Frozen food as a category is still very nascent in India. Despite the constantly changing preference of consumers and increase in the working women population, the purchase frequency is still limited at 2-3 times a year. There are numerous barriers which McCain has to tide over in order to create a vibrant frozen food category. There are still no big national players, only local players who are competing with each other.
In an interview with exchange4media Gunjan Pandey, GM, Marketing, McCain Foods India speaks about the frozen food category, challenges which need to be overcome, marketing mix, celebrity association and the brand’s response from the smaller markets.
What has been the marketing mix for McCain Foods?
The frozen food category is extremely small, it is very nascent and we are the market leaders in this category. There are no big national players, but only small local players. So, it was our role to build the category. Frozen as a category has different barriers, like consumers used to feel that frozen is not fresh and has preservatives. So our marketing mix and objective has been driven by this.
Sampling has played an important role for us, we do approximately 7,000-8,000 pieces of sampling across the year and we do it in the modern trade outlets. We also do a lot of recruitment drives, whereby we get people to the category. We did a study to understand what is in a shopper’s monthly basket and introduced free samples across categories. This has been mainly to get new people to the category.
Our marketing mix has mainly focussed on TV, print, outdoor and a lot of digital to get visibility. Our TVCs have mainly focussed around occasions, like kids coming from schools, family meetings on Sundays, etc. So, there is a twofold strategy to our marketing mix- managing the existing guys and getting new consumers on board. I have to balance both because the base is small.
How big is the frozen food category in India? What is the growth rate?
It is a very low penetrated market but it has increased over the years. It is a small category, it is growing, but strangely no one’s really auditing it. There are different numbers floating in the market, so it is very difficult to estimate the actual size. But growth wise it is going in double digits. The frequency of the product that people buy is still 2-3 times a year. Our work is pretty difficult and therefore our marketing attempt is- how do we get into the monthly basket of consumers.
What kind of challenges do you still need to overcome?
Distribution is a big challenge for us, like any other FMCG we can’t be on the shelf, we need a freezer. Modern trade outlets like Reliance and Big Bazaar are still struggling with freezers and that is 50% of our business. The rest 50% comes from the Mom-and-pop stores, which are the kirana stores. Over the years we have evolved our distribution, we started with 10,000 outlets and we have doubled in the last 2-3 years. This is the reason why we prefer to be in the top 50-60 towns, because we know we have the infrastructure to handle it.
Who is your target audience?
Its mainly mothers in the age group of 25-45 years. They could be with kids or without kids, staying in the top metros and having a hectic life.
Which is the most popular product in your portfolio?
Our portfolio consists of Indian and International products, so from the international we have the fries, which is the biggest for us. If you look at India, which has an evolved palate, we developed the Allu Tikki, the Chilly Garlic Potato Bites and the Masala Fries, keeping in mind the Indian taste.
So McCain is more urban specific? What has been the response from the smaller towns?
Yes we mainly target SEC A top 50 towns, but the data shows that we are down to the other smaller towns as well. The reason being, these smaller towns are also evolving, we are available in 100 towns, but our main focus is on the top 50, so that infact covers a lot of the tier-ii towns as well.
How has Karishma Kapoor’s association with McCain helped the brand?
We got Karishma Kapoor two and a half years back when the brand was still evolving. We realised that we needed a brand ambassador to take our message to the consumers. She has really contributed a lot to the brand and is the right fit. The contract initially with her was for two years, but looking at the kind of association and relatability which she has brought to the table, we have extended it six months back.