Nestle India is aggressively moving ahead with 20-25 launches across categories that include addition of new “spicy” variants under Maggi Hot Heads, besides new additions to its product portfolio in categories such as milk and nutrition, beverages, chocolates and coffee.

Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director of Nestlé India, in an interview with BusinessLine said the company is focused on bringing back double digit growth as India remains a key priority market for the company. Excerpts:

Has Nestle India overcome the Maggi crisis that hit the company a year ago? Do you think you can reach the levels in terms of market dominance that Maggi enjoyed post the crisis? What new variants are you adding?

Maggi’s market share now stands at 55.5 per cent and we continue to be the market leader.

But, the task is not yet complete. While we have the leadership position, the instant noodles category certainly has been impacted adversely. Also, competitive intensity is much stronger and there is a need for us to be much faster and decisive.

I think the existential threat we were facing is now behind us. What we now look for is to recalibrate our journey. Many categories are vying for the share of the consumer’s stomach and wallet, as India is evolving rapidly.

Companies need to read the pulse of consumers, and the consumer shifts.

One opportunity we thus saw was to address the younger adults with a new set of variants of Maggi, which comes under Maggi Hot Heads – with four new spicy variants such as green chilli and barbeque pepper noodles. In addition, we have launched a variant called Maggi “no onion and no garlic” noodles, which we believe will gain traction not only in Gujarat but also in locations such as Vaishno Devi.

How are you looking to grow categories beyond Maggi?

We are focusing on growing our existing brands and introducing new offerings under these brands.

At the same time, we are looking at new categories. For instance, we have launched the Everyday masala dairy whitener variant; we are also launching a ready-to-drink Milk product Pro-gro for children with extra protein, while our baby food products are getting fortified with mineral.

We have recently entered the greek yoghurt segment with Grekyo, and there are a slew of products in other categories such as beverages, coffee and chocolates.

Overall, we have 20-25 launches that are already on the shelves or will be on the shelves in the next 4-6 weeks. Most of these products’ journey from being a “concept” to being launched in the market has been completed in just 4-5 months.

I can confidently say that this is the single largest burst of product launches we have had in a long time. So I would say that from weathering the storm, we have now started riding the wave.

Nestle has talked about returning to double digit growth? How will this be done?

India is a priority market for Nestle. Key vectors of growth include introducing new offerings through our existing brands as well as entering new categories. The other key task is to increase penetration of our products. Also, with a wide portfolio of products, we continue to be focused on offering our consumers the promise of food safety and quality. When consumers pick a Nestle product, they are assured to be picking up a quality product.

Looking at your new launches, it seems you are focusing more on premiumisation and the urban consumer? What is your strategy for rural consumers?

Nestlé’s product footprint in urban regions is larger than rural areas. Products that we have in our portfolio or the ones that we are launching now are more urban-centric. Some products clearly have got semi-urban and rural resonance. Our current offerings, premiumisation strategy, pricing strategy and our route-to-market strategy, are all guided by the urban-centric portfolio.

Also read: Nestle's helping hand to improve food safety

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