Shopping truths about daily products

Harish Bhat | Updated on August 22, 2021

Daily use: Each household, on average, makes 300 brand purchases a year

How the pandemic has shaped our buying of consumer goods such as biscuits and shampoo

Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are a good barometer to track everyday consumer buying habits, because they are used regularly, around the year. These are familiar products such as biscuits, tea, coffee, milk, soap, shampoo, disinfectant, and, in recent times, the ubiquitous hand sanitizer. That is why I look out each year for the insightful brand footprint study focused on FMCG brands, published by the Worldpanel division of the data insights company, Kantar. This year’s study is particularly relevant, because it presents a snapshot of buying behaviour during a full year of the pandemic.

India’s most chosen brands

To begin with, the study highlights the FMCG brands which are chosen most often by Indian consumers, measured by the metric of CRP (consumer rating points). In 2021, the top five most chosen brands in India are : Parle, Amul, Britannia, Clinic Plus and Tata. Parle, with a CRP of 5.7 billion, continues to lead the pack, a testimony to the power and accessibility of this much-loved brand.

CRP is the number of households which buy the brands in any given year, multiplied by the average number of times that each household buys that particular brand, across categories, during the year. So, if a brand is bought by 1 million households, and three times on average by these households, then the brand has 3 million CRPs. This number reflects the aggregate number of purchase occasions in which the brand features.

An interesting data point to reflect on is the total number of CRPs, across all FMCG brands. This stands at approximately 90 billion per year. Since India has approximately 300 million households, it means that each household, on average, engages in a total of 300 brand purchases per year, or 25 brand purchases per month. The marketer’s constant opportunity and challenge is getting his or her product into this coveted basket of chosen brands, each month.

Health and hygiene wave

The study reveals that brands which have gained the most this year have been driven by health and hygiene. The insight here is quite simple. In the midst of the pandemic, consumers have taken the extra effort to protect themselves, and also enhance their overall health, wellness and immunity. Look at the five brands which have gained the most household penetration during the year — Dettol, Lifebuoy, Savlon, Harpic and Tata (salt, tea and foods). All of them feature in the health and hygiene space. It also appears that the health and immunity wave is here to stay for a long time – a research study last year has highlighted that 84 per cent of millennials and 75 per cent of Gen Z consumers are constantly worried about their personal health, and they are the consumers of tomorrow.

Big brands get bigger

An interesting insight from this year’s study is that the biggest brands, including market leaders, have gained much more than smaller players, in most categories. Seventy six per cent of all brands which feature in the list of top 50 have grown their CRP compared to the previous year when only 50 per cent of brands managed to do so. Why is this happening? This trend actually began much before the pandemic, even as GST created a far more even playing field, and demonetization severely impacted smaller brands that tended to operate in the cash economy, often avoiding statutory levies. Now, the pandemic has brought new challenges to people’s lives, and in periods of such uncertainty, consumers tend to gravitate towards bigger brands, which typically command greater trust. For the same reason, most consumers will also stick to tried and tested brands, and are likely to experiment with a new brand only if it offers some real, relevant and distinctive point of difference. Newcomers now face a greater challenge to induce trial.

Less leads to more

As the pandemic continued to be all around us, consumers made fewer visits to their local kirana stores for grocery purchases, driven primarily by the need for safety. However, they spent more during each such visit, to ensure that there are no stock-outs at home until the next shopping trip. This has many impacts. Bigger pack sizes of brands tend to gain, at the expense of small packs. Brands have to align their supply chains accordingly. In-store visibility, including point of sale material, may end up playing a more restricted role, if consumers are visiting the stores less often, in the first place. Smart product bundling and brand communication can leverage this insight quite powerfully, too. The jury is out on whether this consumer behaviour will persist post the pandemic.

Household penetration is key

Notwithstanding various impacts of the pandemic, the Kantar report emphasizes the continuing importance of household penetration for every FMCG brand. Getting into many more households, at least once a year, is perhaps the single biggest predictor of future growth and market share. While many of the trends highlighted above may be new, this appears to be an eternal truth.



Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views

Published on August 22, 2021

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