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INTERVIEW

“Adoption of latest tech helps not to lose natural aroma of fruits”
Monday, 08 July, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
FnbNews The inspiration behind the inception of Fresca Juices was to provide Indian consumers with more flavours beyond what was earlier available to them which was just mango. “With the conviction that we could fill this gap in the market, we were able to present the consumers with an unrivalled range of over 11 flavours,” Akhil Gupta, founder & managing director, Fresca Juices, tells Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:


How has the company fared since its operations took off in 2010?
Ever since we entered the Indian market, our offerings have been innovative. When the fruit beverage landscape lacked any variety in terms of flavour, ours became a pioneering brand by introducing 11 extraordinary flavours in the Indian market.

The company was thus well received in the market and in no time, gained high popularity. In spite of a few hassles, in the beginning, we have fared pretty well since inception in 2010.

What, according to you, are the key strengths of your brand where you could highlight the quality of juices, packaging and distribution channels reach especially in northern India ?
Among our many strengths is the unrivalled variety of flavours that we bring to the market. On top of it, we do so at really affordable prices - something that our customers appreciate about us. Our innovation in the carbonated fruit drinks (CFD) category, also gives us an edge over others. Our excellent packaging and pleasing brand look of our products also sets us apart.

Which are the fastest growing products?
Fastest growing products are CFD and Litchi juice in our range of products. CFD has fruit content and also attracts the millennial population because of its fizzy nature. The Compound Annual Growth Return is 50-60%.

What is the company’s edge in the market in the wake of stiff competition?
It is the range of flavours we offer and our affordability which gives us an edge over our competitors. We are also known for offering large SKUs in PET from Rs 10 to Rs 120. At the moment, we are the only brand to offer over seven flavours in aseptic packaging, more than any other local or national player in the market. We are also the first brand in the country to introduce holographic aseptic packaging with four flavours.

Provide details of the advanced technology at your manufacturing plants.
We do regeneration of fruit pulp and sugar which do not go waste in washing.

Latest technology does not allow to lose the natural aroma of fruit. Operations are done through fully automatic plants and there is no physical contact required. Hence, there is no chance of contamination.

What is the kind of investment slated to make these advancements in production and brand positioning?
It requires considerable investment. The more automation is done, higher is the cost. Investment may vary from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore depending on capacity of plant.

Right now northern India is your stronghold, could you give us a peek into the expansions to western and southern India? The company also plans to  tap the western markets starting from Maharashtra and then move down south. Give details.
Now that we have already established in the north Indian market, we are looking forward to making our presence felt nation-wide. We are all set to foray into west and south India. Apart from setting up our own distribution outlets, we will be reaching out to local distributors to ensure a wider footprint. Once we gain a foothold there, we might even look into introducing a range of local flavours in the areas for higher customer satisfaction.

How do you view the growth prospects in the eastern states of India?
Eastern states have a great potential as people in eastern India have a higher rate of consumption of juices as per their eating habits.

Going forward what is the kind of expansion envisaged?
Our main expansion objective is to create a national presence. To achieve this, we need to devise regional strategies to appeal to our diverse target audience across different geographies.

In the northern market, we are seeking to penetrate into smaller cities, where the fruit beverage market still lacks quality brands. We see that the market here is ripe for a change that we promise to bring. In south and west India, since we just establishing our presence, we are currently limiting our focus to bigger cities and will continue to make deeper inroads as we grow. Apart from this, we will continue to expand our product line and drive innovation, as we have done since the inception.

FSSAI is deep into the implementation of new packaging regulations. The new regulation aims to adopt standards which will regulate different packaging components such as plastics, glass, paper and printing inks across the packaging supply chain. Comment.
The company is already increasing its exposure in tetrapacks instead of plastic and shifting to food grade inks which are being used. As far as plastic is concerned, we only use virgin PET, which is recyclable.

How would you describe the current scene for packaged fruit juice brands?
The time is ripe for phenomenal growth in the fruit-based beverages category. The industry has grown at a CAGR of over 30% over the past decade. Currently, the Indian packaged juices market is valued at Rs  1,100 crore and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 15% in the next few years.

What are the visible trends you sight?
We can see that the industry is moving quickly towards the carbonated fruit drink category as well as low/no sugar content products. Brands in the cold pressed category are also witnessing growth as the percentage of the health-conscious population is rising.

What are the challenges faced by companies like yours to grow and succeed?
Companies face many problems, most distinct of which arise due to not following FSSAI manual guidelines. But we make it a point to stick to these regulations. This, apart from compliance in other areas, is what has helped us sail smoothly through the highs and lows of the industry. This way, we also make sure that there is no gap in our operations. Thus, apart from some basic issues that arise in managing any business, we did not face any challenges.

In your view how receptive are VCs and PEs to fund this segment of food processing?
The growth in the fruit beverage segment is driving VCs and PEs to invest in it. In many cases, it is their funding that is contributing to unbridled growth. These days we see increasing instances of investors moving towards fruit beverage startups. Seeing the sector’s performance in the past years, they are investing substantially in promising, innovative players.
 
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