For almost three decades, Nutrela, a brand synonymous with soya products and protein has been a regional player, albeit a significant one. But under a new generation of owners, the Indore-based Ruchi Soya group wants a national role for its flagship brand. With an extended portfolio of products (soya chunks, cooking oils, table spreads), the group is keen to deepen the brand’s penetration, shake off its tag of a local player and set itself up as a healthy alternative to the established brands in oils (Saffola, Fortune), soya products (Nutrela is already the market leader) and margarine (Nutralite, Amul Lite).
The challenge for the company as it dons the battle gear is two-fold. In the northern markets, where it has a formidable presence with 70 per cent of the organised market share for soya products, it has to build greater awareness about the brand’s recent extensions into table spreads and healthier oils. In markets in South and West India, which have turned out to be its Achilles heel, the company has to dispel ignorance about soya products, build a distinctive identity for its cooking oils and penetrate the region’s messy and chaotic distribution networks.
As a first step, the company is focusing on building a strong health and nutrition platform for the brand. Sarvesh Shahra, president (Foods), Ruchi Soya Industries and the third generation in charge says, “In one of our strategic meetings, we came up with an idea that we should have a focus agenda to drive the health and nutrition business of the company.”
Earlier Nutrela was one of the 10-odd brands owned by Ruchi Soya Industries, which has a turnover of Rs 28,000 crore. Around 2009-10, the company decided to demerge itself from the sales and distribution network of Ruchi Soya Industries and oil and soya products were taken under the Nutrela umbrella.
The company introduced different pack sizes and used innovative packaging for its soya products to attract new customers. Currently it offers soya in chunks or granules and starting with just three pack sizes, it now has 20. The company also ran a vigorous campaign at the local and regional level, official figures state that it spends around 8-10 per cent of its revenue in advertising and sales promotion. To create greater awareness about the product, the company also tied up with PFNDAI (Protein Foods and Nutrition Development Association of India), nutritionists and dieticians to build an understanding of how soya could become a part of our daily diets. Sales have soared in recent years and the brand has enjoyed 18 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) over five years, starting from 2009-10.
Health and nutrition has been the backbone of its communication strategy, which is how it plans to continue pitching its new products too. The Nutrela table spread, the company says will be a healthier option to butter and; rice bran oil, (to launch next year) a healthier option to other cooking oils.
“We have created a pipeline through which we will be introducing newer products under Nutrela brand,” says Shahra. Independent digital and marketing advisor, Ashok Lalla believes that the company is on strong ground. He says, “In its new foray, playing up the health aspects of soya and Nutrela’s pre-eminence in the soya foods space over long years would certainly help.”
Apart from raising its game in markets where it was already strong, the brand also decided to step out of its familiar territories. “It grew from about 100 towns to over 2,000 towns in the past five years,” said Shahra. And now it plans to move further away from home. Nilesh Mazumdar, chief executive officer, consumer brands division of Ruchi Soya says, “In markets where category penetration is less, the marketing task is to create an awareness of soya.” The company is also building a stronger digital presence and its digital spends account for around five per cent of its ad and sales promotion revenue. Apart from building awareness about the category as a whole, “I need to upgrade the unorganised sector consumer into my branded space,” says Mazumdar.
Mazumdar is clear that the company will not deviate from the health and nutrition platform. He says, “The character of a brand is not only defined by what they get into, it is also defined by what they don’t get into.” True, but to to get to its goal, Nutrela would need to find a buy-in from consumers, especially in urban areas, who are looking to include healthier options in their diets. A word of advice from Ashok Lalla; target the young who are also health conscious instead of going after the older and more traditional consumers.