Shakti Bhog, the Rs 1,600-crore company and a leading wheat flour brand, could not keep its hands off the domestic ready-to-eat market which is growing at 20 per cent, according to Ernst & Young. It is actually not a total stranger to this category as it has exported similar products under its own brand name to over 40 countries in the last six months, while its atta, rice and besan have found their way onto shelves abroad in the last four years.
It has been toying with the idea for a while but had to put on hold its plans as the economic slowdown saw existing players lower their prices amidst falling consumer confidence. Now, armed with new researched products and three to four more in the pipeline, Shakti Bhog is raring to launch by this October in 100 cities, complete with a brand ambassador in Karishma Kapoor. It has also lined up atta varieties that would address lifestyle health problems such as diabetes, cholesterol, obesity and low energy.
The company plans to wield the health plank to position its ready-to-eat food range. Of the 15 products that it will launch, seven will be positioned as healthier meals, such as porridge with vegetables, which would have little oil and won’t be spicy. “We already have three products ready and the others will follow soon,” says Shakti Bhog Food Managing Director Kewal Krishan Kumar.
Shakti Bhog is banking on its in-house research team to come up with the right blend of ingredients to enhance the atta varieties and make its ready-to-eat range healthier, both of which have seen a total investment of Rs 35 crore. It has been able to avoid further expenses since its back-end such as sourcing and processing plants are already in place because of its existing operations, points out Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader (retail and consumer products), Ernst & Young.
However, Mishra feels the challenge lies in how the company prices its range of meals. “While health as a concept is increasingly becoming important, the company will have to be careful that its health platform does not add on to the price of the product. Other players are including the health plank within their regular products itself.” Kumar of Shakti Bhog insists that its ready-to-eat products will cost 10-15 per cent less than the existing products.
While venturing into ready-to-eat products in the domestic market will let the company both leverage and fortify its supply chain since it will bring it directly in touch with more end consumers in cities, Mishra feels Shakti Bhog should look out for competition from Hindustan Unilever and Marico which also have similar products with a healthy tag. “Get the pricing right and the potential is huge,” he reiterates.