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Indian Consumers are Increasingly Challenging the F&B Market in the FMCG Sector Consumers' inclination towards healthy foods have triggered a boom in the Indian foods market and looks assuring for everyone from farmers to the end users

By Prashant Parameswaran

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The age-old phrase "Consumer is king" stands true especially today as we cater to consumers who are well read, well-travelled and are extremely aware of the food they are consuming and the brands they are interacting with. Being mindful about their health and fitness, they are consciously making efforts to choose a healthy lifestyle without giving in to the hectic schedules.

Unlike our earlier generations, the current generation has easy access to multiple options while shopping for any product whether it's a soap, brush, clothes or food and are constantly on the lookout for products that make life easier and healthier.

Healthy Consumers

One such trend in the United States- Colleagues and friends who were working towards leading a healthy life was increasingly reconnecting to their roots and consuming foods which were known to be healthy. There was also a craze for Asian and particularly Indian ingredients which were no-less than Superfoods. Be it the humble Haldi milk that became Turmeric latte or dollops of Ghee (clarified butter) that is steadily being used in the western diet. Then there is the meteoric rise of Quinoa as a superfood or the rising popularity of Avocado from breakfast toasts, salad lunches to snack time smoothies that are making Avocado a must-try!

Closer home, Indian consumers too were increasingly adopting these exotic often expensive superfoods without realising the benefit that our ancient Indian grains provide. This gave me the insight for my business, creating a brand that is made in India for Indians. India produces such smart foods which not only resonate with consumers through cost efficiency, health benefits but also give them a sense of fulfilment. Extensive research led us to millets- grains that are inexpensive, environment-friendly, farmer-friendly and super healthy. We were extremely excited to get this rolling and bring healthy nutrition to consumers. In a way, waking up an entire generation to #gomillets and opt for the power of Indian grains.

Speed Breakers

The biggest challenge in the millets space was to change the perception of millets commonly known as the poor man's grains into products which were healthy, tasty and innovative. Going back to the drawing board, businessmen operating in this space should realise that we need our products to retain the health benefits without any added sugar or preservatives yet it should appeal to today's evolving Indian consumers.

What Does the Industry Need?

In accordance with the nutrition goals of UNICEF and the efforts of the Government of India, the focus now is high on the popularising the potential of these smart foods. It was no surprise that the year 2018 was declared as India's Year of Millets. Millet Bodies such as IIMR (Indian Institute of Millet Research) and the NFSM (National Food Security Mission) too are increasing conversations around millets as a smart food solving the rising issue of malnutrition through Public Distribution Systems and Mid-Day Meal schemes. As of 2018, the centre also hiked MSP of these resilient millets such as Ragi and Jowar to give the farmers a profit of 50per cent on their produce. Motivating them to produce more of these nutrient-cereals which are less water consumption and environment-friendly is also essential.

As a brand, it is mandatory to keep on reinventing the wheel. Consumers always like to have a variety of options to choose from and hence product innovation is mandatory.

Marketing these new age products to consumers also makes a big difference to an upcoming brand. Today's Gen Z tend to have an opinion of their own and are decision makers for most of their purchases. For marketing one's products, it always makes sense for us to cater to each set of audience differently. From animated stories and school outreach for children to partnering marathons and fitness events to reach the millennials, entrepreneurs should evaluate various touchpoints for product exposure, sampling and selling. We have also adopted an omnichannel strategy to make the brand available to the different target segments.

All in all, the success of a business depends on the brand's ability to cater to its target audience through an innovative product which is attractive and supplements the consumer's lifestyle. It is very important to keep an ear out for consumer feedback and be agile enough to make the changes quickly. That has been our endeavour, major FMCG companies are constantly working to reinvent their offerings making it more relevant to the consumers. With consumers too lapping up smart foods more than ever, it is a testament to the fact of how healthy lifestyle choices begin with healthy food choices.

Prashant Parameswaran

CEO & MD, Soulfull

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