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INTERVIEW

“We can’t get patented candy due to price barrier”
Monday, 02 July, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Swan Sweets Pvt. Ltd is a confectionery manufacturer known for hard-boiled sugar confectioneries since 1991. Located at rapidly growing city of Jamnagar, the company emphasises on quality and customer satisfaction consistent with well-defined strategy of modernisation. The company has product manufacturing and packaging lines for products such as hard-boiled sugar confectionery, lozenges (herbal & Ayurvedic) and fortified sugar confectionery. The company's clientele portfolio includes D S Group, Godfrey Phillips Ltd, Piramal Healthcare Ltd, and Jap Agro Foods Pvt. Ltd. Having expertise in manufacturing functional candies in various ingredients ranging from ginger, curcumin, capsicum and lutein, keeping in mind the benefits of various ingredients from nature, Viral Shah, chief executive officer, Swan Sweets Pvt. Ltd, in an email interaction with Shraddha Joshi, shares insights on trends and role of price points in the confectionery segment. Excerpts:

What is the current size of the confectionery market in India in terms of volume and worth?

Current size of sugar confectionery market in India should be around Rs 10,000 - Rs 12,000 crore. In volume it should be around 1 million tonne a year.

Which is the fastest-growing segment in the confectionery industry?
The fastest-growing segment in the confectionery industry is chocolate. A lot of new concepts are coming in the market and it seems well accepted by the consumer. Earlier getting new concepts in the Indian market was a big problem as the buying power was less but now since the income of middle-class segment has increased, new concepts are well accepted in India.

What are the prevalent trends in the candy segment, which you, as an industry observer, has come across?

Usually the most prevalent trend in the candy segment is that a good new concept is very well accepted initially by the consumers but then after a few years there comes a saturation point and then the consumer is diverted to old concepts. For example, when jelly came in, there was a craze for jellies and then there was a saturation in the market and demand declined.

What is the consumer behaviour while buying candies? Can candies be classified as a premium product, middle-level or lower-end product?
As of now, candies cannot be classified as a premium product as we have recently broken a retail price barrier of 50p and shifted to Re 1. In India, people want maximum out of what they spend hence candies being classified as a premium product is still a dream. In fact, we wanted to get a patented candy to India but due to the price barrier of Re 1, we couldn’t get it in India.

What role do price points play in the candy sector? Will the prices of your products match those of other regular candies in the market? Will that help you to grow and open a new avenue to look at your product?

Price plays a big role in the candy sector in India. Candies in India are being sold at the lowest denomination of the currency. Higher priced products will definitely come with some innovation and value addition and help us being the innovators instead of copier but that seems impossible as of now as still in India it is very difficult to sell sugar-free candies due to its price.

The problem is with the manufacturers and also big brands. No one was ready to break a price barrier of 50p which was there for almost two decades. A lot had changed in two decades but no one shifted to Re 1.

What are the products offered by you? How are they different from others?
We were the first one to offer masala candy. We are one of the largest contract manufacturers of candies in India. We have fully automatic candy manufacturing lines. We have some unique concepts in candies which gives some wonderful health benefits, we call it functional candies. We even have candies without using any artificial/synthetic ingredients.

Do you have any plans to launch any new category under your brand?
We have recently launched few candies under our brand. "HartBeat" in fruit flavours and "Jatka" as masala candy. Our HartBeat was very famous in 90s hence, we have relaunched HartBeat. We are even working on a very unique concept which we have already developed in the laboratory through R&D but we are working on the production scale machinery which requires a lot of customisation.

Have you obtained certifications from any agency or a body claiming that your product is a functional product? Is this concept popular in the West or is a fresh one?
Ultimately it is a functional food. Hence, it is covered under our FSSC 22000 certificate. But functional food requires a lot of accuracy and the stability is also one of the main concerns hence, we have worked quite hard to achieve it. We have been manufacturing functional candies since 2001. The functional candy concept is quite popular in the West but we make it in a different manner than the manufacturers in the West to enhance stability. We are pioneer in it and we have expertise also.

Does your product only target kids or minors, or will it be placed for all those over the age of three?
In kids, we keep the taste of 10 years plus in mind while developing the candies as they start getting pocket money at around that age hence, they can buy candies as it is the most affordable product for them. Also, the major consumption comes from the working class as they have the buying power more than anybody hence, it is very necessary to target that class as well. Hence, all our products are targeted for all age groups.

What are your views over blending confectionery and nutraceuticals, that may impart nutrition from the growing age?

It is a very good concept. In fact, we have been manufacturing nutraceutical candies since many years now. But the demand of nutraceutical candies in India is very less. The major problem is that people are not aware of the concept and its benefits. And it is very difficult to make people aware as making people aware comes with a huge cost which is very difficult to recover for a manufacturer or seller of this segment.

Do you have plans to merge with FSSAI to promote your products, as several forums have discussed the need to come up with innovative products when it comes to imparting nutrition?

We will definitely merge with FSSAI to promote our products especially functional category for imparting nutrition.

Will the candy segment be as popular as it is in the rural areas in the next five years? Will new flavours help to keep the market more lively and to be ahead of your competitors?
As of now candy segment is popular in both rural as well as cities but slowly and gradually it is being taken over by chocolates. More than new flavours, new concepts for mass, which can be liked by people are very necessary. Since the market has moved to Re 1 segment they have some margins for R&D and hope to get some new and innovative concepts to keep the segment live.
 
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