We’re evaluating new food trends that gained momentum during lockdown: ITC’s Hemant Malik

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on May 25, 2020

Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive, Foods Division, ITC Ltd,

Significant uptick in essentials; salience for larger-size packs


Consumer goods major, ITC Ltd, has been in the news for the acquisition of Kolkata-based packaged spice-maker, Sunrise Foods. The move is aimed at strengthening the FMCG portfolio of the company.

Over the last few quarters, the company has been steadily ramping up its foods portfolio with new launches. In this context, Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive, Foods Division, ITC Ltd, speaks about the segment and its performance, new launches and the way forward. Excerpts:

How do you see summer sales being impacted for both the industry and ITC Foods, this fiscal?

There has been a significant uptick in demand for essential food items including ‘Aashirvaad’ atta, spices, salt, ‘Sunfeast’ biscuits and ‘Yippee!’ noodles. Such high quality Indian food products have been flying off the shelves very fast. Our teams have been working tirelessly to ensure availability of such essentials despite supply chain challenges.

With consumption of discretionary spending items like snacks, premium chocolates and coffees likely to be hit, what is ITC doing in this regard?

The demand for discretionary and on-the-go food offerings including confectionery and chocolates remain muted currently and will start picking up once the lockdown restrictions ease. But it is expected to be lower than previous years. Revival of demand for such products will also be a function of shops reopening and availability.

There will be salience for larger-size packs going forward as people are preferring to buy in bulk and, therefore, reducing frequent top-ups.

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We are also evaluating some of the new food trends that gained momentum during the lockdown.

For example, Dalgona coffee (beaten coffee) has emerged a hugely popular trend and ITC had recently launched a relevant variant of its Sunbean coffee brand – the Beaten Coffee in select markets. ITC is geared up to further leverage this emerging trend by ramping up availability of the product across platforms including e-commerce.

Is the company witnessing a rise in demand for packaged / ready-to-eat offerings and noodles? How is demand being handled, on this front?

Consumers are exercising preference for trusted world-class Indian food brands that are safe and hygienic. We have witnessed an enhanced demand for noodles and biscuits besides staples. Aashirvaad, Yippee!, Sunfeast and B Natural are high quality packaged food brands that are made in India, for the Indian consumer, with agri produce sourced from Indian farmers.

Can we have some numbers on how Yippee performed as a noodles brand during this lockdown period?

We have witnessed a tremendous surge in demand for ‘YiPPee! Noodles’.

Our teams have made all efforts to ramp up production in our factories, whilst adhering to stringent protocols of hygiene and safety.

During the lockdown people have found it convenient and comforting to consume instant noodles almost like a staple. ‘YiPPee!’, considered tasty, filling and nutritious contain vegetables, witnessed heightened demand.

The category witnessed an increase of over 10 per cent in demand during the pandemic. Going forward, we expect enhanced consumer franchise for ‘YiPPee!’ with special focus on atta noodles and large sized packs.

We have also launched a campaign featuring our brand ambassador, M S Dhoni, assuring consumers of the availability across the country. I would like to laud efforts of teams and partners who have been working to ensure enhanced production during such difficult times.

What about launches?

Launches will be calibrated based on shopping behaviour and evolving consumer trends. It will be focussed on addressing immediate consumer needs that emerge in the new normal.

ITC’s foods division will be accelerating its offerings in the wellness and nutrition space. Recently, we launched lassi in Kolkata and Bihar under the ‘Aashirvaad Svasti’ brand.

There are some reports of a showdown between the company and labour unions, about absence of workers. How is this being handled? What is the company’s take?

ITC’s workforce across factories have braved odds to ensure that essential food items are delivered despite supply chain challenges, including labour shortage and transportation bottlenecks.

We have received tremendous support from our teams and workforce across value chains. Therefore, we have been able to ramp up production of our essential food items, while ensuring highest protocols of safety and hygiene for employees.

There had been some stray instances of a few workers who abstained from work despite being provided safe transport with social distancing norms, all safety precautions at work, additional incentives and meals, as well as directives from the local administration. However, a large number of their colleagues have continued to present themselves at work and contribute meaningfully to the national priority of manufacturing essentials during a pandemic.

Published on May 25, 2020

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