Interview: Prashant Parameswaran, MD & CEO, Tata Consumer Soulfull

‘E-commerce, D2C already contribute 20% to our sales’

Snacking by far is the largest category, growing at a rapid pace
Snacking by far is the largest category, growing at a rapid pace

Tata Soulfull has chalked out an ambitious growth plan this year. Besides entering at least four new categories this fiscal, it plans to relaunch its millet-based health drink Smoothix as Nutri Drink+ this month and aims to focus sharply on the masala oats category to drive portfolio growth. In this interview, Prashant Parameswaran, MD & CEO, Tata Consumer Soulfull, talks to Akanksha Nagar about the importance of low-unit packs in the snacking category and tells her that the brand is in talks with a major retailer to expand its national footprint. Edited excerpts:

What is Tata Consumer Products’ long-term vision for Soulfull, which it acquired in 2021?
I’ve always believed that brands with purpose have to really be focused on a few things and do the best. One thing that we have been very clear about is the focus on millets — how to have a large component of millet in the products, and how to prevent losing nutrition from these grains during processing. At the same time, staying focused and committed to the taste first and health-forward approach. Over the course of 2013 to 2023, Soulfull has established a value-added processing plant and has been clear about taking millets onto the mainstream. The long-term focus is to play under TCPL’s vision of ‘better for you’, meaning providing packaged foods that are better for the Indian consumer.

What has been the contribution of each of the categories the brand is present in — breakfast cereals, nutritious snacks, muesli, and plant-based protein drinks — to the overall sales?
Snacking by far is the largest category, growing at a rapid pace so it is an area where we see a large headroom. While snacking is a pan-India, urban-rural across the population strata phenomenon where we are seeing high growth across the length and breadth of the country, muesli is a lot more urban — with a large amount of our business coming from 18 to 30 cities. The kids’ snacking category, under Tata Soulfull Ragi Bites, has been the biggest growth driver for the overall Tata Soulfull portfolio over the last couple of years. Going forward, we are also doubling down on the recently launched masala oats+ category to drive overall portfolio growth in the coming years, along with an entry into adjacent categories.
That apart, we are relaunching the plant-based protein drink by the month end and it will be reinstated as Nutri Drink+ in an almond and a chocolate flavour, with high protein and no added refined sugar.

What are these adjacent categories Soulfull is eyeing?
While evaluating categories, one of the many things we consider is whether there is room for us to play since we will not play a classic “me too”. To do this, we need to have a distinct differentiating proposition that not only makes sense to us but also to the consumer.

We also consider whether the category has an adequate scale to really grow with strength and also if there is a business for us to build around it. At present, we are evaluating close to eight to 10 categories and are going to enter at least four this financial year. There will be several new launches starting next month. It is a very interesting place where the brand is with the Tata credibility layering on it. We are looking at double to triple digit-growth rates — nothing short of it. In FY24, we will deliver this growth from the core categories. The brand grew 2x last fiscal and aims to stay on course with the same ambition.

What is your strategy to make millets mainstream?
To make millets mainstream, we need to serve all of Bharat. What better place in a house that has ‘desh ka namak’ (Tata Salt), ‘desh ki chai’ (Tata Tea), and we are putting the question to ourselves, which is ‘desh ka millets’ (Tata Soulfull). We are making this possible via quality products and by ensuring that they are present with accessible price points— `5, 10, and 15 price points as LUP (low-unit price) packs work best for Bharat. In our snacking portfolio, close to 80-90% is in the LUP price point.

With a high-quality product, a strong entry-level pricing point, strong distribution, and robust communication we will make “desh ka millets” a reality. We have over 4 lakh odd outlets and are right now in conversation with a large retailer to further the distribution capabilities. We’re planning to ramp up distribution from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The task for Tata Soulfull is to leverage the TCPL distribution network and enter outlets where other leading TCPL brands are present.
Over 40% of our business comes from outside the top 30 cities (metros), that is, the non-metros. E-commerce and D2C combined is around 15-20% in terms of the contribution to overall sales. This channel is growing very well for us; it also helps a lot to have a direct connection with the consumer.

Will your manufacturing be concentrated in south India?
We will be expanding our manufacturing capabilities. We have 60,000-odd square feet of space on the outskirts of Bangalore, where we have been investing heavily over the last two years to increase capacity as we eye expansion. Soulfull is also planning to establish a manufacturing base outside south India.

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First published on: 24-05-2023 at 09:35 IST