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ITC Foods: Not so straight

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ITC Food’s salted snack brand Bingo continues to tickle consumer taste buds with new variants. The latest to hit the shelves is Tangles, the fourth in its portfolio, after Bingo potato chips, Bingo Tedhe Medhe and Bingo Mad Angles. The product, which took two years to develop, will be launched in select markets in north and south India, before being scaled up nationally.

The market for ‘western’ format of snacking is fairly nascent in India, and the addition of variants, the company hopes, will help create “new pegs of loyalty”. “In snack food, consumers are always looking for change, and as a brand we strive to provide this through a unique mix of taste, bite and shapes,” says Chittaranjan Dar, CEO, ITC Foods. To begin with, Tangles will be available in a unique pillow pack shape, in two flavours, Masala and Tomato. Subsequently, Tangles will be extended to regional flavours.

Bingo, which is estimated to be worth Rs 650-700 crore, is expected to break even this year, say analysts. Since its launch in 2007, the brand has given stiff competition to market leader Pepsi. While brands Lays and Kurkure lead by a huge margin, their shares have taken a hit in recent months. According to Nielsen 2010 data, Lays potato wafers reported a drop in share from 48 to 45 per cent, and Kurkure witnessed a 3 per cent decline in market share between January-December 2009 to January-December 2010. On the other hand, Bingo’s potato chips have notched a 1 per cent increase in share, whereas its sub-brands in the bridge category like Tedhe Medhe and Mad Angles have seen a small rise in market share. Other players in the snack food arena are mostly Indian players such as Parle Products, and Balaji Namkin, besides a host of local and regional brands.

The launch of Tangles is in line with the company’s strategy to focus on the ‘bridge segment’. Dar explains, “Today, potato chips represent almost 70 per cent of snack food consumption, with the bridge category still small. In the next few years, we expect the numbers to reverse. That’s because Indians are used to snacking alternatives as each region in India has its own snack options.”

With Tangles, ITC will adopt a similar route to communication and distribution as it did for the other Bingo variants. The new television commercial for Tangles, slated to be on air in a month, will continue to flog the ‘youth’ plank. On the distribution front, the company will invest in sampling and providing innovative racks to trade. Dar admits that unlike biscuits, sales of chips in rural areas is still a very small part of the market. Bingo currently reaches 5.5 lakh outlets and it aims to increase it by 2 lakh every year.

So is a health variant on Dar’s wishlist? He is not blind to the opportunity, but notes in a category like snacks, where consumption happens in small quantities, the health proposition needs to be weaved in with taste.

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