Co-Founder of Honey Twigs, Paras Fatnani, speaks to Progressive Grocer about how his brand is filling a key gap in the market for an easy to use healthy alternative to table sugar and his plans for taking the product to newer markets.
Tell us about your company and its products.
Jigar Mehta and I set up Nectwork Foods LLP with the vision of giving people high quality, healthy alternatives to every day food items, enabling them to live healthier lifestyles. While working on concepts for the product, we felt the most important aspect was to understand what our audience needed. So we conducted a survey that had over 3,000 respondents from across the country. This gave us a very good understanding of where the gap in the market was and which concerns our product needed to address.
Honey Twigs was a result of this feedback. Our aim is to transform this superfood – honey – from being perceived as a medicinal, on-the-shelf product, to a trendy on-the-go healthy snack, as well as a easy to use healthy alternative to table sugar.
Honey Twigs is a teaspoon (8gms) of 100 per cent antibiotic free honey, available in single serves that can be used anytime, anywhere. We have two natural variants – Multiflora and Natural Litchi – that we sell in retail and for food services.
Which are your best-selling products and their major markets? What scope do the other markets have for your products?
Our best-selling product is our Multiflora Honey Twigs, a 30 Twig pack in retail. Our current key markets are Mumbai and Delhi and we are seeing good growth from markets such as Bengaluru, Pune and other parts of Maharashtra, along with interest from some international markets.
What is the consumption pattern and growth rate of your products and what are your plans to expand the product line?
One of the primary reasons for our growth is the fact that there are more and more health and fitness conscious people today who aspire to a healthier lifestyle. Our products see a surge in festival season and in the winters and a drop in the summers because of the myth around honey not being good for consumption in the summer. It is indeed just a myth.
In terms of our consumption patterns, we are seeing an increasing number of first time customers trying out our smaller pack (10 Twig pack) and returning to purchase the monthly pack (30 Twig pack). We have nearly 80 per cent returning customers, which shows that people see the quality and benefits of the product.
Additionally, we are also seeing growth thanks to the variety of our product range.
In today’s time, consumers want choices, especially the young mothers who are purchasing for their kids. Our objective is to have a total of four flavour variants by the end of 2016.
Which are the factors you feel are driving the demand and growth for your products?
I believe that our company was born of a need – the need for products that offer an easy to use, high quality, healthy alternative and as long as we keep innovating to service these needs and more for our customers, we have a very strong opportunity at hand. The growth is also connected to the growing healthy eating trend that the country is seeing today.
How would you describe the competitive USP and differentiators for your products vis-a- vis the competition?
Our USP is that we are delivering quality, 100 per cent antibiotic free honey in a mess-free, easy to use and carry twig, which is made from food grade packaging material. This addresses the need I have mentioned in the beginning of this conversation, which we have identified after the survey among honey consumers. Some of the key concerns they had were uncertainty regarding the quality of the honey they consumed, as well as the mess associated with serving honey. The honey we use is lab tested to ensure the quality standards are met. Our Honey Twiggers, as we call them, love it!
Who are your competitors and what are you doing to stay ahead of the competition?
We have a lot of traditional competitors and a few modern competitors. As a category that we operate in, we have competitors in the sweet spreads, candy and sweeteners businesses. We have different kinds of competitors but our objective is to keep innovating. This is the main reason why we are aiming to establish a research lab this year. We will experiment with new flavours and at the same time ensure we maintain the quality we provide for every product.
Which are the new markets you are looking to grow?
On the domestic market front, our current focus is on Maharashtra and Delhi-NCR. But within the next 12 months, we are going to aggressively target Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and other metro cities where we see an increasing number of people taking on healthy eating habits. We are also looking at key international export markets, and are currently on the lookout for the right associates and collaborations.
What is your strategy for retail outreach and who are your top retailers?
We are currently working with some of the biggest, organised super stockists like TJUK Trade Network in Maharashtra, to get a large outreach plan executed in modern and bigger general trade outlets. Our plan is to get the product in as many places as possible and organise sampling activities in order to increase product adoption.
Which are the ways you collaborate with retailers (both online and offline) to drive product sales?
For us, product trial is a key part of the outreach plan to increase our customer base. We’re confident that product trials will lead to quick product adoption and soon to loyal customers. We are currently working with online and offline retailers to create product trial opportunities for potential customers.
We are also organising various challenges with joint brand building objectives. As an example, we recently organised an extremely successful activity: the Hi Honey, Bye Sugar Challenge. Seven people from different walks of life replaced sugar with honey for 14 days. It was really well received and the second edition of this competition will come soon.
We also participate in various farmers markets and promote our retail points, which is also getting our retailers more traction.
What is your sourcing strategy and what have been your initiatives in ensuring that your product conforms to the highest quality standards?
All our raw materials – be it the honey or the packaging material – are first tested and then delivered to us with reports to make sure that nothing is below our promise to our consumers. My partner himself keeps a close eye on every batch that comes in. For quality control, we also often select random batches and send them out to be tested by internationally accredited labs.
How has the growth and development of retail industry helped in the rising popularity of your kind of products? How much of retail space, on average, is being given to your product category and what are companies like you doing to increase the shelf space for your products?
Healthy eating is the big buzz word and this segment is growing at an exponential speed. Honey is getting good attention and nowadays we generally see each retailer will have at least four to five brands of honey with them. We are not working in the food industry just for the business. We do believe that healthy eating is more than a habit, it’s a lifestyle and we want to make that easy for consumers.
What are your expansion and investment plans for the future?
We see tremendous potential across India for our food innovation business. We have focused on creating an identity for ourselves in a very niche space of honey. Our 18 month plans for Honey Twigs include being in over 5,000 stores across our focus markets and we plan to get into three international markets too. We will launch two more flavour variants and our R&D division will give us more recommendations for spin over products that we would aim to group together with Honey Twigs. We have initiated talks with a few investors and will have more news by the end of the year.