Any dessert choice is a competitor for me: Chaitanya Rele, VP, Head of Marketing, Havmor Ice Cream
Rele can't stress enough on the difference between frozen desserts and ice-cream..
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Havmor, a 72 year old ice-cream brand, which till 2007 was confined to Gujarat, is steadily spreading its wings across the country and pushing itself into the top league of ice-cream makers. Chaitanya Rele, VP, Head of Marketing, Havmor Ice Cream Ltd tells us how the brand hopes to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore by 2020. Excerpts:
How did the peak summer season pan out for Havmor with regards to sales?
We have achieved more than 100% of what we had anticipated. This summer was significantly better than last year because back then we were still penetrating the market. In terms of visibility, we are a lot more prominent now on TV and Print. Because of that we have driven upwards of 25% growth in the first quarter this year. Despite GST’s impact, we are seeing growth even in July which is surprising because it is the worst month for ice-cream sales in India. We are doing phenomenally well.
Tell us about your latest digital film ‘Coolest Summer Job?’
Broadly ice-cream flavors in India are still categorized into the boring vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. We thought why not work with our consumers and create real flavors for India. Unlike MNCs which prefer to do market research and then work on the flavors based on the feedback, we brought the consumer into the manufacturing process itself. Havmor invited online entries for the position of Chief Tasting Officers (CTO) and the chosen few worked with us to create some brand new flavors. We had Vicky Ratnani and Sanjana Patel, famous chefs from Mumbai to guide them. Every month we’ll send some flavors to the CTOs for feedback and also get them to do a little market study for us. It’s going to be an annual exercise for us. As far as our marketing mix is concerned we are targeting Digital medium largely and banking on the Experiential component as well.
What are these unique flavors, and how soon will they hit the market?
A lot of my competitors have a long proud history of copying everything we do. If I reveal the flavors now, they might get it to the market before us. One of these flavors will hit the market by Diwali while the others will be out next year. The peak season kicks in around Holi. We will introduce the product in the market by February 2018 so that by mid March we have at least 80% penetration, post which we will start advertising. These are flavors nobody would have thought of. We are trying to make flavors that Indians will love. Don’t expect a pani puri flavor just because of the Indian thrust. A flavor like that will be a novelty, which you may taste once but may not have it every time. At the end of the day I am a mass market brand, and volumes are important. So, this was not a frivolous exercise, we were trying to work out their commercial viability.
What is the market share for Havmor today?
Out of the Rs 10,000 crore ice-cream market, the organized sector is about Rs 5,000 crore strong. At this point, if we were to speculate, Havmor is amongst the top five brands with about 10% market share. We should be able to overtake a few brands this year.
What is your strategy to penetrate the Southern market?
We are spending Rs 200 crore in the next three years on expansion in the Southern market, we are already in three states and yet to enter Kerala and Tamil Nadu though. The challenge in frozen chains is far greater than in cold chains and ours is the former. So, we are looking at investing in another facility in South-Central India in the next two years. But the response we have seen in some states is amazing. Firstly, some markets have been growing for us at over 180%. For e.g. Telangana market, Hyderabad specifically is doing very well for us and so are Chhattisgarh and Delhi. Our research revealed that in a lot of these markets the options in ice-creams was very limited.
What do you think about the ice-cream vs. frozen dessert war between HUL and Amul? And which category does Havmor fall in?
We make real ice-creams and not frozen desserts. Two factors are very important to Havmor—being a vibrant and fun brand, and authenticity. We proudly write all the ingredients we use, be it medium fat ice-cream or any other kind, on our packets. Brands like Vadilal, Cream Bell and Walls will try to hide the fact that they make frozen desserts as best as possible. We would prefer to help our consumers make the right choice by not lying to them. Also, we are the only brand in India which is singularly focused on making ice creams. For e.g. Amul has a dairy business with a total turnover of maybe around Rs 30,000 crore, but ice creams is barely Rs 1,000 crore. I am not even counting the second largest player – Walls because they don’t make ice-cream. Same is the case with Cream Bell and Vadilal as most of their products are frozen desserts. So it is that much more important for us to make authentic ice-creams.
You are in a steady expansion mode across the country, have you considered roping in a celebrity to cut the ice with the consumers?
Try my product, if you don’t like it, I won’t be able to convince you to buy it again with or without a Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. Most of the time we get a positive response, like for example our chocolate ice-cream bar Zulu Bar has completely won over the market that was once dominated by Feast. Feast was the most prominent ice-cream by Kwality Walls, which was heavily advertised, but over the past couple of years how often have you seen them advertising the product. We are very focused on the quality of our product and repeat purchases they inspire.
Who do you see as your biggest competitor?
I have plenty of competitors and not necessarily restricted to the ice-cream space. Any dessert choice is a competitor for me, because you won’t have a gulab jamun or cake and then an ice-cream. The reality is that while ice cream is not exactly a ‘healthy’ product, it is a nutritious product. The real ice cream is one of the best sources of vitamins and has only 10% fat as opposed to any other dessert which has at least 35% to 40% fat, making it the healthiest of the dessert options. So, our attempt is to give my consumer a Belgian chocolate flavor without him actually having to eat chocolate, or maybe rasmalai, modak or laddu ice cream, flavors that have really worked for us. In fact our pan ice-cream is made with real ingredients, so much so that the consumer says ‘we are eating pan’. My job is to give consumers different options in ice-creams.
With brands like London Dairy, Magnum, the market has opened up for premium ice creams. Is Havmor also focussing on the premium space?
I have a difference of opinion. The only thing that Magnum has proven is that sex sells. The brand is about sex appeal, showing sexy girls walking around with cats. Their current ad is a two-year old one from the US recycled for India. What they are trying to do promote a lifestyle for you. We have a less expensive product called Blockbuster that competes with Magnum and uses the same ingredients as Magnum. It is a good product, no doubt. As much as Walls’ marketing team and PR propagates that frozen desserts are better, their premium brands Magnum and Ben and Jerry are made with milk. Why don’t they make these with vegetable oil, it is obviously because they know they can’t emulate the flavor and texture that way. As far as Havmor is concerned, we don’t want it to be a lifestyle product. I feel like I can bring quality flavors, products, ingredients and great ice creams to every man, woman and child in the country. In fact ice-creams are a great leveler. Ice-creams are messy and that’s the joy of eating it. I would rather be seen selling that.
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