Ashish Verma: Mar­ry­ing health and taste for to­day’s health­con­scious con­sumers

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Editor’s Note - By Namita Bha­gat

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.

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