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We’re going to see a lot more buying happen because of influencers: Mayank Shah

Adgully is back with a new edition of its annual feature – TRENDING NOW – where we present the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of the pandemic period.

ALSO READ: Parle reminisce about India’s journey with Parle-G on 73rd Republic Day

Over the next few weeks, Trending Now will bring insights from industry leaders on how their organisations are gearing up to seize the opportunities in 2022, break through the Covid disruptions and find growth and remain resilient.

In conversation with Adgully, Mayank Shah, Senior Category Head, Parle Products, speaks about his expectations from sectors like Ethical buying, Purpose-driven brands, Health and Wellness and more can dominate in 2022, as well as the challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

What are the trends that you expect to dominate in your sector in 2022?

We have seen a lot of changes in the consumer psyche and consequently the whole segment in the last two years, and we can expect the following trends to be dominant in the sector:

Consumers wanting to take back control – People have gone through a very difficult time in the past two years and COVID has affected almost everybody’s lives. They felt helpless as things that were happening were simply beyond their control. I think people would want to take back control of their own lives by not just buying necessities but also going for products that they actually want to indulge in. We also saw the rise of online facilities such as e-commerce because of which consumers were able to purchase the items that they wanted at their own convenience. But the traditional brick-and-mortar stores that everybody had almost written-off have also made a comeback because of some conveniences they offer due to knowing the consumer personally such as extending credit, supplying the order in just a few minutes, etc. So in my opinion, people would like to take control of the products they choose as well as the mode of buying.

Increasing focus on Health and Wellness – Though we saw the rise of this trend during the pandemic, it is likely to still continue as people have educated themselves on matters of their wellbeing and are now very conscious about the products that they consume. Be it portion sizes, reading labels to know the nutritional value of foods, what they buy, or even how they buy, people have definitely gotten more conscious. People would like to have healthier options and are expecting brands to cater to this expectation as well.

Ethical buying and Purpose-driven brands – In today’s time, brand voice matters more than ever. People want to buy from brands that align with their personal beliefs and now consumers don’t even hesitate from walking away from brands that they deem are not up to their own ethical standards. Brand activism is at its peak right now. But what is equally important is whether brands are actually ‘walking the talk’ - whether they are true to your purpose or is it just a ruse. It should not just be a cosmetic thing but brands should actually deliver on the ethical standards that they may claim to maintain. Even Parle Products as a brand prides itself in being ‘Bharat ka Apna Biscuit’ and we have tried our very best to  stand by the community during crisis. You will find Parle-G biscuits being supplied during calamities as well and we have generally rushed to help people at such times. Even during the pandemic we gave away 3 crore biscuit packs when there was a shortage of food and most companies were busy making profits as there was a lot of pantry loading and speculative buying due to the panic over food supply.

Many companies were not able to operate as they were unsuccessful in inspiring their employees, but we continued to run our plants with measures such as appropriate social distancing, masking and sanitization, and other hygiene practices. Our products were available in the market and we tried to live up to the faith that people have placed in us over the years.

New launches and increase in Consumption – After the two years of the pandemic and handling all the panic and agony caused by it, consumers are really looking forward to seeing some normalcy returning to their lives. People consider the last two years of their lives ‘wasted’ and now want to seek enjoyment and pleasure. Be it hospitality or tourism or even food, people would want to splurge and try out new things even if it  is a premium product in which case they may go for smaller portions or pack sizes.

Rise of tailor-made content and Influencers – On the media front, we would see the rise of tailor-made, snackable, and targeted content. As opposed to fiction, people are now turning to realistic content but that has to be specific to their likes and dislikes. They are also not interested in longer texts, but would rather read something that conveys the message in a succinct manner. Also notable is the rise in Influencers - with companies pudding out more and more advertisements, consumers are losing faith in brands. Less than 20% of consumers think that brand created content is authentic or true. As opposed to this, people now put their faith in influencers who they perceive to be a more authentic source. We are going to see a lot more buying happen because of influencers.

What are the challenges and new opportunities that you see emerging in the year ahead?

The biggest challenge going forward would be managing the costs or inflation in the aftermath of the pandemic. Consumers will also seek more value out of every rupee they spend. Cost of raw material is also going up and it will be challenging for brands to maintain their own costs and transfer these costs onto consumers. People turning towards ethical consumption may also be a challenge to brands as they would actually have to put in efforts for the community as opposed to just talking about it.

When it comes to opportunity, we will see a lot of ‘revenge buying’ across sectors as consumers won’t mind trying out new products or even splurging a little. So in my opinion, now is the correct time for brands to come up with new offerings or campaigns.

How is this year's turnout to be in this sector as compared to the last two years? How strong will this sector’s growth be compared to the last two years as well as the pre-Covid period?

The coming year would see a very different turn-out compared to the last two years. In the last two years, it was seen that people generally flocked to their previously trusted brands, as there is a sense of comfort in familiarity, especially during times as tough as the pandemic. There were actually people that consumed certain confectionery from Parle and they moved on from the brands due to certain reasons, but started consuming it again due the nostalgia factor and things like these make people flock back to the brand.  But now they will be more adventurous and want to try out new things. Now people may seek out new experiences and this is the time when brands will become active with product launches. In terms of recovery, we are going to see very strong demand coming in provided brands are ready to encash on the opportunity post this pandemic. Growth will be robust not just compared to the last 2 years, but also to the pre-Covid times.

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