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INTERVIEW

"Establishing strong product categories has challenges"
Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Cornitos sale has seen positive growth in the last couple of years due to changing consumer preference for healthy snacking. With new food preferences, the discerning consumer wants to ‘Eat Healthy, Live Healthy’ and enjoy a wholesome, holistic life. However, establishing a brand like Cornitos as a strong entity in India is a challenge, reveals Vikram Agarwal, director, Greendot Health Foods, in an email interaction to Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:

How has the company fared since its inception in 2009?
We fared well with our flagship brand, Cornitos and sales are increasing annually. Cornitos not only commands a sizeable share in the Nacho Crisps market but has also kept pace with the evolved taste of healthy India. Initially Nacho Crisps was launched in Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. Over the years, it has expanded to Tier-II and Tier-III towns and currently is available across 300 cities with over 30,000 retailers.

With a pan-India presence, our  nachos major is available across major FMCG stores including Spencer’s, EasyDay, More, HyperCity, Big Bazaar, Nilgiris, Le Marche to name a few. We, GHFL, have extended our product range Roasted Nuts and Taco Shell packs too. Cornitos is one of the few brands exported not only to the US but also Australia, China, Singapore, the UAE and South East Asia.

What led you to develop Nacho Crisps or Tortilla into the Indian branded snack foods market?
The snacking category back home did not have any major Indian healthy snacks brand. We saw this gap as an opportunity and hence launched Cornitos as a healthy and premium snacking brand seven years ago. Unlike other markets such as the US and Mexico, where producers such as Nachos and Tortilla chips are independent product categories, establishing these as strong product categories in India was my  ambition. While launching Cornitos, the focus was to enter an uncontested space where competitors were yet to step in, reduce our entry costs and getting better value.

Provide us a peek into the success of the product.
Cornitos is one of the leading FMCG brands in the Indian snack market with a growth rate of 30% annually. The brand now commands more than 70% market share in Nacho Crisps Category in India. The company has 10 exotic flavours of Nachos which suits the Indian palate very well.

Unique taste of Cornitos, Flavored Tortilla Corn chips is a big hit with the consumers who are tired of consuming ordinary snacks. They are crunchy, in 10 exotic flavours and part of healthy snacking. Cornitos flavours are Peri Peri, Sizzlin Jalapeno, Extra Cheesy - Cheese and Herbs, Tomato Mexicana, Tikka Masala, Sea Salt, Lime and Mint, Thai Sweet Chili, Barbeque and Wasabi.

What is the competition for you in the market and what is the size of the branded snack foods category market in the country?
We see no competition in Nacho Crisps Category. Several competing brands were launched last year but were unable to make an impact on Cornitos sales as we maintained product quality standards. We thank our customers for being supportive to us. However we cannot comment on the exact size of the branded snack foods category market. What makes Cornitos different is its unique preparation and healthy ingredients. It is made by the Mexican Lime-Treatment process of making traditional masa using stone ground non-GMO corn. Cornitos is 100% corn snack, gluten-free, zero cholesterol and zero trans fats.

Throw some light on your manufacturing facilities. Is contract manufacturing on your cards?
Cornitos pays umpteen heed to its quality check and follows stringent quality and safety guidelines. The product is continuously tested by the in-house lab for identification of any impurities as per FSSAI guidelines. The manufacturing plant has metal detectors in the processing line which helps to detect ferrous and non-ferrous metal impurities.

The production facility at Roorkee, Haridwar district, Uttarakhand, is equipped with state-of-the-art processing machinery and  is manned by a team committed to quality. It  has hygienic manufacturing environment right from lime treatment of corn to packaging of Nachos. The whole production line is automatic controlled by latest computerised machines. Handpicked premium qualities nuts or roasted cashews and roasted almonds are processed through imported roasting lines to ensure uniform roast.  

The unit is ISO-22000, HACCP and Halal certified company. It also has registrations from FSSAI and US FDA. Contract manufacture is not under consideration. GHFL has tripled its production capacity to maintain adequate supply.

Which are the markets that are driving your sales?
Sale contribution modern trade is 40%, general trade share is 55% and the remaining 5% is from exports. Metropolitan cities are the main revenue contributors.

In terms of flavours, what, according to you, are the most sought after?
Cornitos is keen to lure snack lovers into a journey of global taste with 10 exotic flavours. From Hot Peri Peri to Sweet Thai Chilli is an  open world market for Cornitos. Flavours like Sizzlin Jalapeno, Extra Cheesy consisting of Cheese and Herbs, Tomato Mexicana and Tikka Masala are in good demand.

What are the research efforts of the company with regards to Nacho Crisps among other innovations?
Two years of research went into the development of Nacho Crisps as a product. The greatest challenge was to choose a correct variety of corn kernels and exotic flavours for Nacho Crisps that could cater to every palate. Currently our research team is working on new flavours that will be launched this year.

How rich is your research pipeline?
Our product development team is working on new healthy products which should be launched in mid- 2017.  We are planning to add new flavours in Nacho Crisps Range, add premium roasted seeds in Cornitos Pop-N-Crunch range and Multi-Grain Snacks. Our main objective is to provide quality product at affordable pricing thus creating a benchmark in snack industry. New product development is done according to latest global culinary trends.

How easy is to get the right workforce?
It is not easy to get skilled workforce. Our department of human resource is constantly searching right candidate for the  right position. Cornitos boasts of a good employee retention rate. Friendliness, flexible policies, fun at work, rewards and accolades are the key drivers to employee welfare. Value remains the core of our foundation. As per company policy, we also provide employment to people with special needs.

Your company is well entrenched in the Government of India’s Make in India initiative. Comment.
While we enjoy our successful presence in India, we are also thrilled to be leaving imprints across the world. The response from international markets has been truly overwhelming so far. It is indeed a feat for a home-grown brand to be stocked alongside international brands and winning prestigious global laurels. Since, we are also focussing on a well-thought out expansion plan, we are expecting steady sales revenue numbers in the coming years as well.

Brand intends to spearhead the healthy snacking market in the country. The consumers seek fresh, no preservatives added, natural and minimally-processed foods that help prevent diseases and promote good health. Taking care of these factors, Cornitos products are non-GMO, zero trans fat, zero cholesterol and high in protein with nature-identical seasoning.

How would you describe the current scene for branded snack foods category?
The Indian snacks market continues to be dominated by chips, extruded snacks and traditional sweets and salted savoury snacks. Another key emerging category is gourmet foods or snacks which is fast gaining acceptance with more Indians travelling overseas and getting exposed to new products and flavours. International gourmet snacks are now widely available at supermarkets and modern trade.

What are the visible trends in this market?
In the snacks segment, new launches and investments have followed a set pattern. There is a tendency to follow leader brands. This has led to the growth of me-too brands. I believe in following the blue ocean strategy, which involves putting a differentiator brand or idea in place and creating more value for the consumers.

Cornitos sale has seen a positive growth in the last couple of years due to changing consumer preference for healthy snacking.  With new food preferences, the discerning consumer wants to ‘Eat Healthy, Live Healthy’ and enjoy a wholesome, holistic life. Cornitos has complete range of healthy snacks, nachos, Pop-N-Crunch range which includes premium cashew, almonds and coated green peas and tacos. The range offers high protein, high fibre, low fat, high nutrition, gluten- free, non-GMO, no MSG and all natural flavour products to its health-conscious consumers.

What are the challenges for companies like yours in this space?
Create awareness for international gourmet snacks is our main challenge. Unlike other markets such as the US and Mexico, where producers such as nachos and tortilla chips are independent product categories in themselves, establishing these as strong product categories in India has their own share of challenges.

To create awareness around the product, we undertake a lot of sampling at schools, modern trade stores and general trade ensuring that the product is being tasted by consumers.

Another challenge is right distribution of our products. We have been selective in our approach. For this we assess the markets where premium and international gourmet products are already available. We do not go for mass distribution; instead we reach out to a smaller number of distributors who are already handling premium and niche products. It has been our constant endeavour to innovate with excellence and make premium quality products.
 
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