Unibic seeks its own niche on wellness

Australian biscuit major Unibic was in the headlines for most part of this year as an acquisition target for domestic fast moving consumer goods major Marico. The talks fell through.

Unibic India is now trying to grab the headlines once again – this time for its efforts to carve a niche in the highly-competitive Rs 11,000 crore biscuits market in India.

The company’s focus is on the health & wellness platform. So what’s new? Many Indian players, including market leader Britannia is also focusing on the same platform.

But Unibic says it’s not competing with the big boys. “Whatever we do, we will never be a Parle or Britannia. We will do what the big boys don't do or look at. We have a robust product pipeline. We will use technology and adapt it to the Indian palate,” says Nikhil Sen, managing director, Unibic Biscuits India.

“One big problem in India is diabetes. And here we are using Maltitol made by a French firm Roquette that is a one to one replacement of sugar,” says Sen. Cookie is eaten for taste rather than health. “As long as we are catering to that, we can gain market share. We will give what a diabetic expects from us which is taste and health,” he added.

With Maltitol, Unibic has preserved the naturalness of the product. A diabetic craves for what he is not supposed to consume – sweet foodstuff. It’s 10 times the price of sugar, but Unibic’s offerings come at half the price of imported offerings. “It is this segment which is our sweet spot. There are many imported range of cookies which offers a total different experience. By producing in India, we are able to slash costs to make it more cost-effective,” he noted.

Unibic, says Sen, is bringing in global tastes and tailoring the products to appeal to the Indian palate such as chilli, jeera and spice-butter. The firm has 11 offerings and three broad offerings, in butter, chocolate and health. For example, some of the products targeted at the wellness sector come with Oatmeal and honey, digestive with bran, and wants to serve oat and bran in one biscuit.

“We are spoiling the consumer for choice. We will be charging a weight to volume premium within a frame of reference that the consumer is used to,” says Sen. The company majorly offers a range of premium cookies as part of its portfolio and does not necessarily play in the volume segment such as glucose biscuits.

While the company is betting heavily on the wellness segment, it is parallely rolling out strategies to tap into the indulgence segment. The company has two cream offerings – pineapple and orange, neither of them is sugar-free. And Jamz for kids.

“In three months we will have offerings in the general health and well-being. They are a fantastic offering being held back till winter, and we are waiting for the manufacturing licence. It’s an Indian product that every kid hates having and that the kid has rejected so far,” said Sen.

While the company is rolling out these marketing strategies to have more share of retail shelf space, it also has a contract manufacturing arm which develops made to order cookies for various retailers including for coffee chains such as Barista.

(As published in business-standard 15th Sept 2011)