Our focus is on content & education than on advertising: Sagar Boke, TCPL - Foods

Sagar Boke, Head - Marketing, Tata Consumer Products – Foods
Sagar Boke, Head - Marketing, Tata Consumer Products – Foods

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered and will continue to alter consumer behaviour in terms of their prioritisation of purchases, with increased focus on health and nutrition, as well as consumption of home-cooked food. This has given companies like Tata Consumer Products a huge opportunity to increase relevance in consumers’ lives.

Now that India has kicked off its lockdown exit strategy, the hitherto blocked distribution channels will reopen and the demand-supply chain will be bridged. However, having embraced online buying during the lockdown period, consumers are expected to continue with this convenient mode of shopping.

In this interaction with Adgully, Sagar Boke, Head - Marketing, Tata Consumer Products – Foods, takes stock of how COVID-19 has changed consumer sentiments and how Tata Consumer Products has been fortifying its strategy to bank on the increasing demand for health and nutrition-based products.

How has the demand been for ready to eat products during the lockdown period? Was there any growth/de-growth during this period?

The pandemic is globally shaping consumer demand patterns in a way we have never seen before. One such trend that we have observed during this period is the increasing demand for health and nutrition-based products in addition to convenience and easy to store food. As a result, products from the Tata Sampann stable such as Tata Sampann 6 Grain Khichdi Mix, Tata Sampann Multigrain Chilla Mix and Tata Sampann Low Oil Absorb Pakora Mix have witnessed nearly double demand as they tick all the boxes of nutrition, health and convenience. While catering to sudden influx of demand has been a challenge, we are navigating at the moment. The segment has had 50-60% growth for us compared to the same time last year.

What kind of product strategy have you planned during this pandemic? Any new product launches in the pipeline?

Saftety, Immunity, Nutrition – As we get through the COVID-19 situation, consumers are seeking products that aid preventive healthcare. Hence, we will ramp up focus on immunity significantly and also educate the consumers on food safety and hygiene; bringing forth these aspects for our products. Following the Ministry of AYUSH’s guidelines for COVID-19, our Tata Sampann spices range with some spices being immunity boosters, are also a focus for us. Most of our products from the Tata Sampann stable help build nutrition and immunity. We are also focussing on Tata I-Shakti Cooking Soda, which can be used to wash fruits and vegetables to ensure hygiene. Our focus is to not only communicate this, but also trigger a movement towards healthier options and ensure that the consumer is able to access these products.

How are you planning your marketing and advertising campaign? Any tactical campaign planned to keep the saliency of the brands?

Our strategy has always been about being a nutrition partner to our consumers by helping them through the food they consume and not just being on air for the sake of it. For example, through Tata Salt, we see ourselves as health enablers by providing right amount of iodine for mental and physical development of babies and also helping in keeping micro-nutrient deficiency (Iodine in our case) at bay. Also, in these changing times, we understand that parents are constantly looking for interesting ways to keep their children engaged and productive at home. Thus, keeping in mind our promise of ‘Desh Ki Sehat, Desh Ka Namak’, we launched Tata Salt IQL (India Quizzing League) – a daily format quiz to keep kids mentally active and helping them learn more about ‘Bharat’ positively. This initiative was met with success as we on-boarded 350,000 participants in a span of just seven days.

For Tata Sampann, Indian nutrition backed by science is at the core of the brand. We always look to provide ‘Sarvagunn Sampann’, that is, wholesome nutrition to our consumers. The conversations around physical, mental and emotional well-being during the on-going lockdown are critical to help consumers remain unscathed. With digital becoming a primary medium to connect with consumers, we activated a digital campaign – ‘Beat the Lockdown’. We partnered with a psychologist, leading nutritionist and certified yoga instructor, who worked with us to educate consumers on how to ‘Beat the Lockdown’ by focusing on their mind, body and soul.

We are amongst few essential FMCG brands that experimented with TikTok as a platform and launched the ‘Har Din Haldi, Har Ghar Healthy’ campaign. This is in line with the advisory from the Ministry of AYUSH that emphasises on building immunity through natural ingredients like turmeric – an Indian spice known for this for ages and need of the hour right now. As part of this campaign, we had celebrity nutritionist Kavita Devgan on board, who shared interesting tips and quick recipes around Haldi, such that it forms a part of their daily diet, thus helping in boosting immunity. This campaign garnered 30 million+ views and innovative Haldi recipes were well received by consumers.

I truly believe it is important to communicate only if we can make it purposeful by staying relevant in the current context. Our focus is on content and education than on advertising.

What is your current media strategy? Will you shift your media focus by leveraging more of digital? Within digital, what will be your thinking to reach your audience?

We have been focused on digital as a channel strategy for both our brands – Tata Salt and Tata Sampann for a long time now. Digital plays a key role for Tata Sampann specifically, as it is an important growth medium for us. Post COVID-19, our focus will continue to be able to connect with our consumers across digital platforms, but in newer and more experimental ways. Tata Nutrikorner is our nutrition platform that talks about Indian ingredients and their nutritional value through expert voices in the food and health arena. Television again is a platform which is making a strong comeback during this time and is a definite watch out when it comes to consumption of brand communications.

What does the new normal look like? How much has the COVID-19 crisis disrupted business operations?

With the dynamic changes in the environment, the word ‘new normal’ sounds like an oxymoron. COVID-19 has disrupted the entire value chain in more than one way. The COVID-19 situation has pushed us to operate in an extremely agile manner, where keeping safety in mind, there is a definite focus on reaching out to our consumers with our portfolio of essential food products that include Tata Salt, Tata Sampann Spices, staples and pulses. Amid growing concerns over food safety and quality Indian consumers are putting more faith in home grown nutritious Indian ingredients and that is exactly what we are poised to offer. There is also a definite uptrend in nutritious and home cooked meals. Finally, we aim to strengthen supply by catering to growing demand for these products by being available on multiple platforms. Platforms significantly gaining traction at the moment are digital and e-commerce and tele-selling. For TCPL - Foods, we will also continue to explore additional supply chain collaborations – currently, we are already active with platforms like Zomato, Flipkart, Dominos, among others.

Post the lockdown, what kind of consumer behavioural shifts are you expecting? How do you plan to meet the same?

It is important to remember that with the phased lifting of the lockdown, the impact will be seen for a long time, resulting in altered behaviour. This means that consumers will continue to practice social distancing, demand high nutrition quality food products, be cognizant of hygiene, discretionary spends and so on. While all of these come with their own set of challenges for any business, at Tata Consumer Products, we look at this as an opportunity. We will see trends relating to immunity and trust in traditional wisdom (especially in culinary matters) develop quickly and brands will pull out all the stops to have as much direct access to consumers as possible. Our proposition of the ‘Indian way of nutrition’ for Tata Sampann is relevant today more than ever because of increasing consumer disposition towards the traditional wisdom. Consumers will take to more of home-cooked meals with a focus on health and Tata Sampann and Tata Salt are two brands from our portfolio, which will be ready to offer authentic solutions to this.


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