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From B2B To B2C: How Del Monte Expanded Its Base In India

The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry in India grew at a compound annual rate of 16% between 2015 and 2016. According to an A.T. Kearney analysis, food processing and personal products comprised 61% of the revenue in this sector.

Premium U.S. food brand Del Monte was launched in India in 2009 under the FieldFresh Foods company. But while most brands in this sector advertise in a big way, Del Monte has steered away from over-the-top advertising methods, taking an unconventional route to gain market share.

Yogesh Bellani, CEO of FieldFresh Foods, began his journey with the company in 2008 as business head. He spoke to CMO.com about cracking the Indian market, as well as the company’s future plans.

CMO.com: The FMCG industry has many competing players in India, yet Del Monte has carved out a niche for itself. How was that possible?
Bellani: We are the fastest-growing premium food brand in India, having taken the lead in driving a number of new and premium retail food categories, such as pasta, olive oil, packaged fruits, and mayonnaise. I would attribute our success to a sharp focus on product quality and innovation. We are also the leading and preferred supplier to all the major fast-food chains in the country, such as Domino’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway, McDonald’s, Burger King and Carl’s Jr., to name a few. 

As far as carving out our niche is concerned, our B2B success has allowed us to reach out to our customers indirectly and has paved the way for our B2C entry. Moreover, the positive word of mouth generated via the B2B route has propelled in-house consumption for Del Monte’s products. Both channels have been doing very well for us, contributing to the business equally.

CMO.com: Your marketing has been quite low-key. How do you attract consumers? Is it a conscious decision to not have regular ad campaigns?
We do have a different strategy. We’ve used the strength of our B2B presence to expose consumers to everything, starting from our canned fruit drinks to our ketchup via sachets. We’re big in the bakery segment, thanks to our heritage canned fruit products, and we supply to many of the top bakeries in key cities. We also give out samples of Del Monte-branded olives in clubs and lounges to introduce consumers to premium snacking options.

As far as our campaigns are concerned, we are quite active on the digital front, which we believe has a better reach to the young, affluent target audience. Our social media campaigns also help us engage with existing consumers and increase awareness for specific categories.

We are the only food brand to date that creates amazing short recipe videos for packaged fruits, engaging directly with customers who are pressed for time. Two of our social media campaigns—“Don’t Be a Sucker,” which was for our fruit drinks and featured singer Baba Sehgal, and “Del Monte Mayonnaise: Works Every Time”—were voted among the top 50 social media campaigns by a leading social media aggregator last year. The digital arena will continue to be central to our consumer engagement and brand-building plans in the future.

CMO.com: Can you talk about some recent campaigns?
Last year we kicked off category-focused campaigns. For instance, “Don’t Be a Sucker” focused on our canned fruit juice range and conveyed the cool quotient of a canned drink. The other campaign, “Del Monte Mayonnaise: Works Every Time,” was a full-fledged print and outdoor campaign that promoted our new mayonnaise varieties and packaging. We also launched the Sweet Escapades campaign last year for making desserts at home using Del Monte packaged fruit. These campaigns were a hit, and built brand preference and favorability.

We are currently running our summer-centric extension of Sweet Escapades to share innovative ideas to make more delicious recipes using our packaged fruit range.

CMO.com: The FMCG sector in India is becoming more health conscious. Is your focus going to be on health and wellness, too?
What we eat, more than anything, has an impact on our health and overall sense of well being. Diet-related risks of fatality have increased and so have concerns over the nature, composition, and source of the food products we consume. Early signs of health hazards, lifestyle-related ailments, and increasing cases of obesity have fuelled this segment. Indian consumers want fresh, natural, and minimally processed food that helps fight disease and promotes good health, and most of them are willing to pay a premium for it.

This is where we come in. Del Monte plays an important role in providing healthy and tasty products to health-conscious consumers. All of our product lines—from our imported Italian range of olives, olive oil, durum wheat, and whole-wheat pasta, to our fruit juices that consist of 100% fruit juice, to our dried fruit range—are designed to meet the high health requirements of consumers.

CMO.com: Del Monte in India has largely been a B2B brand but is now focusing on B2C areas. Was this a conscious shift and why?
Bellani: We did make a conscious decision to build a sound business foundation via B2B first when we entered the Indian market. We believed there were inherent strengths in our portfolio to enable us to quickly build B2B scale while exposing the Del Monte brand to a relevant set of consumers as well.

Today, I’m happy that Del Monte is one of the most widely distributed food service brands in the country, catering to large and small accounts across the bakery and HORECA [hotel/restaurant/café] segment in more than 250 towns through more than 350 direct distributors. This reach has allowed us to build salience and brand awareness.

Del Monte Ketchup Sachets have played a vital role in brand building through the B2B channel. The sachet is one of our biggest SKUs, and we sold close to 810 million sachets last year.

We’ve always seen our B2B business as a way of exposing our brand to millions of consumers, and we have now progressed to become a prominent B2C presence.

CMO.com: What will your brand focus be for 2017 and beyond?
Our focus is definitely on health and wellness from a product portfolio point of view, and we want to strengthen and expand our existing range of juices, dried fruit, and Italian products. We also look forward to progress with our portfolio and distribution in the beverage space in line with consumer demand. On the brand side, we intend to leverage our out-of-home channel of food service much better. We are also in the process of repackaging our Italian range in the B2C domain, which our consumers will get to see soon.

CMO.com: How is the Indian market different from other markets Del Monte operates in?
Unlike most other markets, where our canned fruit and vegetable portfolio tends to dominate, Del Monte’s Indian business skews more toward our culinary and Italian categories.

Our culinary portfolio of ketchup and mayonnaise has been built on the back of our success in the B2B space. This has gradually garnered us a strong retail presence as well. ... Our focus continues to be on new, emerging gourmet food opportunities as consumer tastes and a desire to experiment with food continue to evolve in India.

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