F&B consumers are seeking more premium experiences

In an exclusive interview with India Business & Trade, Sunil D’Souza, CEO of Tata Consumer, unveils a robust strategy focusing on core business strength, digital innovation, synergy unlocking, new opportunities, and sustainability. D’Souza highlights the company’s accelerated innovation pace, reaching 3.8 million outlets in India, and expanding into diverse F&B platforms.

The interview delves into Tata Consumer’s strategic approach to product development, emphasizing five key platforms. D’Souza also outlines the company’s sustainability initiatives and commitment to becoming a leading FMCG with a sharp ESG focus. 

Sunil D'souza Tata Consumer F&B_TPCIIndia Business & Trade: Could you share Tata Consumers’ strategy for market expansion, both domestically and internationally, in the upcoming years?

Sunil D’souza: Tata Consumer’s strategy rests on 5 pillars:

– Strengthen and accelerate core business

– Drive digital & innovation

– Unlock synergies

– Explore new opportunities

– Create a future ready organization

– Embed Sustainability. 

Our defined roadmap is based on our strategic goals and guides our planning and execution. Our total addressable market is now larger, our core businesses are enhanced, and we are future-ready, more than ever before. Our capabilities are scalable and can be applied to new categories or businesses that we may pursue. We are going beyond our core (which has been strengthened) and focusing on building new F&B platforms that will create a greater presence across categories.

We have accelerated our pace of innovation, leading to improved financial performance and several margin accretive launches. In India, we have scaled up Sales & Distribution significantly across channels expanding our total reach to 3.8 million outlets. We are also strengthening our distribution in rural and semi-urban towns. We’ll continue to build growth momentum in alternate channels (modern trade and e-commerce) which are critical to our growth and innovation agenda.

India Business & Trade: How does Tata Consumers approach innovation in product development to stay competitive in the dynamic F&B industry? Are there any exciting new products or categories on the horizon?

Sunil D’Souza: We have taken a strategic approach to identifying key platforms we want to play in. After evaluating several factors, including market opportunity, category growth, profitability, our capabilities including distribution and R&D, and our overall competitive edge, we’ve narrowed the universe down to five key platforms:

– Current core (tea, coffee, salt

– Pantry (pulses, spices, staples, RTCs, dry fruits)

– Liquids (water, RTD)

– Mini meals (breakfast cereals, RTEs, snacks)

– Protein platform (plant-based meat, plant protein powder).

This framework enables us to develop a targeted understanding of our consumers, enhance our internal capabilities, innovate within established parameters, expand our total addressable market, and tap into new consumption occasions. As a result, we have entered new categories, launched differentiated products, and added significant value to our portfolio extensions.

Our recent innovations include – Tata Tea Gold Vita Care (vitamin enriched black tea), Tetley Digest (to support gut health) & Immuno Chai (to help support the immune system).

We expanded our coffee portfolio with the launch of Tata Coffee Gold Cold Brew and Tata Coffee Café Specials. In salt, we offer value added salts such as Tata Salt Immuno (salt fortified with zinc), and Tata Salt Iron Health (salt with iodine plus iron).

Our foods business offers a range of cold pressed oils as well as alternate meat under the ‘Simply Better’ brand. Tata Sampann launched a gulab jamun mix, a vermicelli range and extended its dry fruit range.

Tata Soulfull launched Ragi Bites Choco Sticks – millet based wafer sticks with a chocolate filling. Our RTC and RTE offerings under the Tata Sampann Yumside brand leverage both premiumization and convenience. We launched Himalayan Saffron, Honey & Preserves which strengthen Himalayan’s positioning as a provenance brand.

India Business & Trade: Sustainability is gaining importance in the F&B sector. Could you outline any sustainability initiatives Tata Consumer Products has undertaken and the company’s vision for a more environmentally friendly approach?

Sunil D’Souza: Sustainability is emerging as a crucial factor in consumers’ buying decisions, and this trend is shaping businesses. Our ESG agenda has evolved to become sharper and more integrated, as we set out to achieve our ambition of becoming a leading FMCG Company. In FY 22-23, we released our ESG report, which lays out our Sustainability Strategy ‘For Better Living’ and encompasses four key areas: For Better Nutrition, For Better Sourcing, For a Better Planet and For Better Communities. It includes a set of commitments to achieving net-zero status, water neutrality, circular economy of plastics, diversity in the workforce, sustainable products, and sustainable sourcing among others.

Following this,  Tata Consumer Products recently announced sustainability milestones & metrics leading up to FY 2025-26 reaffirming our commitments.

India Business & Trade: What major trends does Tata Consumers observe in the global F&B landscape, and how well-positioned is the company to leverage and capitalize on these trends?

Sunil D’Souza: Health & wellness is a key trend that has been gathering momentum. Consumers are increasingly looking for wholesome, nutritious and wellness-oriented brands. At Tata Consumer, ‘For Better Nutrition’ is one of the key pillars of our Sustainability strategy and a significant number of our product innovations across categories are focused on this trend. 

Another key trend is the rise of Digital. Rising internet and smartphone penetration have led to consumers shopping online and also using the medium for brand discovery and comparing offerings across brands. At Tata Consumer, we are leveraging this by strengthening digital marketing for our brands as well as building our D2C play.  It will also be important to provide a unified omni channel experience so that consumers get a consistent brand experience. While we are growing our D2C and e-commerce presence, we are in parallel strengthening our presence across other channels as well.

Premiumization is a trend that has gathered pace. Consumers are seeking more premium experiences and being more open to experimenting with their product choices. We are premiumising our portfolio to make sure we cater to evolving consumer tastes and preferences.

India Business  & Trade: As a participant in Indus Food, what is your perspective on the show and the platform it provides your company?
Sunil D’Souza: Indus Food has rapidly grown to be the premier event in Asia, showcasing food and beverage brands to buyers from around the world. Tata consumer with its penchant for innovation is rapidly bringing out ‘better for you’ products which have relevance to consumer needs across the world.

We see Indus as a fantastic event to display our unique strengths, brands and products to global audiences. In addition, we are also looking to leverage this platform to form strategic partnerships with several new customers to grow our international business manifold.

Sunil D’Souza has been serving as the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Tata Consumer Products since April 2020. Prior to this, he held the position of Managing Director at Whirlpool India Ltd. for over four years and had a significant contribution in transforming the Whirlpool business in India. He has also worked with PepsiCo for almost 15 years, where he held various leadership positions, managing the commercial aspects of the company’s food and beverage portfolio, and steering the business in a large cluster of Asian countries. Sunil started his career with Hindustan Unilever in 1993 and has 30 years of extensive experience in the consumer products sector with a strong emphasis on strategy, growth, and execution. Sunil holds a degree in engineering from the University of Madras and is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.

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