We’ve scaled up our reach from 15,000 to 50,000 outlets” Prashant Parameswaran
Tata Consumer Soulfull became a 100% subsidiary of Tata Consumer Products in February 2021. The company offers a wide product range and their primary focus is on the health and wellness food segment with a portfolio of millet-based products for kids and adults. With rich expertise in ancient millets like ragi, the brand has an innovative portfolio of products such as breakfast cereals, healthy snacks, muesli, and plant-based protein drinks. There is currently a great acceptance for millets as a staple among the fitness-savvy millennial population who are adapting it relevant to the 21st century diet. As a leading millet-based cereal brand, the company aims at reinventing millet products by targeting to the health-conscious consumers.
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Recently the National Nutrition Week was observed to raise public awareness about nutrition and healthy eating habits. In order to celebrate the significance of National Nutrition Week, Tata Soulfull conducted live sessions with nutritionists. The purpose of these live sessions was to spread the message about the nutritional benefits of millets, diet suggestions, different ways to integrate millets into one’s diet and build nutrition. While there exists a market for millets, brands need to run a strong educational awareness campaign to instill the belief about millets being good for a balanced diet.
In an exclusive conversation with Adgully, Prashant Parameswaran, Managing Director, Tata Consumer Soulfull, speaks about how the company plans to educate and create awareness for millets as a category, key trends in this category, integration with Tata Consumer Products and much more.
TCP has signed a MoU with IIMR and has also launched the new Tata Soulfull No Maida Choco. How significant is the association for the brand in terms of making millets more mainstream?
The MoU between TCP and IIMR is aimed at combining the R&D expertise of the two entities and will help TCP strengthen its product portfolio in the area of millets, develop more value added formats for consumers and make millets available to many more consumers across India. TCP is the parent company of Tata Soulfull, which is a brand offering a portfolio of millet based products for kids and adults. The MoU will cover key areas of collaboration, including ramping of innovations in millets, leveraging IIMR’s analytical and technical expertise and strengthening advocacy for millets. This is a significant development for us since Tata Soulfull’s core brand purpose is to make ancient grains relevant to the modern consumer. Millets are ancient grains widely grown around the world, India is one of the largest producers of millets. These include grains such as ragi (finger millet), bajra (pearl millet), jowar (sorghum) and also grains like kodo millet, barnyard millet and foxtail millet. The improved version of Tata Soulfull No Maida Choco comes with the added benefit of seven grains in a delicious chocolate flavour, and doesn’t have maida (refined flour). This offers consumers the right balance of health, taste, and convenience since it is made of nutrient-rich millets, rich in calcium and protein.
The concept of millets as a nutritional diet is getting popular. How is Tata Soulfull managing to educate and create awareness about their range of products in the Indian market?
There are multiple factors which are currently driving millet consumption in India. With the growing health and wellness trend, millets are becoming more popular. They are nutrient rich, high in iron, protein and calcium. While the consumption of millets in India is rooted in ancient wisdom, the timing is right now to offer it to consumers in convenient formats that integrate well with their lifestyles-brekfast cereals, snacks and drinks. Also, increasing urbanisation levels have led to changes in food consumption and lifestyle habits among consumers. So, there is scope for millets to evolve and become a mainstream category. Tata Soulfull is bringing these ancient grains which are an integral part of our heritage, back to the consumers’ plate in more suitable and convenient forms. Our entire product range, be it snacking, breakfast cereal, or beverages, is actually able to bring this to life.
The TCP acquisition has strengthened the brand’s credentials with consumers and also provided us a great opportunity to spread the goodness of millets by making them more mainstream. For example, we have scaled up our reach from 15,000 to 50,000 outlets and will be scaling this up further. Tata Consumer Products currently has a reach of over 2.5 million outlets, so the sheer distribution muscle will give the brand substantial growth.
We also have a strong focus on digital and leveraging e-commerce and our own D2C platform, www.tatasoulfull.com, to scale up our reach and awareness in the market. D2C enables us to engage with consumers directly, thereby enabling freshness of communication and more topical conversations which the Tata Soulfull consumer is seeking. As a part of 2023 International Year of Millets, we will work with various government agencies to educate consumers about the benefits of millets and their role as a Smart Food (Good for you, the farmer and the environment). As a part of Tata Soulfull’s marketing initiatives, we will help build consumer awareness on the benefits of millets and also on how our products deliver the benefits in a form that is convenient and accessible, thereby helping more people consume millets.
The UN is encouraging farmers to grow millets in a widespread manner. How are you encouraging farmers in India to grow millets to meet the massive demand? What is the current situation on the demand front?
Government and regulatory bodies have come up with a number of key initiatives that are leading to increased consumption of millets, particularly over the last 5-10 years. Such initiatives will help sustainability goals and the food security agenda as well. Further, the UN’s resolution of declaring 2023 as ‘International Year of Millets’ is a great initiative to raise awareness on the health and sustainability benefits of millets. This will further contribute to food security and ensure livelihoods of farmers and suppliers in regions threatened by drought and climate change. Millets use less water as compared to other grains, have a higher yield potential and can grow with minimal fertilizers and pesticides – all these factors benefit the famer and are also good for the planet. As has been the case with other commodities, whenever there is an international year, it brings such food products to the forefront and elevates it on a global landscape. The International Year of Millets allows farmers, suppliers and the entire ecosystem to work towards making achieving this common agenda and drive the demand for millets, making them more mainstream. Millets sit at the sweet spot where sustainability, health and going back to our roots intersect. Tata Soulfull is making them more accessible in convenient and contemporary formats.
What kind of consumer trends have you noticed in the last 2-3 years when it comes to consuming millets and staying fit? Typically, what kind of audience consumes or buys millets-based food products in our country?
During the pandemic, we have seen an acceleration in certain consumer trends such as health & wellness and convenience. We have witnessed a spike in products that offer health & wellness, and immunity benefits. Digital adoption has also gathered pace, so brands need to be present both in offline and online touch points.
Tata Soulfull products are targeted at convenience-seeking and health-conscious consumers who are seeking food options that fit in with their lifestyle. The key is to give them healthy offerings like millets in a product form that they can easily integrate into their lifestyles. Our key focus are 2 consumer groups – Kids and Adults. We have targeted these groups basis the consumption of millets and where we expect the growth to be. We have been able to integrate millets into tasty and healthy products such as Ragi Flakes, Ragi Bites, Millet Muesli and Smoothix. We recently launched #TheGoodBites Campaign with actress Sameera Reddy, which speaks of the benefits as well as the delicious taste of Tata Soulfull Ragi bites. We are also launching an improved version of Tata Soulfull No Maida Choco, which comes with the added benefit of seven grains in a delicious chocolate flavour, and doesn’t have maida (refined flour). This is a great snack option, which offers consumers the right balance of health, taste, and convenience since it is made of nutrient-rich millets, rich in calcium and protein.
The millet category is still at a nascent stage. How do you plan to extend the awareness more to smaller towns to ensure growth of the market in the next 3-5 years?
The future of millets in India is definitely headed in the right direction with more consumers adopting it. We strongly believe that it will evolve to become a mainstream category. As more and more people start seeing products that are a fit with their preferences and blend well into their lifestyle, there will be a more widespread acceptance for these grains. That is where brands like us come in, that are able to offer the best from both a nutritional and taste standpoint.
The integration with Tata Consumer Products will help us reach a much larger consumer base and make millets more mainstream. We will be rapidly scaling up our reach and this will help us make our products available to many more consumers. We have now begun integrating the Tata logo with the Soulfull brand. The ‘Tata Soulfull’ logo will be integrated into all touchpoints for the brand across online platforms, marketing collaterals and packaging. This will enhance the brand’s credibility and make it more accessible and mainstream while retaining its vibrancy.
Along with this, we are also strengthening our e-commerce and D2C focus to make sure Tata Soulfull is easily available across all consumer touchpoints. We have seen much more strong traction in the Tier 2 cities in the D2C channel that we expected. This indicates that consumers are increasingly becoming equally aspirational/ health conscious in smaller cities and towns.
National Nutrition Week 2021 recently concluded. Did Tata Soulfull conduct any campaign and events planned to make the event significant?
National Nutrition Week is observed to raise public awareness about nutrition and healthy eating habits. This synergizes well with Tata Soulfull’s purpose to make ancient grains relevant to the modern consumer by spreading awareness about their health benefits and how they can enable a healthy lifestyle. As more and more people start seeing such products that are a fit with their preferences and blend well into their lifestyle, there will be a more widespread acceptance for these grains. In order to celebrate the significance of National Nutrition Week, we conducted the ‘Tata Soulfull Byte’ Instagram live session with a nutritionist. As part of the interactive session, participants had the chance to speak and learn about the nutritional benefits of millets, diet suggestions, different ways to integrate millets and thoughts on Nutrition Week.