CEO, Baramati Agro Ltd., Rohit Pawar, speaks to Progressive Grocer about his company’s pioneering initiatives in the poultry business and its growing range of fresh chilled / frozen raw chicken and processed chicken products to meet the evolving needs of the market
Can you take us through the company’s journey over the years and the important milestones it has crossed along the way?
Our journey started more than 25 years ago as a poultry focused endeavor from Baramati Taluka of Pune district with the setting up of the first layer farm by Padmashree late Dr. Appasaheb Pawar in the year 1988. The company went from strength to strength and diversified itself from poultry to poultry feed, cattle feed, sugar mill, distillery unit, cogeneration plant and processed chicken plant in the following years. Our several milestones have been as follows: We stand strong today with over 1,700 professionals and staff employees and a total group turnover of Rs. 1,200 crore.
Baramati Agro has been one of the pioneers in the poultry industry. With our own parent farms, hatchery, feed mill and processing plant there is a thorough check at every stage by a team of experts. We exercise a complete control from the ‘breed’ to the ‘feed’ that results in bringing out the most sought after chicken in the market. With massive expansions in the process, we are poised to be the second-largest poultry company in Maharashtra.
We have a state-of-the-art chicken processing line to produce a wide range of value-added products under most stringent quality environments and standards. We strictly comply with all International and Indian food safety regulations and parameters. Additionally, we also understand our responsibility to the environment and use environment friendly resources like solar energy, natural water reservoirs, etc., to operate our undertakings. Safe waste disposals are ensured through effluent treatment and rendering plants.
The modern consumer shows a clear preference for convenience, health and choice. We have responded by providing a wide range of products ranging from baked, breaded, cooked and marinated to bring in the most mouth-watering experience to savour from dawn to dusk.
Tell us about your product portfolio and the markets and consumer segments they cater to.
Elicious is our flagship brand under which we sell all our chicken products. The product portfolio includes fresh chilled/ frozen raw chicken and a range of processed chicken products to meet every need. We proudly say we have it all..breakfast: cold cuts; snacking: fry and serve; taste: grill and serve; convenience: heat n serve; etc.
Elicious has a pan-India presence with a strong distribution network. It is present in over 2,500 outlets all over India through general trade, modern retail trade as well as HoReCa.
What is the customer proposition of your products?
With a very diverse assortment, we cater to a wide spectrum of consumer requirements. We have products appealing to each member of the family. Our motto is appropriately captured by our tag line “Bring Home the Smile”.
Indian wives and mothers feel a sense of pride when they are lauded for their mouth-watering gourmet delicacies. However, with changing times, modern Indian women now have to balance their professional and social life. We want to make life easier for these super achievers with our exciting range of products so that they can churn out delicious spreads within minutes and walk away with all the accolades.
We are also catering to a class of people (youth) which is constantly looking for something new in already saturated frozen food market. Apart from the regular nuggets, fingers and shots, we have unique products like Chicken Jalapeno Salami, Italian Herb Sausages, Cordon Bleu and Chicken Rings, which not only sound exotic but taste fantastic too. Th e Indian options of Kebabs, marinates, curries and biryanis are also on the platter to devour.
Which are your best-selling products and who are the major buyers?
We have suitable 24×7 ranges of fry and serve, grill and serve, heat and serve and cold cuts all under one umbrella. However, Chicken Nuggets and Chicken Popcorn in the fry and serve range; Chicken Kebabs and Chicken Kheema Paratha in the heat and serve range; Chicken Lollipop in the marinated range and Black Pepper Mortadella and Cocktail Sausages are the most popular products and preferred ones in the cold cuts range.
Keeping in mind the needs of the most discerning consumers with an international palate, we have very innovative products like Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chicken Cheese Garlic Fingers, Chicken Rings, Chicken Italian Herb Sausages, Chicken Ham, etc., which gives them the same horsd’oeuvre experience in the comfort of their home.
What is your strategy for retail outreach and improving the availability of your products at retail outlets? Have you taken any initiatives by way of collaborating with retailers and incentivising them?
We are working very closely with all the modern retail chains and all different formats such as gourmet stores, convenience stores, hypermarkets, cash-and-carry and also e-retail chains all over India. We consider modern retail trade as a platform that helps consumers to experience the exciting range of our products. We believe the best way to get the consumer’s acceptance is sampling at the stores and we pursue the same very actively.
As we want our product portfolio to grow, we actively collaborate with the modern retail chains and participate in their themed events and promotion plans to facilitate the category growth.
As far as general trade is concerned, we are doing in-store brandings to create visibility and promotions to create awareness about our products.
How can manufacturers and brands become true category partners with retailers?
It has to be a symbiotic relationship and a win-win situation for the brand as well as retailers. We have a dedicated team, which works closely with modern retail trade at category, region/state and store levels. We encourage working on joint business plans wherein there are defined targets and support initiatives to build up the brand and boost category growth. This is possible only when there is transparency, trust and joint accountability. As a brand, we look forward to working hand in hand with the modern retail trade teams and extend our best possible services.
How has the emergence of modern retail helped in making your products more popular?
Modern trade provides good visibility and interface with the consumers. It provides a non-partial platform where consumers are free to exercise their choice based on their liking, requirement and experience. The regular sampling activities help us get instant feedback about our products and also understand their aspirations from the product/ category.
What have been your initiatives to enhance the consumer appeal of your products?
We have recently revamped our packaging of fresh and frozen chicken tray packs. The new packaging is very vibrant and attractive and has received a great response.
We provide a great deal of emphasis and attention on every aspect of the product and the packaging and come out with a solution only after extensive consumer research and understanding.
While our products are frozen, we ensure that we are the best in terms of freshness in the category – this is done by way of periodical monitoring of stocks in the supply chain.
What have been your initiatives on the marketing and branding fronts?
As mentioned above, we have engaged professional design and marketing agencies to help attractive pack designs and communications. Core focus at the moment is the point of purchase as we go on strengthening our distribution in metros as well as other key cities. As we grow, we are open to mass media and other channels.
Which are your new products in the pipeline?
Our latest endeavour was the re-launch of our range of Raw Fresh Chilled tray packs in Mumbai and Pune. We have also launched “gourmet range” of marinated fresh chilled products such as Tandoori Tikka, Malai Tikka, Pahadi Tikka and Herb and Garlic Chicken Leg. With this new range we want our customers to bring the gourmet experience to their house and enjoy the delicacies that will be ready in minutes. Why wait in the queue at your local kebab and tikka stalls when you have a pack of delicious marinated goodness in a convenient, hygienically packed tray?
The raw and marinated range of tray packs will also be available in frozen form for other markets as well. In addition, we are also working on ready to eat meal solutions.
An extensive range of vegetarian products, albeit under a new brand name, is also on the anvil to cater to our vegetarian consumers and also to augment our product offerings to a larger consumer base. The vegetarian range will include products such as raw vegetables, fry and serve, heat and serve, etc.
Our new launches have been very successful with substantial growth in distribution and sales. We are poised to be the second-largest brand in the packed fresh chilled chicken segment in these markets.
Tell us about your product development process and which are the factors that you keep in mind when developing a new product?
We have a team of NPD professionals, food technologists and chef’s. We have a very robust mechanism of getting feedback from the market through our sales and marketing team keeping track of all new launches, market trends, etc. We do consumer focus groups among our TG’s in key towns to understand the trend and latest demands. Once a product idea is conceived we follow a structured process of product development, trials and consumer responses before it is launched.
We do not wish to have me-too products and we always try and bring out innovative and new products in the category. Cordon Blue, Crunchy Munchy, Chicken Rings, etc., are a true testimony to this endeavour.
What kinds of tests do you conduct to assess consumer response for your products?
We follow a multi-layered process to assess the consumer response. Starting from in-house technical and sensory evaluation panel, we conduct external consumer focus group research to have a comprehensive understanding about the new product and their performance.
How do you see the market moving for your product lines, what are the major trends and developments and how are you positioned to play the market?
The frozen foods market has witnessed a double digit growth in the recent years and is likely to continue with a similar pace. The infrastructural limitation of cold chain poses a formidable challenge in an already space starved retail place. However, with the change in lifestyle, work environments and food habits, the acceptance and need for frozen food will continue to grow. Frozen food provide a great deal of convenience in today’s hectic pace of life.
What have been the significant learnings from your end consumers?
Consumers today are well informed and aware. They know what they want and the companies will have to build their portfolio around their needs. While products will have to stand out on taste profiles, the companies will also have to ensure that the products suit the consumer’s modern lifestyle and food habits.