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In 3 years, PepsiCo India doubled its previous 30-year capacity: Anand Mohan Sharma

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Anand Mohan Sharma, director of channel, customer and go-to-market (GTM) development for PepsiCo India on the growth of the cola giant’s portfolio in India’s general and modern trade, online as well as the growing out-of-home category

As the director of channel, customer and go-to-market (GTM) development for PepsiCo India, Anand Mohan Sharma has a hand on the pulse of India’s consumption story—especially in the food and beverage segment. Sharma is a PepsiCo veteran with about 15 years of experience at the Purchase, New York-based cola giant. Sharma spoke to IndiaRetailing about the growth of PepsiCo’s portfolio in India’s general and modern trade, online as well as the growing out-of-home category. Edited excerpts:

You look at modern trade. In a way, you have a barometer on the market. If you could just talk about the growth.

There is a modern trade part, there is an e-commerce part and there is also a very big away-from-home category—the QSRs (quick-service-restaurants) and cinemas. We are seeing never-before growth for our categories—both foods and beverages—in all the channels that we operate. There’s a lot of demand for products and for brands which people can trust.

The growth rate for organised retail is 10% to 14%. What is your growth rate?

You are right, the growth rate of modern retail is between 10-14% but we are growing even faster in modern trade.

I think one big reason for that is all the innovative products that we are launching—it is helping us grow faster than the market.

And what are the innovative products?

We have a robust zero-sugar portfolio. We have a Pepsi Black, which is the zero sugar in cola. We have just also launched zero sugar in sports drinks. We have Gatorade and we also have Lipton in iced teas. These are top-of-the-mind innovative products. Recently, during the major international cricket tournament, we also launched Sting Blue and Sting, the leading energy drink.

Which segment is growing faster from e-commerce, away-from-home and modern trade?

E-commerce is the fastest. Its growth is much higher, and it is rapidly evolving and adding scale. Also, I would say away-from-home and modern trade are not far behind in terms of growth for us.

How is Pepsi trying to penetrate the vast market of millions of kirana stores as opposed to modern trade, which is just around 20%?

Broadly, you are right: 20% would be organised, 80% would be traditional trade. But it also depends on the organisation. A lot of D2C brands are much higher on the organised part, especially e-commerce. A larger organisation like us, a blue-chip FMCG company, we try to balance that. To give you a measure, there are about 11 million traditional trade outlets that sell FMCG products in the country and the reach of the beverage category is only 5 million outlets, even now. So, we have a lot of room to grow—in distribution and traditional trade. There is room to build partnerships, categories and brands in organised trade.

Retailers and restaurants are saying there has been a persistent slowdown over the months…

There was a lot of revenge buying and revenge travel post-Covid. That was a peak. Things have become a little more normalised after that. But innovation is driving distribution, categories and channels. The growth is not as high as it was, say in 2022, but the growth is still in high double digits for all our categories.

India’s per capita cola consumption is still low. How would you compare it to other Asian countries like China or even the US?

China and the US are way ahead. They are much bigger, 50 times what the consumption is in India. Our per capita consumption of cola is 13-14, China is closer to 200. If you look at closer home, Pakistan is much more than us. Pakistan is 3-4 times our consumption. So, this is not just for colas, this is for all of the CSD (carbonated soft drinks) industry. So, there is a lot of room to grow distribution.

The channels are evolving, stores are getting added, partnerships are getting built and we are adding further industrials and categories. Till two years back, energy drinks were small in terms of reach, and consumption was limited. We have been able to make that a mass product with Sting. So, there’s a lot of innovation.

Where would you rank India in terms of PepsiCo’s top markets?

India is right up there as one of the most important markets for PepsiCo. What has worked for us is our demographics. What is also now working for us is the geopolitical environment around it.

You would have read in the newspapers the kind of investments that our bottling partner is making in building capacities. To give you an example, we have doubled the capacity in just three years, the kind of capacity that PepsiCo India had built in over 30 years. This illustrates aggressiveness and more than that, the potential that the country has.

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