Ashish Verma: Marrying health and taste for today’s healthconscious consumers
Gurugram’s premium food and beverage importer Kalyan F&B Private Limited (KFBPL) aims to bring the finest, globally-appreciated products to India. The company is an exclusive importer of Thai brand ‘be’ that marries taste and health to entice not only health-conscious consumers but everyone. Progressive Grocer caught up with KFBPL’S Founding Director Ashish Verma to know more about the brand and also discuss the evolving packaged food import scenario and market shifts in India.
Brief us on the background of your company. What made you foray into food import?
KFBPL was formed in 2016 with the vision to provide high-quality food and beverage products in the Indian market. Our company is the exclusive importer of a Thailand-based, health-oriented, F&B brand. Be offers a wide range of flavoured coconut water and coconut chips. My family members and I had the pleasure to experience this brand’s products while visiting Vancouver, Canada and so I decided to import these products to India. Food import business presents a great scope owing to the fact that there is an increasing demand for quality food products among locals, presently. According to reports, the packaged coconut water segment in India was worth $15.38 million in 2016 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 17 percent (in value terms) during 2017-2022 to hit $40.73 million by 2022, which offers an immense growth potential for us. Moreover, the shift of customers from soda drinks to healthy options is also proving an opportunity for business growth.
Tell us a bit about the brand ‘be’, its market positioning, pricing, and consumer profile.
In Thai Culture, coconuts have earned an essential place. Be Coconut Water started with this very fact as a foundation. Pure, natural and hydrating Be Coconut Water is currently sourced from a single estate farm in southern Thailand. The brand started out with two stories to tell, first, while conducting fieldwork in a small village in northeastern Thailand, around eight years ago– it was the first encounter to the nutritious and refreshing water of this tropical palm. The relationship with the land and the people grew from a simple friendship to a strong commitment to the community and environment. Secondly, a local Thai manufacturing company already specializing in premium natural products whose aspiring momentum was the essence of being – ‘Being pure, and Being well.’
‘be’ as a brand is young, healthy and denotes quality. The brand is catering to the learned and curious segment of consumers who are into healthy eating and want to be aware of everything that they are consuming. Its consumer profile primarily includes the individuals and families who are looking for healthy food and beverages, high-quality products and are interested in knowing what they are consuming. Quality-wise, all ‘be’ products imported to India are on the same benchmark as marketed in developed international markets like Canada,
the United States, Europe, etc. And they come in international level packaging such as cans, zip lock in chips pack, recyclable packs/cans.
Quality comes with a price and we try to offer the best price to the customers with our product range. Our pricing is competitive with all the other imported brands. We do not compare our pricing with the domestic brands as the rates of imported products keep on changing due to the nature of international trade.
Which all trade channels are you utilizing for retailing ‘be’ products in India?
The brand is available online as well as offline. We sell our products Amazon.in and Bigbasket.com. We reach out to our consumers in-store through modern retail as well as traditional retail. Our offline retail partners include some of the popular modern retail chains like Modern Bazaar, Le Marche, Foodhall and Needs. Traditional retail hubs that cater our products would be New Delhi’s Khan Market. Our current focus-markets include North Indian cities like Delhi-ncr and Chandigarh.
What can you say about the market competition from other local or foreign brands with similar offerings?
We consider only other imported brands as our competitors. It is very difficult for an imported brand to compete with a domestic brand. Competition is healthy as it leads to new product developments, raising the benchmark for quality and providing competitive pricing to the customers. Significantly, ‘be’ stands out from the its competitors with its attractive packaging – blue coconut water can and new product approach – Coconut Chips (a new and unheard snacking option for many), Coconut Water with Mango Splash, etc, along with a forever approach of providing healthy option to its consumers and patrons.
What is your understanding on new trends in snacks and beverage market in India?
People are shifting towards healthy snacking and drinking. We can see the shift from soda drinks to healthy drinks and fried snacks to baked snacks. Customers are more educated than they have ever been and want to know everything from production to manufacturing about the products that they are consuming. Imported food category is growing and trending in snacks and beverages segments.
How do you think the Indian consumer has evolved over the years in terms of food choices, especially the packaged treats?
Evolution has happened over the years, Indians traveling across the globe and international products available in the Indian market are the factors that have led to changing choices in consumption patterns. It is a great amount of hard work, time and patience for an imported brand to win Indian palate. It is a difficult task to establish foreign brands in the Indian market because the tastes and flavors are completely different. However, with persistent efforts, anything and everything can be accomplished.
We can see the shift from soda drinks to healthy drinks and fried snacks to baked snacks. Customers are more educated than they have ever been and want to know everything from production to manufacturing about the products that they are consuming. — Ashish Verma Founding Director, KFBPL
What is your view of the current packaged food import business scenario in India?
Some of the key reasons that are driving the growth of packaged food import in India include- highquality foreign products, educated consumers and increased exposure to international brands. Import regulations have been improved and systemized over time. Indian food regulator FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) also has made tremendous improvements in ensuring healthy and safe food products go into the market. Depreciation of Indian currency (Rupee) is making import costlier already and any hike in import duties will further lead to increase in prices for customers. There are also concerns about the trade deficit. Well, it’s commerce after all. I think we must simultaneously raise the standards of the food industry in our country to produce high-quality products to export and to reduce import.
Do you plan to add more foreign brands and/ or product categories?
Presently, we are focussing on increasing the SKUS of ‘be’ brand by introducing products like Dried Mango, Banana Chips and more and on enhancing our distribution reach. In the future, we will certainly look for options of adding more foreign brands to our product range to increase our SKUS and reach. We are only about a two-yearold company, testing waters and gathering market feedback on our products at this stage.