Digital channels are a very important part of Weikfield Foods’ growth strategy, says CEO DS Sachdeva

DS SACHDEVA, CEO of Weikfield Foods Private Limited, says the brand has followed the containment trend in DIY cooking and baking with high demand for its products, and its recent foray into the ready-to-eat dessert

DS SACHDEVA, CEO of Weikfield Foods Private Limited, says the brand has followed the containment trend in DIY cooking and baking with high demand for its products, and its recent foray into the ready-to-eat dessert category is part of a strategy to deliver solutions practices for consumers who will continue to seek comfort foods in their own kitchens

You have just entered the ready-to-eat desserts category. Please show us the journey of the brand from its establishment in Pune in 1956 until it is today. What is the basic philosophy of the brand?

Weikfield Foods was founded in 1956 by three brothers who came to India after independence – Late Shri SP Malhotra, Late Shri Harish Kumar Malhotra and Late Shri BR Malhotra. The company had a simple motto: to make food products of extreme purity and quality and to bring the Indian food industry to the forefront of the global food industry. They started by making and selling three products in the local market in Pune: corn flour, custard powder and baking powder. Soon they spread their wings to all parts of the country. Weikfield now has three state-of-the-art manufacturing plants – two in Pune, Maharashtra and one in Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh. Over the past 64 years, Weikfield has created healthy products, adding to its iconic portfolio of custard, corn flour, baking powder and cocoa with recent starters like pasta, falooda, sauces and cake mixes. Weikfield is the # 1 brand of custard powder, corn flour, baking powder, cocoa and vegetarian jelly crystals in India. In addition to packaged food products, the company also produces and markets fresh mushrooms under the EcoValley brand. It is also exclusive distributor of St Daflour fruit preserves in the Indian market since 1999, under license from St Dalfour, France.

We have been a niche player in the global food category, generally focusing on segments not targeted by large companies and trying to have a significant stake in those niche segments. Another unique aspect of our business strategy is that we offer 100% vegetarian products. We were the first company to launch a vegetarian jelly blend in India, while most of the players use gelatin derived from animal sources. Now, in line with our philosophy of innovation and niche play, we have launched “Weikfield custard – Ready to eat” as we seek to boost consumer penetration of custard in India.

You underwent a brand refresh last year with the tagline “Weik up Life’s Little Moments” – tell us what that involved and how has it impacted your customer base and income?

While great taste and quality are a given to our products, we want the brand to be on the consumer’s mind for something more important, something that has meaning in the consumer’s life. We want to become a companion in the happy moments of consumers’ lives and this is what we have tried to capture through our promise to “Bring the little parties of life to life”. In addition to the new logo and the new packaging, our rebranding and repositioning exercise also included a new sound identity. We have launched a 360-degree media campaign to communicate our new promise to our consumers. Our efforts have helped us increase not only brand visibility and affinity, but also brand penetration based on the semi-annual brand tracking studies we commissioned.

How has your TG evolved?

Our main target audience has always been the housekeeper, because she knows what to best feed her family. However, there has been slow changes in consumer behavior, mainly in affluent households, which is important for traders as we note. The housekeeper spends more time in the kitchen, while the time spent by women has decreased, and housekeepers have started to act as influencers. Yet women continue to be the primary decision-maker for what is done in the kitchen.

With the onset of the pandemic and home work and home school schedules, the man of the house got more involved in the kitchen, not only in the kitchen, but also occasionally by concocting a dessert or a snack. Many people, mainly the younger generation, were exposed to cooking for the first time. “Quarantine kitchen” Saw just about everyone heading to the kitchen to try different dishes they would have ordered outside earlier. All of them turned to food for comfort and searched for reliable brands that could help them with their cooking experiments. In times like this, Weikfield, with its wide and versatile product line, has established itself as a favorite. We believe the consumer will continue to seek more practical solutions. This is one of the reasons we entered the ready-to-eat dessert category.

Tell us about Weikfield’s distribution and retail network as it stands today and your future areas of focus.

We are looking to expand our capacity in Pune manufacturing units to meet growing demand in Western and Southern markets. Our pan-Indian distribution network includes 19 depots covering all states of India and a network of around 1200+ distributors and super resellers. The company now directly reaches over 90,000 outlets and approximately 150,000 other outlets through indirect channels across India. We are also listed in all major modern trading chains across India which contributes over a third of our business. Digital channels are a very important part of our growth strategy, because the purchasing behavior of consumers today is omnichannel. We are aggressively building our capacities to take advantage of this huge opportunity. We have more than doubled the contribution of e-commerce channels to our business over the past 12 months. We are also looking to build a directly to the consumer Business.

Which segment would you turn to if you had to expand further or launch new products? Are other acquisitions on the program?

While we cannot comment specifically on our acquisition strategy, we are still looking for both organic and inorganic growth opportunities to achieve our ambition to double our revenue over the next three years. .

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected business and growth over the past 1.5 years?

One of the silver liners of the pandemic is that consumer opinion on the brand has been positively impacted in line with the increasing demand for packaged foods. During the lockdown, when many consumers took to cooking, Weikfield with its large product portfolio became the cooking companion for them. Categories like custard, pasta, desserts and pastry saw significant increases in the markets during the lockdown period. As more consumers became addicted to baking, we have struggled to keep pace with demand for items like baking powder and cocoa powder. We have also significantly increased our investments in the brand, mainly through digital media and recently through television and print media. One big trend that has taken off is the search for recipes to prepare restaurant-style dishes at home. We exploited it in create recipe videos and distribute them via our social media handles.

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Posted on: Monday September 27, 2021 12:05 am IST