has been families with kids. And, this is why the focus of most players has been on French Fries and other kid-friendly snacks. Madan said ITC’s frozen snacks repertoire is a complete food solution for professional chefs as well as homemakers.

During these trying times, we reached out to Madan again to get his take on how the frozen foods market is affected by the lockdown, and what will change for it once all this is over. Here’s what he had to say.

Once the lockdown is lifted, what will be your big priorities?

The health and safety of our team, as well as our value chain partners, continues to be our topmost priority.

Given the unprecedented situation, there has been a disruption in the supply chain, especially in the last mile - from the distributor to the retailer. While we are witnessing improvement in the situation daily, availability at the retail end and the ability to service our customers continues to be a challenge. Thus, the other immediate priority would be to replenish stock at the retail end and, where required, ensure availability with the distributors.

Will your market behave the way it was before the lockdown, or will there be subtle changes?

It is difficult to predict at this point of time.

We are seeing an increasing demand for packaged foods, especially from quality brands. Most retailers, who were open, experienced stock-outs for ITC Master Chef. While we don’t have hard data due to the lockdown, anecdotal evidence is pointing to a higher trial by non-users and an increased consumption by users for ITC Master Chef. Households found this a preferred option to eating out or ordering in or cooking from scratch. The absence of household help has also helped fuel demand as, consumers sought the convenience, taste and variety that frozen snacks offered. We expect that many of our consumers will continue using frozen snacks in the future.

The bigger challenge is in food service where a number of HORECA (Hotel, Restaurant, Cafe) players are shut, except those who adopted food delivery models. These customers have increased their purchases. Going forward, we will see an increase in home delivery.

Anecdotal evidence is pointing to a higher trial by non-users and an increased consumption by users for ITC Master Chef.
Sachid Madan

Will your broad view of marketing communication be different from before in some way?

Most marketers will increase focus on communicating food safety, in addition to taste, convenience, uniqueness, variety, etc. We believe that consumers will be seeking reassurance on quality, and will tend to gravitate to high quality brands that they trust.

Also Read: "Consumers have made a seamless transition to digital mediums in a matter of a few weeks": Sapangeet Rajwant, Viacom18