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Mental models formed during lockdown to drive consumer behaviour, says Tata Consumer Products official

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on June 15, 2020 Published on June 12, 2020

Richa Arora, President- Packaged Foods India, Tata Consumer Products

Convenience and health gain impetus; tech to drive agenda

As consumers progress beyond the phase of restricted living with the lockdown being eased in many areas, mental models formed during the lockdown phase are likely to continue to drive consumer behaviour. Though the lockdown has eased, consumers’ minds could be in lockdown mode for sometime, says Tata Consumer Products official.

What consumers take away from their imposed isolation and the impact on their psyche could well percolate to their consumption behaviour, tempered by a new appreciation for consuming less.

“Spending at malls, movies, eating out, etc will remain curtailed for some time. Though food and fitness will continue to be centre stage, consciously and sub consciously, along with health and nutrition will also come a desire for variety in everyday home food,” says Richa Arora, President, Packaged Foods, India, Tata Consumer Products.

The official has noticed a trend during the lockdown. “The desire to limit exposure by avoiding stepping out of home or even taking delivery at home from someone ‘outside’ will continue to drive bigger pack sizes, bigger shopping baskets, with limited trips. This also means that discretionary trips and (overall) spending will remain curtailed, while there will be a greater focus on products for in-home consumption,” Arora told BusinessLine, speaking on consumer mindsets and how the company fared during the lockdown.

On health and nutrition

Apart from heightened concerns about health and nutrition, “convenience is also a key consumer trend we are seeing - people wanting to buy and consume products that are convenient and easy to store,” says Arora.

The company has seen a run on some of its products. “In the initial weeks there was a surge in demand for both Tata Sampann unpolished dals (lentils) and the organic dals range, as well as our ready-to-cook range of Nutrimixes such as 6 Grain Khichdi Mix, Multigrain Chilla Mix etc. Now, as we move into the phase of ‘unlockdown’, demand is coming back to normal levels, though it remains marginally higher for some products,” adds Arora.

Immunity & health

Preventive healthcare is gaining more impetus among consumers, says the official, with immunity and health high on consumers’ minds.

“For Tata Sampann masalas, which we launched a few years ago, we had changed the category narrative, from masalas being just for taste, to showcasing their therapeutic properties and health benefits. Tata Sampann Haldi has been at the forefront of our efforts, with the spotlight on Curcumin, the active ingredient which helps deliver immunity boosting properties of turmeric,” adds Arora.

Consumers also appear to be moving away from proactive health minded buying to reactive health management. Covid-19 has altered consumer behaviour, says the official, with a sharp uptake in demand for home cooked meals: “traditional Indian foods that are healthy and nutritious. The Tata Sampann brand at its core has always been about the ‘intersection of traditional Indian wisdom and modern science’, and Tata Salt has been at the forefront of the iodisation programme in India. Both brands in the foods portfolio - Tata Sampann and Tata Salt - are well poised to address the changing consumer landscape.”

Time to ACT

Noting that the FMCG sector has always been resilient in tough times, the official maintains it is this quality that will help it bounce back. While the discretionary parts of FMCG may take longer to get back on track, foods and essentials are already getting on track.

“We have to continue to ACT,” Arora points out, “That’s my shorthand for Agility, Creativity and Innovation. One of the key learnings to emerge from the Covid phase is that agility and ability to adapt will be more critical than ever before. Creative solutions, including direct-to-home distribution models and new-age options such as selling through AI Bots/Tele-selling, will get more prominence bringing in more efficiency in the system.”

Technology has been a saviour during this phase. “Consumers have been moving to online and digital solutions as well as contactless channels due to health and hygiene concerns, as well as the increased convenience this offers. We will see many new models evolve due to changing consumer needs and buying behaviour,” adds Arora.

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Published on June 12, 2020
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