The country's largest consumer goods company, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), has begun the national rollout of Magnum ice-cream, the world's largest-selling stick variety. It was launched here and in Hyderabad last week, after an introduction in Chennai last April.
This is a bid by the company to expand its ice-cream portfolio, which has products under the Kwality Walls range. Magnum is expected to be taken to other metro markets, including Pune and Bangalore. It is positioned as a premium product, priced at Rs 85 a stick. In Mumbai, the product, made of Belgian chocolate and available in three flavours, is being pushed across retail outlets, in both modern and traditional trade.
In his first public address last week, HUL's new managing director and chief executive officer, Sanjiv Mehta, had said he expected Magnum to do well in this city. "For urban places, a brand such as Magnum should do well. Our whole idea is to see how we get our business model in place, so that we can expand at a faster pace."
HUL has appointed noted film actress Kareena Kapoor as brand ambassador for Magnum; it has begun radio spots promoting the brand in Mumbai. In the south, actress Trisha Krishnan endorses Magnum, having launched the product in both Chennai and Hyderabad. This strategy of using multiple celebrities to endorse Magnum, which gives Unilever (HUL's foreign parent) two per cent of its overall revenue, is something the former has been doing across markets.
In the US, for instance, Hollywood actresses Eva Longoria, Liv Tyler and Eva Mendes endorse the product. The company also has names such as Elizabeth Hurley on its list of endorsers. Despite coming well above the Rs 5-50 price band in which regular cones, bars and sticks are available, Magnum is said to have done well in Chennai, a market HUL used largely as a test ground to gauge consumer response.
Analysts, however, say the road ahead might not be easy, given the presence of entrenched and competitive entities such as Amul, Mother Dairy and Vadilal in the segment.
Unilever is the world's largest ice-cream maker, with products such as Cornetto, Breyers and Ben & Jerry's retailing under its Heartbrand range. In India, HUL's Kwality Walls competes with Amul (the leader), Mother Dairy and Vadilal, in a roughly Rs 2,000-crore market.
Amul has 40-45 per cent of the organised ice-cream market in India. It has kept a lead over rivals with aggressive pricing, distribution and launches. Analysts say the rollout of Magnum across markets is expected to trigger a spate of launches by rivals at the premium end of the category.