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Sting in the retail: HLL blows dust off old brands

27-July-2005
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Sting in the retail: HLL blows dust off old brands

Brands that were not a part of HLL's power brand strategy are now being revived to crank up growth rates and tackle growing competition.

For starters, the Captain Cook brand has found its way back to shop shelves. The brand was a part of International Best Foods' product portfolio which HLL inherited some years ago, following the company's acquisition globally by Unilever.

Similarly, Clinic hair oil is back on retail shelves while the Sona brand of spices (marketed under the Knorr moniker) too may be relaunched. The brain behind the revival of the old brands is said to be Harish Manwani who recently took over as HLL's non-executive chairman. Sources said the company mandate is to market any brand that is likely to fetch good volumes and fights competition effectively.

After the merger with IBF, HLL had decided to focus only on Best Foods Knorr soup brand, defocusing on Captain Cook salt, Brown & Polson custard powder and Rex jelly.

HLL officials were unavailable for comment. HLL's presence in the spices market was through the Sona masala brand, which came with subsidiary Brooke Bond India. After 10 years, the company re-entered the spices market under the Kissan brand in '00 which was test-marketed in Andhra Pradesh and withdrawn later.

The Kissan brand and spices were a mismatch, analysts say, since the name was closely identified with fruit drinks and ketchup.

While HLL banked heavily on the Annapurna brand - which turned out to be a major disappointment in the atta and salt segments - the Captain Cook brand, though starved of investments, is still believed to have a strong brand equity among consumers.

Under the stewardship of former HLL chairman MS Banga (currently past of Unilever's eight-man apex executive committee), HLL undertook the first restructuring by slashing its brand portfolio to 30 power brands from 110. The rest were dropped, sold, or brought under larger brand umbrellas or are now simply regional brands. The 30 power brands account for over 80% of HLL's FMCG business.

Foods, which includes beverages, jams and squashes, and ice creams, now contribute to around just 15% of its turnover down from 28% in '01.

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