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We are looking at e-retail partnerships to expand our consumer reach: Cargill Foods India’s Neelima Burra


Chief Marketing Officer, Cargill Foods India, Neelima Burra speaks to Progressive Grocer on the company’s pioneering innovations in different oil categories and about its plans to expand the products’ reach through the digital channel.

We are looking at e-retail partnerships to expand our consumer reach: Cargill Foods India's Neelima Burra
Cargill Foods India operates across a wide array of oil categories – spanning sunflower and soyabean, groundnut, mustard largely as non-refined oils, as well as olive at the top end of the market

Tell us about your FMCG business and products.

Cargill Foods India operates across a wide array of oil categories – spanning sunflower and soyabean, groundnut, mustard largely as non-refined oils, as well as olive at the top end of the market. Sunflower and soyabean together constitute 67 per cent of CFI B2C business.

Cargill Foods India enjoys a national presence through its brands Gemini, Nature Fresh oil and packaged atta, Sweekar, Rath, Sunflower (hydrogenated fats) and Leonardo olive oil. Gemini is Maharashtra’s leading sunflower brand, built on the platform of heritage. It was the first branded oil to be vitamin fortified. Nature Fresh is positioned as a light oil for active life. Sweekar Advance is high oleic sunflower oil, while the Leonardo olive oil comes in all variants including the recently launched new variant- Leonardo olive oil-Extra Light, which is best suited for day-to-day Indian cooking.

What is the value differentiator for your products? How would you describe the competitive USP and differentiators for your products vis-a-vis the competition?

The biggest differentiator for our product range is the high quality that we offer to the consumers. In line with our global philosophy of nourishing people, Cargill Foods India has been a pioneer in setting industry benchmarks in terms of quality, hygiene and packaging. We were the first in the industry to off er fortification in edible oil through our brand Gemini in the year 2008.

Our packaged atta brand Nature Fresh offers a unique consumer proposition of three pronged benefits: high dietary fiber; made from 100 per cent whole wheat; perfectly grounded, i.e. ‘Na Zyada Bareek Na Zyada Dardara’. These three benefits come together to give the new-age consumer a high quality product, which not only aids better digestion and absorption but also gives more strength and energy to the body. Nature Fresh Samporrna Chakki Atta was awarded the esteemed Consumer Superbrand honour in the Superbrands Consumer Award and is also the fastest growing packaged atta brand in the country.

Our relentless commitment has made Cargill an endearing brand among consumers and our aim is to be the most preferred FMCG brand in the country.

What is the consumption pattern, growth rate and market size for your product categories?

The demand for a variety of oil is very region-specific. For the urban population, we have been witnessing a preference that is skewed towards healthier refined oils like soybean, sunflower and newer oils like olive oil.

Which are your best-selling products, their major markets and the market share they occupy?

Brands in Cargill India’s portfolio cater to varied consumer segments with differentiated demographics, psychographics and geography. Oil industry is a very fragmented brand play. Every state has its own choice of brand which, in turn, is governed by ethnicity and the heritage of taste. Brands in Cargill like Gemini and Sweekar sunflower oil, Rath, are iconic leaders in their respective markets. We also have Leonardo olive oil in our portfolio, which is leading the olive oil category.

How do you see the growth rate for your products in recent years? How do you see the demand for your products growing in the future?

If you look at India geographically, food, lifestyle, culture and choice of oil changes every 500 kilometers. South India consumes more of sunflower oil, North and East consume soya and mustard oil respectively. It becomes very difficult to make a generic campaign, which will resonate well from North to South and East to West. Looking at the way the oil industry is fragmented, our strategy has always been to speak to consumers one-to-one in their language in a manner which reflects their culture and tradition, to make it relevant to them.

In addition, we have seen changes in the consumption pattern over a decade. Internet education has helped people to gain more information and consumers are seeking knowledge and understanding about the product they want to use. Their demand from the product and the manufacturers is very specific and hence our strategy is also to actively engage with the consumers on the digital platform through e-retail and e-marketing campaigns.

Do you have a retail strategy for reaching out to the smaller towns and cities and how do you think of the growth opportunities in these geographies? How do you see the growth trends for your products in urban versus rural areas?

We are present pan-India and our products and brands are widely distributed in leading stores in modern trade and general trade. E-retail is an upcoming channel trend and we are looking at partnerships to expand our consumer reach through this platform. Our brands have a strong regional pull so we are strong both in metro and smaller cities.

What are your plans for strengthening the market share and consumer reach of your products?

Brands in the CFI portfolio enjoy good equity in their respective markets and we will continue to create more engagement opportunities with consumers. On brands that are still early in their life cycle, we plan to take them to more households, leveraging our wide presence of distributors.

Tell us about your existing production capacity and manufacturing facilities and your plans for ramping up the operations going ahead?

CFI owns and operates three state-of-the-art edible oil refineries located at Paradeep (Odisha), Kandla (Gujarat) and Kurkumbh (Maharashtra).

What do you see as the way forward for Cargill Foods in terms of growth, opportunities and challenges?

The CFI strategy is to emerge as the most preferred consumer brand in the food space through our brands – Gemini sunflower oil, Sweekar sunflower oil, Nature Fresh, Leonardo olive oil and Rath.

What are the major milestones you are looking to achieve in India?

Cargill India is a global leader in nourishing people. In India, our aim is to be the most preferred consumer brand with presence in center of plate through staple food categories and edible oils.