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Will Parle snacks be worth their salt?

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Parle has always been known as a biscuits and confectionery major. With the launch of Musst Stix and Musst Chips in 2008, it expanded its product portfolio to the non-biscuit snack category as well. Now, with launch of Parle Namkeen, which is currently available in selective markets like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and parts of Maharashtra, it is further looking at strengthening its presence in the category.

According to media reports, with the launch of Parle Wafers and Parle Full Toss, Parle targeted a market share of 20-25 per cent within 2011. Nielsen, however, reports that Parle currently has a market share of 10 per cent in the category. What have been the challenges for the brand and will it be able to achieve the 25 per cent market share mark this year remains to be answered.

From biscuits to chips
Parle launched Parle-G in 1939 and ever since the biscuit has become the identity of the brand. The expansion into the snack category implied extending Parle’s image beyond being a biscuit brand to new products such as potato chips. However, this has been the greatest challenge for Parle. Anand Halve, Co-founder, Chlorophyll, says, “When you stretch the portfolio under any brand, you have to see what is common between the new and the existing products. If there is nothing common, then it must be under another brand name.” With the launch of Musst Stix and Musst Chips, Parle did exactly that – a new product, with a new branding.

However, in 2011 Musst Stix and Musst Chips were re-launched as Parle Full Toss and Parle Wafers respectively. B Krishna Rao, Group Product Manager, Parle Products says, “It was seen that the brand was liked mainly by housewives, who only look for more quantity at a lesser price and had less appeal in youth. For this particular reason we have repositioned both the products to connect it with the youth of today, someone who is stylish and wants to flaunt himself.” The products in the category are present in price points like Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 20 and are targeted at youth in the age group of 12-25.

Anand-Halve

Anand Halve, Co-Founder, Chlorophyll

Snacks being an impulse category, it was a well thought out strategy to target youth as that clearly segmented the consumer base. But, that was not enough as the company found that Musst chips and Stix lacked the brand association with the name Parle, and realized that consumers confused them with local brands. Hence, it took on to umbrella branding of its savoury products. However, this umbrella branding may have added to the confusion as Halve says, “I don’t think Parle has the association that you would want to have with a fun-filled product.” The two products face competition from Lays chips and Kurkure from PepsiCo that have created significant recall and brand identity in this space.

Another major challenge that the company had to face was the failure of Monaco Smart Chips, the health chips variant of Parle, which was withdrawn from the market. Extending the Monaco brand into a savoury snack seemed like a logical extension of the heritage brand. However, consumer response to the new product remained tepid despite getting Bollywood actor Aamir Khan on board. Sources from the industry reveal that Parle has altogether stopped manufacturing the product as the distribution channels were not in place due to the lack of adequate independent wholesalers.

What are the challenges?
Rao says, “The major challenge is to create a positive perception and brand imagery in consumers mind and also stand out amongst the national and regional players in the non biscuit snacks category.” Also, the brand is aiming to rope in youth in its consumer base. But as Halve puts it, “All things don’t have to appeal to youth but they have to convey that the brand is youthful.” Parle is still carrying its image of a brand of the 80’s.What it does to modify this image is key.
Also, breaking the image of being an ‘old’ brand and the association with biscuits will be a challenge as well. Competitors in the chips and sticks space such as Lays and Kurkure respectively have created strong brand association and recall. The players in the ‘namkeen’ category such as Haldiram’s and Lehar have also developed a strong connect with consumers. Placing itself in a way that consumers give Parle the preference will be a challenge for the brand.

Can ‘namkeen’ be the game changer for Parle?
According to reports, with the launch of Parle Namkeen, Parle is eyeing a market share of 25 per cent in the snacks category in the coming two years. The product definitely has a greater reach and acceptability. Whether Parle will be able to harp on the Indianness of the product still seems unclear. Rao says, “In 2012 we are aiming to capture more market shares and would like to create a better brand recall amongst the target group.” However, with the four years track record that the brand has had in the non-biscuits snack category, the chances do not look too bright.

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Jyotsna Sharma

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