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INTERVIEW

“We are market leaders with a share close to 25%”
Monday, 22 March, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Having started India operations in 1994, Perfetti Van Melle India Pvt. Ltd. (PVMI) today offers a diverse portfolio of brands across segments (i.e. candies, jellies, gums & chewies) which provide a differentiated consumer experience. The company’s extensive distribution footprint spans 4 million outlets across India and the manufacturing facilities are located in Manesar (Haryana), Rudrapur (Uttarakhand) and Karanai Puducherry (Chennai) among others. Some 26 years since its inception, the company’s power brands like Center fresh, Center fruit, Alpenliebe, Happydent, Mentos, Alpenliebe Juzt Jelly, Chupa Chups continue to both delight and engage with the consumer with innovations across category expansion, variants, flavours, promotions and clutter breaking advertising campaigns.

Rajesh Ramakrishnan, MD, PVMI, in an email interaction with Manjushree Naik gives an insight into the company’s success story and more. Excerpts:

Tell us about your India presence in comparison to some of your strongest markets.
Perfetti Van Melle India, a subsidiary of the global conglomerate, started operations in India in 1994 with a vision to enhance their global presence in the confectionary space by creating value for consumers through delightful and imaginative products. Today, the company leads the sugar confectionery market in India with almost 1/4th of the value share, and its journey in India has been dotted with a lot of exciting innovations and engaging communication.   

The company enjoys the reputation of being the market leader in the confectionary space with a diverse portfolio of brands across segments (i.e. candies, jellies, gums & chewies) which provide differentiated consumer experiences across age groups. Our extensive distribution footprint spans over 4 million outlets across India. The manufacturing facilities are located in Manesar (Haryana), Rudrapur (Uttarakhand) and Karanai Puducherry (Chennai). In the 26 years since its inception, our power brands like Center fresh, Center fruit, Alpenliebe, Happydent, Mentos, Alpenliebe Juzt Jelly, Chupa Chups continue to both delight and engage with the consumer with differentiated innovations and engaging communication.

Your products are global but also have a regional and local flavour. Elaborate.
Innovation is a part of our DNA.Our strategy has always been to continuously innovate to delight the consumer through new brands, new variants, new flavours, new promotions and clutter breaking advertising campaigns. This approach over the years has helped us to keep the consumer engaged with our brands.

India continues to be one of the largest and fastest growing confectionery markets in the world. In terms of opportunities, the market is evolving at a rapid pace with new brands and wider flavour offerings. India is also an interesting market given the varied taste preferences across the country. A lot of our innovation efforts are to address the opportunity of regional/local preferences- seasonal fruits, Indianised flavours including Kacchha Aam, Guava etc. Some of our products offerings include Chupa Chups gum filled lollipop, Alpenliebe JuiCyfills – liquid filled fruit candy and Alpenliebe Juzt Jelly Guava flavour.

How far the confectionery industry was affected by the pandemic?
The confectionery segment is part of the larger impulse purchase category that is highly dependent on footfall in the streets. Hence just like any other business, we were severely hit by the pandemic especially during the initial lockdown phase. With schools, offices and shops shut during the lockdown, the sale of confectionery products dropped dramatically during April-May. The urban markets were more impacted as compared to rural markets.

How has been the recovery so far, especially, in India?
Given that around 90% of the sales takes place in the 50 paise and Re 1 price point, the recovery was also that much faster. Consumers view confectionery products as affordable treats for their children and hence continued to buy them post the initial lockdown phase. Therefore the bounce-back has been good. We are hopeful that with gradual opening up of schools, colleges and other office spaces, the category will recover fully back to pre-Covid-19 sales levels.

Which are your products that are very popular, what is their market share?
We have a strong portfolio of iconic brands which are uniquely positioned against various consumption occasions. Over the years, all our power brands have enjoyed immense love and adulation amongst their respective target audience, both in urban and rural markets. We are market leaders by far with a market share close to 25%.

What kind of growth is envisaged in India going forward looking at the young population in the country?
India’s population is amongst the youngest in the world. This is largely a digitally enabled population that is always seeking newness and convenience. We have several offerings lined up to meet the needs of our consumers and we expect to continue with our healthy double-digit growths in the coming years.

Consumers of all ages consume products that fulfil their functional needs and connect with brands at an emotional level. This is not likely to dramatically change during or post the pandemic. In fact, consumers are increasingly gravitating towards trusted brands and seeking more value in terms of convenience. I believe that brands need to stick to the fundamentals – understand and anticipate consumer needs, offer differentiated products, build strong consumer engagement and drive distribution.

What are your future plans for India in terms of new launches and collaborations?
We have consistently worked towards creating innovative products and building iconic brands. We then leverage the equity of these brands to further create new categories and provide differentiated experiences to consumers.

One of the key trends that we see is moving towards fortification, especially, in the F&B category. Consumers are looking for products that provide health related benefits in these times. Keeping this in mind, we had launched Alpenliebe JuiCyfills in 2020 – a liquid-filled candy with fruit juice and Vitamin C. We have also launched Center fresh Clean Breath mints at Re 1, which provide 60 minutes of clean breath.

Another key trend has been a move towards greater in-home stocking and consumption, and therefore our efforts towards providing family packs or large packs which are more attuned towards in-home consumption. There is also a greater shift towards e-commerce across categories and that is visible in the sales we have observed across our e-commerce partners including Amazon, BigBasket and Milkbasket to name a few. Going forward, we will continue to look at such strategic tie-ups.

Besides these, we have several other product innovations in the pipeline and we will continue to expand our portfolio while leveraging our global expertise and local strength.

Tell us about your R&D and innovations.
We have very strong R&D set-up both globally and in India which continues to work on locally relevant innovation.
 
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