Progressive Grocer spoke to C.K. Sreenathan, Managing Partner, Cothas Coffee, about the journey of the brand over the years and the attributes that makes it stand out in India’s coffee market.
Give a brief description of your company and its products.
Cothas Coffee was founded in the year 1949 in Bangalore to supply and market roast and ground filter coffee powder through four neighborhood stores in the city. Seeing the ever increasing demand for the unique taste and flavor of filter coffee, a centralized coffee roasting plant was set up in the early 1980s with state-of-the-art roasting, grinding and packaging machines brought from Europe. With better technology and processes, the company was able to enhance the quality and became the most favorite filter coffee powder in Karnataka in the 1990s and in the other parts of the country by the turn of the century.
The company is fully owned and run with the help of a professional management team that includes my son C.S. Nitin – an Industrial engineer and a management graduate. Today, we operate from a much bigger plant at Jigani, Bengaluru, which has an installed capacity of close to 4,000 tons per annum of finished coffee in the form of roasted beans and roast and ground filter coffee. The products are exported to all the overseas countries that have a reasonable number of South Indian immigrants. Cothas Coffee has recently ventured into supplying authentic filter coffee to corporate offices and high footfall areas with the aid of indigenously developed bulk coffee brewing equipment.
The taste of Cothas Coffee has always been distinct due to its flavor and mouthfeel. Families hailing from South India have been strongly connected with the brand for many years. Once they consume “Cothas”, by and large the consumers don’t switch to any other brand as the company has been able to maintain the same taste and quality for many years and cup after cup. Apart from homes, most of the South Indian vegetarian restaurants strongly believe that a good cup of coffee after a meal / tiffin can satisfy their customers fully and Cothas Coffee has been one of the most preferred filter coffees in such restaurants.
Which are your stronghold markets and which markets are you focusing on for greater market share and growth?
Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been the strong markets for filter coffee and Cothas has been a dominant player in these parts. There is a scope to grow more due to more brand switch happening in these two states. AP/ Telangana, and metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are also priority markets and company sees a good potential to grow faster in these markets.
How would you describe the market size and growth of the category in recent years and what are the market projections for future growth?
The market size is approximately 10,000 MT a year and it is growing around 1.5 percent CAG. But Cothas has been able to register more than 15 percent CAG in the last three years due to better distribution network and sound brand building exercise. The company is confident of growing more than 15 percent in the next few years, which will be propelled by aggressive marketing strategies.
How large is there an opportunity for players like yourself to grow and expand the market for your products?
The filter coffee category is a tough category to crack. But if the quality and consistency of the product is acceptable, which is proven in the case of Cothas Coffee, there is a great opportunity to grow with new users as well as consumers switching from the other brands.
Any noticeable consumption trends in the category that you would like to highlight?
As families become more and more health conscious, they look for food/ beverages that are conventionally prepared (not the instant ones) and filter coffee is one such category. After trying the instant coffees, consumers realize that the filter coffee drinking is far more satisfying and that it is the real coffee with good flavor and mouth feel. They also realize that it takes just 10 minutes to prepare a good cup of filter coffee and it is worth the time.
What is the scope for greater value-addition in your product range (by way of intrinsic value addition to the product, packaging, etc.) and are there any such innovations being done or planned by your company?
The biggest issue for the filter coffee market in India is knowing the right way of preparing the coffee. As a pioneer in the filter coffee arena, we promote various filter coffee equipment (for both homes and hotels) and give insights to consumers as to how to prepare coffee in various apparatus with video links and direct demonstration at various food fairs being held in the country. The effort is huge but is paying back as more and more consumers from non-conventional markets are trying filter coffee these days.
Going ahead, what are your plans for the future?
There is a good market for filter coffee in India and consumers across the geographies in the country love filter coffee. But many are not aware of the preparation methods. With consistent communication on the advantages of filter coffee and education through various touch points on preparation methods, Cothas Coffee is confident of becoming a major beverage player in the country. With Indian filter coffees also gaining momentum in the international markets, Cothas coffee will certainly play a strong role towards this opportunity.