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Winning Brand-Retailer Parternships: Orion and Smart Bazaar

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10 outstanding success stories of collaboration exemplifying how brands and retailers can create a winning playbook by leveraging each other’s capabilities and resources

By collaborating, brands and retailers can reach out to new customers and expand their reach in the market. Retailers can help brands distribute their products more effectively by leveraging their existing distribution networks. Brands can benefit from retailers’ expertise and resources, such as data analytics and omnichannel capabilities, to enhance their operations and offerings. Together, they can collaborate on marketing and promotional activities to drive sales and raise brand awareness besides helping each other to tap into new revenue streams, reduce costs, and improve overall profitability.

We bring you 10 outstanding success stories of collaboration between food and FMCG brands and retailers in building new consumption/ product categories or transforming a traditional category with innovation.

Orion and Smart Bazaar together ring up sales for choco pies and dial-up category immersion for consumers

In May 2021, Orion started its journey with Reliance Retail to grow the brand substantially through MT channels and boosts its presence in India’s $15 billion confectionery market. Today, Orion’s sales have jumped 40% and are on course to climb further. The brand has also managed to race ahead in modern trade, especially in West and South India. And thanks to its high octane one month of festive promotion in 2022 in Smart Bazaar stores, Orion has seen a 3x growth for the brand in the following months.

Orion, a global conglomerate and one of the largest food companies in South Korea operates its internationally famous flagship brand Original Choco Pie along with other
established brands like Orion Choco Pie, Custas Cupcake, and O’ Rice Crackers, among others. Orion India was launched in the year of covid — 2020— and it loves to call itself a resilient brand because it was able to not only weather the market upheaval triggered by the pandemic but sail through the storm with its brand mast flying high. Despite the brand’s initial launch plan getting mired by lockdowns, Orion still grew by 700% in FY2021 over FY2020, thanks to its partnership with Reliance Retail’s Smart Bazaar.

Elements of the Collaboration

When Orion and Smart Bazaar started to discuss the contours of their prospective collaboration, they agreed to formalize the plan and take it forward in the spirit of “vridhi” or growth.

In May 2021, Orion started its journey with Reliance Retail with the stated goal of growing the brand substantially through the MT channel and boosts its presence in India’s $15 billion confectionery market. With “growth” as its goal, Reliance Retail opened its stores for Orion in an effort to crank up growth not only for the brand and the retailer but also for the overall category.

There were a lot of exciting stories that both partners created together with the high watermark achieved during the one month of promotion around the festive season in 2022, carried out at Smart Bazaar stores. Both teams looked at shelf displays across categories and how they could make it more impactful and appealing for shoppers. Joint plans were made to tap the festive consumer spirit and delight shoppers at Smart Bazaar stores.

“We brought into play many exciting concepts such as the use of digital theatre and many other buzzy events all along the available properties in our stores,” says Bhavin Gada, AGM category manager, Reliance Retail, adding that for one such promotion, they introduced the concept of “power of nine” where a consumer could buy a product priced at Rs. 90 just by adding Rs. 9 to her purchase bill.

As Orion was launched in the year of covid, there were obvious constraints to undertake sampling for the products. “So we decided to go for free single pack distribution in the first year of our collaboration where the customer can either take the product home or eat it inside their car. With the feedback that we got from our retailer partner, we were not only able to launch our products successfully but also went on to co-create other product variants like mango and strawberry choco pie besides also introducing new color packs for our choco pie, which until then had only a red colour pack,” says Nishanth Singh, head,
Modern Trade, Orion.

Also, during the festive month in 2022 on the advice of its retail partner, Orion collaborated with Haldiram’s and other brands like Mars to introduce signature tin packs for gifting, which had assorted products from the collaborating brands. “To the surprise of all of us, 80% of these gift packs got sold within three days. So, even brands can come together and
co-create some wonderful options for the consumers. Besides, we were also able to do a lot of sampling activity as well as treat audiences to our brand mascots, all of which created a lot of buzz during the festive promotion month,” shares Nishanth.

Outcome

“After the first month of the alliance, I rang up my buying team to ask for the sales numbers. I was told that sales growth numbers were stuck in decimal points and it was nothing to talk about,” says Nishanth.

But the tide turned soon after. When Nishanth called two months later to enquire about sales, he was pleased to learn that it had grown and climbed into double digits. Today, sales have jumped 40% and are on course to climb further. After collaborating with Reliance Retail, we managed to get ahead in Modern Trade and raced past our sales
numbers in General Trade, especially in west and south India. That’s how our journey has
been so far together,” adds Nishanth.

Thanks to the high-octane one month festive promotion in 2022, Orion has seen a 3X growth for the brand in the following months. “As far as the category size is concerned, our 1-month average category size before the promotion was equal to the size of the category for the entire FY2017-18 period. And it took just one month of festive season promotion to expand the category size and bring it on par with the category size for whole of 2018-19. So, that’s the kind of growth we have seen for the brand and the category,” says Bhavin.

Conclusion

Industry veterans will agree that the distribution of a novel global product like choco pie can be arduously difficult to achieve at scale in General Trade. It may be next to impossible to even think of and execute such marketing collaborations with kiranas and e-commerce marketplaces but it takes just a stroke of inspiration and understanding to pull off such wonderful collaborations with Modern Trade, where brands have the space and the wherewithal to pull off large sampling sessions and create the hype and buzz for consumers to relish and engage with the brand’s theatre of promotional activities.

Going ahead, Orion hopes to leverage on consumer insights that it has gained from its operations in India and with its fruitful partnership with Smart Bazaar.

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