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Yogesh Bellani

Business Head, Del Monte Foods Business | 25 May 2010

Brand Del Monte has 118 years of heritage and is a globally renowned food and beverage brand. Del Monte is synonymous with taste and quality. Being devoted to consumer needs, we create products that are in accordance with consumer taste and preferences. To differentiate ourselves from the competitors, we make sure that we offer innovative products and a ‘never before’ product experience in each of the four product categories that we operate in.

Yogesh Bellani has vast experience in the food industry of over 15 years, with the last nine years as a Profit Center/ Business Head. He has extensively traveled across the world and has in-depth knowledge of the diverse markets ranging from India, South East and Far East Asia, North America, Western Europe, South Africa, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius and the UAE.

Bellani has worked with several companies prior to joining FieldFresh Foods Pvt Ltd that include Elgeebe Marketing (July 1993 to November 1995) , The Al-Falah Group (January 1996 to October 1999), Salora Group (November 1999 to July 2000), and Kohinoor Ltd (July 2000 to December 2007).

During Bellani’s tenure at Kohinoor Ltd, the company was selected by Target Corporation, USA as their exclusive partner for ‘Indian Culinary’. With his proficiency and constant persistence, the company signed a two-year contract worth $2 million with the largest Australian food major. Kohinoor Ltd also won a three-year ASDA-Walmart contract for manufacturing of Premium Oriental Cook and Premium Indian Cook-in Sauces under Bellani’s surveillance.

While working with The Al-Falah Group, he successfully set up and consolidated the exports division by continuously adding new products and markets. In January 1998, the company was able to establish a group associate company in Kuala Lumpur to further the trading operations of the group with Bellani’s expertise and understanding of the Asian market. He was also able to get mandate from ‘Proton’, the national car of Malaysia, to develop alternative vendors for castings and forging from India.

Bellani is also a guest lecturer at some of India’s leading B-Schools. He visits institutes like IMT Ghaziabad, Birla Institute of Management Technology, and Fore School of Management to share with the students his expert knowledge of international business strategy and marketing.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha Kashyup, Bellani speaks at length about Del Monte’s journey in India, growing the product portfolio in the country and the advertising plans.

Q. Could you please tell us a little about the different categories that Del Monte has built?

Brand Del Monte has 118 years of heritage and is a globally renowned food and beverage brand. Del Monte offers consumers a wide range of products that are high on taste and quality. Our product portfolio includes: fruit drinks: Pineapple (with real fruit pulp), Pineapple Orange, and Four Seasons (Pineapple, Mango, Orange and Guava); ketchup and sauces: Tomato Ketchup, Mustard Sauce, Zingo and Twango Sauces; packaged fruits: Pineapple Slices, Pineapple Tidbits, Prunes, Fiesta Fruit Cocktail, Peach Halves and Red Cherries; Italian range: Pasta, table Olives and Olive Oil, Whole Kernel Corn, Cream Style Corn, Jalapenos; and B2B range: Penne Pasta, Snack Dressing, Mango pulp, Tomato Paste, etc.

Food service customers, especially in the bakery and ice cream segments, can avail of institutional packs of Pineapple Slices & Tidbits, Fruit Cocktail, Whole Corn kernels, Peaches, Olives, and Jalapenos, etc.

Q. How do you differentiate yourself from the competitors?

Brand Del Monte is synonymous with taste and quality. Being devoted to consumer needs, we create products that are in accordance with consumer taste and preferences. To differentiate ourselves from the competitors, we make sure that we offer innovative products and a ‘never before’ product experience in each of the four product categories that we operate in. Del Monte packaged fruits like Pineapple Slices, Pineapple Tidbits, Fruit Fiesta and Peach Halves are hand-picked, cut and packaged on the same day so as to lock their freshness, nutrients and natural flavour. Del Monte packaged fruits have an extended shelf-life and are also available in easy-to-open cans to enhance consumer convenience. For our B2B customers, we also offer institutional packs.

Our Italian pastas are 100 per cent authentic, sourced from Italy, made of healthy durum wheat. Del Monte also offers a variety Spanish Olives, whether green or black, pitted or stuffed or sliced. Del Monte’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a healthier alternative as a cooking medium and comes in PET break-resistant bottles in 1 litre, 500 ml and 250 ml.

Del Monte fruit drinks are naturally fat and cholesterol free, without any artificial preservatives and are available in stylish slim cans. Staying true to its brand philosophy of constant innovation, Del Monte fruit drinks are also available through compact and attractive dispensing machines that ensure a quick and hygienic service. It also makes Del Monte the first international branded player in the fruit drink dispenser segment in India.

Our range of Del Monte ketchup and sauces are a perfect and original blend of delicious, rich red tomatoes and aromatic ethnic Indian spices, which tantalise the taste buds. We have recently launched two new sauce variants, named Zingo and Twango, in the ketchup and sauces category in India. Both the sauces are unique in taste and nomenclature and have brought in much-needed innovation in the ketchup and sauces category.

For the B2B segment, we work very closely with our national key accounts, offer institutional packs and even customise the products as per their requirements. We have our own quality assurance personnel, food technologists, nutritionist and corporate chef, who work on customising products for our key customers.

Q. How has the response been to Del Monte sauces in India?

The market response to Zingo and Twango has been overwhelming. The taste of the new sauces has been well accepted by consumers nationwide. The new sauces have been launched after decades of any major product innovation in this category. Both are unique in taste and have been created keeping in mind the taste and preferences of the Indian consumer. They stand out easily with respect to competitive offerings.

Q. What is the USP of Del Monte sauces?

Del Monte sauces are highly unique in taste and contain fresh vegetable and fruit bits. Both sauces can be used as dips and accompaniments for all popular Indian and western snacks like sandwiches, samosas, kebabs, tofu fritters, pakoras, omelette and momos to name a few. The added benefit is that both sauces can also be used for cooking and make excellent curry bases for traditional Indian/ Asian dishes such as crispy Honey chilli potatoes and sweet and sour prawns, etc.

Del Monte Zingo offers a sweet and spicy surprise, capturing the essence of far eastern cuisine and is a blend of red chilies, red bell pepper, garlic and ginger creating an alluring Asian taste. With only 29 kcal per serving (20g) and high in dietary fibre, Zingo is a delicious and spicy treat.

Del Monte Twango is a tangy and fruity sauce that brings an unusual twist to regular tomato-based sauces. It offers a never-before combination of juicy and tangy pineapple with sun kissed ripe tomatoes. With only 30 kcal per serving (20g) and a source of dietary fibre, Twango is a delectable extravagance – a must try for all.

Q. Del Monte also recently launched its first TVC in India. Was it a conscious decision to launch a TVC a year later? How has the response been to the TVC?

In September 2008, we introduced Del Monte product range in select markets through a few chosen partners. Over the next couple of months, we worked on establishing a strong distribution network and our brand name in India. Since Del Monte’s media launch in May 2009, we have reached the top 25 cities in India, cover more than 20,000 outlets on the retail side (including modern and general trade) and are now also present nationwide through our national key account partners like QSR chains, coffee chains and low-cost airlines. It was, therefore, a conscious decision on our part to launch the TVC at this point. This is because we have now been able to gain a stronger foothold in the market through our network than a year back.

Del Monte’s first ever TVC is a highly clutter-breaking and entertaining advertisement. The campaign effectiveness has been multiplied by the use of 360 degree media. We used in-store visibility, print, outdoor, DTH, OOH and online media successfully to reach out to our consumers.

Q. Any new launches in the pipeline?

As part of our summer plans for Del Monte, we have added two new flavours to our existing fruit drinks range, namely Orange and Green Apple. The Orange drink is created from a naturally sweet type of orange which suits the Indian palate, as opposed to the concentrate based sour/bitter orange flavours available in the market. The Green Apple is a path breaking flavour. The youth of today is steadily moving away from traditional flavours to newer and more ‘experimentative’ flavours. Del Monte’s Green Apple is just for them. Also, in the pipeline is the launch of our Mango drink in a stylish 202 can.

We are the only brand to offer a wide range of products in the Italian range. Going forward, we look at more offerings in this space. Our range and reach in the segment is already quite exhaustive and we will continue to expand the same and lead this category.

Q. What is your advertising budget?

We cannot share this figure with the media as of now, however, it would suffice to say that whatever is needed to establish Del Monte as a leading F&B brand in India in the course of its evolution shall be done.

Q. How has Brand Del Monte’s overall performance been so far this year?

Del Monte has been successful in gaining a strong foothold in the modern retail and select general trade channels. Within a year, we have spread across top 25 cities in India, including Delhi/NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata. Del Monte products are now available at all leading modern retail chains and popular retail stores. As a B2B player, Del Monte has made inroads into the HORECA segment. We have been able to develop business associations with leading QSR chains, coffee chains, pizza chains and various low-cost airlines. In a nutshell, the achievements have been outstanding.

Q. What are your expectations/ goals for the coming year?

The vision of FieldFresh Foods Pvt Ltd is ‘to be the most trusted and innovative provider of branded fruits and vegetables and processed food and beverage products’. With the Del Monte range of processed food and beverages, we want to become a leading player in India and be one of the top ten food and beverage companies in India by 2014. In the coming year, we are looking to launch, new products, roll out our distribution network to newer markets and strengthen the brand through ATL and BTL activities.

Q. Are your products competitively priced for the Indian market?

Del Monte products are extremely competitively priced as compared to others’ offerings in the categories that we operate in. In order to offer the finest quality to our consumers, we source our products from the best possible locations worldwide. But because of our supply side strengths and scale, we are able to offer better quality at practically the same prices.

Q. Please tell us about the different marketing initiatives you have undertaken till now?

We launched in May 2009 through the support of press, outdoor and in-store media. Since then, we have carried out various sampling initiatives to educate the consumer about brand Del Monte, our product range and to highlight the taste differentiation of our products vis-à-vis the competition. To achieve positive rub-offs on our brand, we have associated ourselves with a number of high profile events such as Mrs Gladrags 2010 for consumers and Ahaar 2009 and 2010 for institutional customers.

Towards the end of 2009, we had announced an anniversary offer, allowing many new customers to avail of our products. We have advertised on cricket events like the Indo-Sri Lanka series and the Tri-Series between December 2009 and February 2010. March 2010 onwards we launched the TVC on Del Monte sauces and conducted extensive sampling and visibility drives across main cities.

Q. What are your expansion plans and retail plans?

In the year 2009, we spread the Del Monte product range across North and South regions and parts of the Western region through key metros and mini-metros. Once the initial rollout happened and we were able to gain a foothold in these regions, we then shifted our focus to the Eastern market. In February 2010, we launched the Del Monte product range in the East, starting with Kolkata. We will continue to enter newer markets and smaller towns. We will also build on our strong network of modern trade channels.

Del Monte aims to expand its B2B presence through national and regional HORECA accounts. With our fruit drink vending format, we will enter more and more food service accounts. We have a series of new product launches lined up, which will be supported by significant ATL and BTL plans.

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