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It is very difficult to build food categories in India but the cereal category has slowly but surely inched its way into a sizeable segment: Sumit Mathur, director – marketing, Kellogg South Asia

In an exclusive interview Sumit Mathur, director – marketing, Kellogg South Asia speaks about the strategy behind the brand’s new Indian flavour variants created with Chef Ranveer Brar and why it is important for a brand to immerse in local insights

Kellogg has just introduced three new variants with Indian flavours. The brand is generally known to be a Continental breakfast option so getting Indian flavours into a product like that, what’s the strategy and vision behind this?

We have been in India for now more than two decades now and we are proud to have created a legacy of a new category. It is very difficult to build food categories in India but the cereal category has slowly but surely inched its way into a sizeable segment. There is lots of intensity happening now, new flavours coming in, they say it’s reaching the critical mass. Having said that, I think for us to take the next phase of growth, it’s really important for us to immerse ourselves in local insights. When I say local insights (and it’s a journey we started almost a year and half ago), I mean that two things are really critical if we want to grow – penetration, because that’s the basic task to reach more households, We need to talk to time precious nutrition seekers in the morning, those who want nutrition but have no time in the morning – what better can you have than a breakfast cereal, quick on the go, and wholesome as well. So that’s what we are building, we immerse ourselves in local insights. In fact that’s what our new branding basically talks about – If you love someone don’t let them leave home without breakfast.

But as we build towards the next level of penetration, what’s equally important is that we really have food that’s worthy for our customers, not just the nutrition of it but food that’s truly relevant from what Indians like. We together with Chef Ranveer, have been on this journey together, and we said how to we infuse chefmanship in whatever we are doing as an organisation – you really need to think what goes well with milk; what is it that consumers look for when they have their milk. Everybody drinks milk in India, milk is a huge consumption product. And that’s when we came up with the idea of flavours like Kesar, Rose, Thandai – traditional flavours that invoke memories we have grown up with. The two mega trends in India, and globally for that matter, are being real and authentic and going back to our roots. So that’s been our journey for the Get Real campaign.

Which are the markets you are targeting with the new variants and generally which has been Kellogg’s biggest regional market in India?

We are a pan India brand across our cornflakes portfolio and similarly for the new variants too we are looking at an all India reach. We are a more urban centric brand. When I say urban it still means 100 to 150 odd cities – that’s where the majority of our business comes from. And I think there’s significant opportunity to increase penetration and consumption. That’s the market we are looking at.

What about Tier II/III cities?

When I say Tier II/III, we are a part of it by the way and clearly a part of category development. We look at category development very holistically. I spoke about proposition, about product portfolio and the third part is how well you are placing the price pyramid. At the top of the pyramid we have Muesli, granola.
For the new variants what are the promotions you are planning to do?

If you have great food, the first thing you need to do is to make people try. So my first dollar is on sampling. We have a massive sampling programme in store, for the entire year across the country, where people will get to try this food. I have 100 per cent confidence that when people try it they will fall in love with it. Apart from that digital is becoming so important – the second part of promotions will be behind building awareness of the variants across digital platforms.

What about ecommerce?

E-commerce is already a big platform for us so we don’t talk about it separately in our minds. It’s almost a channel like a morning trade channel. Food as a category has been growing rapidly on this platform, whether it is Big Basket or Amazon. It’s doing very well, even for us it’s a disproportionate part of our growth. We are without giving exact numbers, in terms of our contributions from ecommerce, relatively higher than most of our FMCG competitors.

Future plans? More such launches coming up?

Launches will always be a part and parcel of what we are doing. As long as they will help us drive penetration in our portfolio and we have the right food which consumers love, we will continue to truly embed craftsmanship and chefmanship in the food we make.

How big a role does institutional sales play?

It is a big part of our portfolio because you will go into any hotel you will find cornflakes there. So hotels is one e.g. but canteens, corporate canteens, all of those are already there as a channel and that channel is different. Therefore we have a team that is in place and we are continuously looking to expanding our portfolio in the B2B segment.

What about the competition?

We are the market leaders. More and more new companies are coming in which I think is a very good thing because competition is good. Secondly, whenever the penetration of any category is low, the higher the consumption and more people will try it. But in all of that how do you focus on the consumer in her/his language on solving real problems in life – in case of Kellogg, solving the nutritional problem when you have a very busy morning. As long as you are focused on that it’s alright. The category will grow as consumers will love our food.

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