If you have been craving the iconic Rola Cola candy from your childhood, all you have to do is wait for 130 days now. Krishna Rao, Senior Category Head - Marketing, Parle Products Private Limited, tells us why, for the first time in history, Parle Products has decided to bring back a product on popular demand
Q] How did the conversation start again on a candy, Rola Cola, which you had stopped manufacturing in the mid2000s? In mid-February, a gentleman tweeted requesting us to bring back Rola Cola. We contemplated internally for some hours and the next day, our agencies swung into action and we responded that “If all you need is Rola Cola, then all we need are 10K retweets #BringBackRolaCola”. The numbers started rising rapidly. In less than two weeks, the number of retweets had touched 8,400. We were very confident that the 10,000 mark would be surpassed soon and now it has. We have set the ball rolling and have started work on the various aspects of production including the machinery, equipment to be used, flavour, packaging, pricing, etc., that it will need. We will have exclusive pack for modern retail because they want a higher price point pack, etc. So, all that work is in progress. In less than 130 days we will be ready to launch this brand in the market. And this is perhaps the first time in the history of marketing that a brand has brought back a product purely due to consumer demand on social media. The candy is very strong on nostalgia value, it was first launched around the 1990s during the peak of cola wars between Thums Up, Pepsi and Coca Cola. Parle then thought of launching a candy inspired by it. It was marketed as a thirst quencher candy in cola flavour apt for summer. But Rola Cola sort of stagnated after a decade or so, and we were not able to get critical volume for this brand, which forced us to stop manufacturing it in 2006.
Q] What is your marketing mix, and how much of your marketing budget do you spend on the digital medium alone? We spend almost about 8% of our sales on Advertising and marketing in a year. Our marketing mix still majorly comprises Television which is 80% of our spends and Digital is roughly 7% but we are looking at increasing it as we move forward. A couple of years ago Digital was less than 3% of our marketing spends. Low cost data and smart phones have become major factors contributing to the success of digital marketing, giving massive exposure to various social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, even though WhatsApp is still not very marketing friendly. Also it has given access to YouTube videos which has really changed the game and hence we are looking at spending more on Digital marketing.
Q] What kind of market-share does Parle have in the biscuit segment overall and who do you consider as your closest competitor? We have about 29% market-share now. Our closest competitors are Britannia which has 1% higher market-share than we do, i.e. 30%, and even ITC.
Q] How well is your Snacks business doing? And what are the new launches expected in that category? Our Snacks business is shaping up quite well for us now. And we have been expanding our portfolio constantly. So, after the introduction of western snacks like Parle’s Full Toss, now we have gone ahead and extended the traditional namkeen part of our business like Chatkeens. Three years ago we had introduced nacho chips, yet another new and unique category to get into. As we speak we have been adding some new flavors and variants in our portfolio. So, by April we are expecting to launch a few more variants under Chatkeens. Last month, we introduced a new flavour called ‘subtle onion’.
Q] What kind of market-share does Parle G have in the glucose biscuit segment? It is upwards of 90%. So, we dominate this market by far. The other two players in the segment are Britannia which has Tiger Biscuits and ITC which has Sunfeast Glucose but they are very small in terms of numbers, like 3%-4% share.
Q] But the glucose biscuit segment is said to be contracting. What kind of positioning will Parle G have now & will you take the ‘You are my Parle G’ concept forward this year too? We are coming up with a very interesting campaign for Parle G soon, but I won’t be in a position to disclose anything now. And about the glucose biscuit segment contracting, I disagree. By virtue of being a strong, dominant player in this segment, we are growing the category as well as growing ourselves. We are adding a lot of new consumers and we are doing a lot of work on digital to be more relevant and more relatable to the newer audience. This is of course besides various initiatives like the school contact program or all other opportunities that is available to reach out to young and new consumers.
Q] Parle has a turnover of about Rs 10,000 crore, out of which 75% comes from the biscuits segment. How soon do you see other categories contributing significantly to your revenue? I think in the next five years, all the newer categories would start contributing to the tune of almost 30%-35% of our revenues. It’s not that biscuit is not going to grow, that will still grow on a very large scale and that too on a very large base. But, then the other businesses are relatively much smaller because they are contributing only 20%-25% to our overall revenue. So, these are going to grow much faster. And hence I am saying in the next 3-5 years these categories will start contributing to almost 30% to the total turnover.
Q] Being health conscious has become a fad, and a lot of people are moving towards health biscuits, so how much are you investing in the high fibre biscuit category? We were one of the foremost players to have introduced a high fiber category with ‘Digestive Marie’, this was way back in 2006. From there on we have built on our portfolio and the recent introduction of ‘nutri-crunch’ is nothing but a further extension of the health portfolio. Consciously we are looking at providing options to our consumers, offerings which contain not just fiber but some other millets, etc. Nutri-crunch is a very new introduction so it is a small segment at the moment.
Q] What is the biggest category after biscuits right now for Parle? It has to be confectionery.
Q] Last year, you said that Parle products will double turnover to Rs 20,000 crore in the next five years. Is that on track? That is pretty much on track. We are moving exactly in sync with our plan. And we are very confident that we will be able to achieve that number.