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Dipy Sachdeva: We have a bigger ambition to make Weikfield one of the most loved food brands in India

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After nearly six decades, Weikfield Foods, famous for its custard powder and pasta, recently announced a repositioning strategy with a new brand identity with a promise of “Giving life to life’s little celebrations”. The new strategy will include a new logo, new sonic identity and a new mass media campaign. In an exclusive interview, Dipy S Sachdeva, CEO, Weikfield Foods reminisces about the company’s journey since 1956 and the reasons for the new brand identity

Tell us about the journey of Weikfield from a small food factory in Pune to its current status.

Weikfield Foods was founded in in 1956 by three brothers with a simple motto “to produce food products of extreme purity, supreme quality and dashing economy and pledged to bring the food products industry of India on the forefront of the world food industry.” They began operations by manufacturing and selling three of its iconic products to the local market in Pune – Cornflour, custard powder and baking powder. Such was their vision and ambition that, they began to spread their wings beyond the local horizons and started selling and distributing their products in all parts of the country. Over time, Weikfield set-up three state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities – two in Pune, Maharashtra and one in Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh.

Over the past 60 years, Weikfield has been creating a world of wholesome and delicious products, bringing the goodness of global cuisine to homes and delighting the taste buds of millions in India and abroad. The company has made many additions to its diverse portfolio of internationally inspired food products over the years to cater to the changing tastes of the consumers. Starting with the iconic portfolio consisting of custard, cornflour, baking powder and cocoa to its recent entries like pasta, falooda, sauces and cake mixes, its products have become immensely popular with a very strong customer equity. Weikfield today, is not only one of the few iconic brands which has flourished for over six decades but also the No#1 brand for custard powder, cornflour, baking powder and vegetarian jelly crystals in India.

It has been a remarkable story of sweet success, earning the trust of millions and delighting many generations with great taste and great quality. The company will continue to be a companion in the joyful moments of consumers lives and for many decades to come in an effort to become one of the most loved food brands in India and abroad.

What are your insights on the impact of Covid-19 on the food sector in India?

Covid-19 has an impact across all aspects of the food industry in India. While we are still analysing the changes in consumer demand patterns, it would not be too early to say that major grocery, packaged food and ready to eat/cook categories have seen a surge in demand due to obvious consumer behavioural changes.

In the lockdown period, consumers not only experimented with cooking but also looked to indulge. Some of our categories like custard, pasta and baking saw significant lift during the lockdown period across markets. Our recently launched Chef’s basket Pasta Kits have become a super hit during this period as first time cooks are looking for easy and convenient solutions. As more and more consumers got hooked onto the baking trend, we struggled to keep pace with demands for items like baking powder and cocoa powder. Home made desserts suddenly took flight and products like custard became the go to item to satisfy the sweet pangs. Pasta is another category which became most sought-after item with consumption growing 2 to 3X in some markets as per Kantar home panel data.

As more and more Indians took to cooking, another big trend that took off is search for recipes to make restaurant like food at home. We leveraged the same by creating recipe videos and distributing the same through our social media handles.

With respect to trade, E-com and neighbourhood Kiranas have had a much more critical role to play in meeting consumer demand than ever. We deeply engaged with these partners apart from partnering with hyperlocal delivery platforms like Swiggy, Zomato & Dunzo to ensure our products are available. Technology became a game changer in this period. So, our tech-enabled order taking system helped us book orders from retailers over telephone. Even for order fulfilment, which was the biggest issue of all, we partnered with tech-enabled companies to streamline the same. Thus, while MT and HoReCa channels faced the brunt of this pandemic, we are looking to cater to the changes in demand and fulfilment patterns by aligning our resources accordingly.

Today we still have challenges in operating under constraints of manpower, travel restrictions, physical meetings /reviews. While we are trying to cope with these challenges, it is imperative that we acknowledge this as a new normal and develop innovative ways to meet the consumer demand.

Your new brand identity. What was the aim behind it and what was the design mandate given to the agency?

Over last six decades, we created a comprehensive portfolio to cater to the changing tastes of the generations of consumers that we served. Our iconic portfolio consisting of custard, cornflour, baking powder & cocoa including our recent entries like pasta, falooda, sauces & cake mixes are immensely popular with a very strong customer equity. We take pride in what we achieved so far but we have a bigger ambition to make Weikfield one of the most loved food brands in India based on the platform of international cuisine.

The aim behind this new identity development is therefore to set the Weikfield brand up for meeting our ambition. Our brief to the agency was simple and it was to give the brand an avatar which represents an evolution from our illustrious lineage – bridging the past with the future in an attempt to make the brand relevant to the current times for all generations.

 Is the HoReCa sector a major contributor to your sales?

Yes, HoReCa sector plays a critical role in our overall businesses. We enjoy great trust with our HoReCa partners who prefer our products over competition to achieve the same consistent taste and quality. However, this segment has tanked by over 80 per cent in the last few months.

Which of your products is the major contributor to turnover? What is your current manufacturing capacity? Any plans to expand?

Our iconic products like custard, cornflour, baking powder and cocoa are the highest contributors along with our recently developed pasta range. Also, niche products like organic green tea, fresh and canned mushrooms under the Eco Valley brand contribute handsomely to our overall business. We have exclusive distribution rights of French Preserves brand St Dalfour which is tremendously popular in select markets.

Currently we have three plants – two in Pune and one in Nalagarh. Our current capacity utilisation is comfortable and has enough room to support our growth ambitions, we are not looking to add fresh capacity.

Your Eco Valley brand of organic tea and mushrooms. Do you supply to the HoReCa sector and what has been the response?

Our Eco Valley Organic Green tea is the finest range of green tea that’s out there in the market. Our teas are grown at 8000 feet above the sea level, in the garden in Nilgiris and that’s why our teas are smooth & not bitter unlike products from other popular brands. However, this range is currently retailed through Modern Trade, General Trade and E-commerce channels and is not available in the HoReCa channel

On the other hand, we have a good mix of business for our mushrooms – both from retail as well as HoReCa channels. Like our other ranges, our HoReCa partners prefer our mushrooms over competition due to the quality of our produce.

Future plans? Any new product lines in the pipeline?

We continuously bring in new products to create consumer excitement and tap into emerging trends. Immunity boosting products has seen strong consumer offtake driven by current pandemic. We are launching two new products in the Herbal Infusions range – Divya Kawach and Pahadi Kahwa with immunity boosting benefits. We are also expanding our custard range with introduction of a new flavour – Kesar Pista Custard which would be with real Pista bits. With this introduction, we will have total 5 flavours – Vanilla, Mango, Strawberry, Butterscotch and Kesar Pista. In the pasta range, we are relaunching our range of instant pasta with new packaging and new flavours. We will be introducing two new flavours in the range Masala Twist and Creamy Mushroom apart from continuing with very popular flavours like Tomato Salsa and Cheezy Mac.

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