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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Is Covid-19 a boon for Private Labels and White Labels? Vishal Das, National Group Category Head, shares his views

How has Covid-19 changed overall shopper sentiment towards leading brands in lieu of disrupted supply chain?
Consumers emerging from isolation are reassessing their values and rewarding brands with a new purpose. That purpose is very subjective to every class of consumers. Todays consumer is also more aware about challenges faced by brands and retailers. Depending on how brands connect with consumers on different levels of touch points, each brand is trying to build direct & emotional connect with its consumers, so they don’t shift brand loyalty easily. Today, most of the large FMCG/CPG brands are doing 2X of pre-covid19 number. Majorly Impacted are smaller & regional brands which are still struggling with the consumer connect.

Has the Private Label or White Label or Local Brands being able to create a dent in market share of category leaders? If Yes was it price or was it availability lead?
In the new normal, home has become central to all aspects of life as consumers cocoon due to fear of virus transmission. This leads to limited shopping trips or online orders to avoid exposure, and the customer ends up buying what’s available. Brand loyalty/ taste preference did take a hit in the initial stages of the spread of pandemic but is now gradually returning back.
Owing to the economic uncertainty, consumers are becoming more cautions and selective in managing their expenses. Consumers are now looking for more affordable options whether private labels & local brands that are able to provide better value. In those categories, there is a definite market share increase even after improved availability of National Brands.

Which are the major categories which may see a considerable consumer stickiness in post Covid era?
Fear of Covid-19 virus spread, has put an even greater emphasis on one’s health & wellbeing. This has resulted in health focused products/categories to emerge as most sought-after products.
As all of us are now spending most of our time at home while trying to avoid restaurant food deliveries/visits even after the “Unlock” across the country, we all have our food cravings stronger than ever esp. street food. This has helped in two parts:
a) Snacking- (Sweet & Salty) between the meals or while working from home.
b) Everyone is now trying to replicate restaurant, bakery, sweet shop kind of food or snacks in home. This trend & need helped categories like Home Baking, Gourmet Foods, Dairy & Bakery range saw unprecedented growth.

Is contract manufacturing in India matured enough to accept challenges posed by ever changing consumer expectations with respect to world class product innovations?
I personally believe Covid-19 has helped everyone to think fresh & start differentiating from just Me-too, price focused kind of Private/ Regional Brands. Whole country is now aware & demanding local products because of “Vocal for Local” Campaign.
This is the time all manufactures need to revisit their investment plans on better machinery, Plant extensions and R&D. As expectations are growing, the retailers are continuously trying to identify gaps & new trends. This results in new product demand from multiple sources and in turn helps manufacturers & gives them confidence to invest in New & upcoming categories. I believe the basic mindset has started to change but we are still some years away from world class product innovation. If you would have asked me this question pre-Covid19, I would have said decades!

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How & where all do you think can help SME, MSMEs, institutions & retailers in India in current & post Covid Era?
This is really a great area to explore. Today, we don’t have private label related events in our country & we have to visit international fairs to generate Ideas & explore partnerships.
WOOB should focus on connecting retailers with PL manufacturers through events, match making etc. This will help retailers and manufacturers both when manufacturers are ready to do private brands.
There are 100s and thousands of SME, MSMEs which are not ready yet, that’s where WOOB needs to play a larger role in giving them exposure, educating them, guiding & helping them to bring them to a level where contract manufacturing for them becomes a plug and play model.

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