Four months into “unlocking India”, consumer spending in discretionary and out-of-home (OOH) segment is bouncing back while the first signs of moderation for essentials are showing up.
Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies like ITC and Emami have seen a change in consumer trend during the September quarter over the April-June period when consumers were stocking up on staples or rushing to buy hand sanitisers to keep the Covid-19 pandemic at bay. Four months since then, the demand for essentials is still robust, but the frenzy is dying down; simultaneously, the discretionary segment – which was in the dumps – is making a comeback.
For ITC, snacks have regained traction; deodorants, confectionery and juices have seen sequential improvement, though still significantly below pre-Covid levels. In Q1, ITC’s discretionary and OOH segment – that accounts for 25 per cent of the non-cigarettes FMCG portfolio – saw a 25 per cent decline, which came down to two per cent in Q2.
An ITC spokesperson said, “The economy continues to unlock with more easing of restrictions, including the recent relaxations on opening up of restaurants, HoReCas (hotels/restaurants/catering), cinema halls, offices and suburban transport and increase in the operating hours for various commercial establishments. All of these are positively impacting mobility. Further, with the onset of the festival season backed by good agricultural output, consumer’s propensity to spend is positively impacted.”
“This augurs well for discretionary and out of home consumption categories. ITC continues to witness an uptick across snacks, juices, ready to eat/cook products and agarbattis,” he added.
It’s not just ITC, Emami, too, is seeing an uptick in demand for its discretionary range, which is primarily the men’s range under Fair & Handsome. Emami director, Mohan Goenka, said the men’s range under Fair & Handsome has seen significant recovery.
“The men’s range had declined by almost 70 per cent in the first quarter; the decline came down to 25 per cent in the second quarter. Since September-October, the men’s range is showing signs of growth,” he added.
“The trend is on the right path.
Discretionary spend is coming up. It’s not like what it was and is still subdued, but we are on the right track,” Goenka added.
As consumers rejig their basket of products, essentials are seeing some moderation. ITC saw a growth of 34 per cent in its essentials portfolio in the first quarter, in the second quarter, the growth was 25 per cent. The essentials portfolio – that comprise staples, convenience foods, health & hygiene products – accounts for 75 per cent of its non-cigarettes FMCG offerings.
Some of ITC’s brands – like Savlon and Nimyle – have grown significantly during the pandemic. Savlon, in fact, is set to clock in an annual consumer spend of Rs 1,000 crore, a four-fold jump from the spend in the last financial year.
Around 70 products were launched by ITC in the first half of the financial year. “We continue to see a strong performance across the essential portfolio led by instant noodles, staples and matches etc,” said a company spokesperson.
He added that ITC’s health and hygiene portfolio continued to witness robust offtake backed by Savlon’s multiple new launches gaining good consumer acceptance. “The sanitisers segment has seen a plethora of new launches by both national and local players with the consumption trend remaining intact,” the spokesperson said.
However, with Covid recoveries rising, the mad rush for sanitisers could be seeing some abatement. Goenka said that sanitiser sales had come down by more than half. Emami launched sanitiser under the BoroPlus brand during the pandemic.
However, Goenka explained that while sanitiser sales were down, the hygiene portfolio was going strong. Emami's healthcare and hygiene portfolio range contributed to 47 per cent of sales and grew by 44 per cent in the September quarter.