82-year-old Parle-G books 'best sales' in Covid times
An old pastime of dunking Parle-G biscuits in a steaming cuppa, and deftly biting off the tea-soaked half before it crumbled over itself may have soothed the nerves of many suffering from lockdown blues. This 5-rupees-a-pack cookie came handy for many migrants who trekked hundreds of kilometers to get back home. While many stocked their kitchen cabinets with Parle-Gs, the do-gooders distributed them in sacksful to the needy.
Parle-G, a household brand since 1938, achieved a unique milestone of selling the maximum number of biscuits during the lockdown. Though Parle Products, the makers of Parle-G brand, refused to share specific sales numbers, they affirmed that March, April & May have been their best months in over eight decades.
“We’ve grown our overall market share by nearly 5%... And 80– 90% of this growth has come from the Parle-G sales. This is unprecedented,” said Mayank Shah, category head at Parle Products.
Organised biscuit-makers such as Parle got their operations running within a very short period after the lockdown clamped on March 24. Some of these companies also arranged transport for their workers for an easier and safer commute to work. Once the factories were operational, the focus of these companies was to produce brands that drove maximum sales.
“Consumers were taking whatever was available - be it premium or economy priced. Some players may have focused more on premium value SKUs as well,” says Anuj Sethi, senior director, Crisil Ratings, which recently conducted a study on FMCG players.
“Players had been focusing on enhancing distribution reach, especially in rural areas in the past 18-24 months; this worked well for them during the pandemic,” he adds.
Biscuits across price points have seen a massive surge in sales volumes over the past three months. Britannia’s Good Day, Tiger, Milk Bikis, Bourbon and Marie and Parle’s Krackjack, Monaco and Hide & Seek have sold significant numbers during the lockdown, experts said.
Parle Products focused on producing its best-selling-but-low-value Parle-G brand as it envisaged massive demand from all its customer segments. The company also reset its distribution channels within a week to ensure product availability at retail outlets.
“During the lockdown, Parle-G became the comfort food for many; and for several others it was the only food they had on them. This is a common man’s biscuit; people who cannot afford bread – buy Parle-G,” says Shah.
“We had several state governments requisitioning us for biscuits… they were in constant touch with us, asking about our stock positions. Several NGOs bought humongous quantities from us. We were lucky to have restarted production from March 25 onwards,” adds Shah.
In normal times, Parle Products makes close to 400 million Parle-G biscuits every day. – and there are several fun trivia around this mammoth number. The distance between earth and the moon can be covered if a month’s production of Parle-G biscuits is stacked side by side. If you line up all the Parle-G biscuits consumed annually end-to-end,it can go around the earth 192 times!
“In terms of value, Parle-G sales may not be very significant… This brand sells at Rs 77 per kg – which is much lower than what a kilo of rusk would cost (at about Rs 150 per kg). But the highest ever Parle-G sales last three months have brought us great brand recognition and acceptance,” says Shah.
Parle Products makes their biscuits in 130 factories across the country – 120 of them are contract manufacturing units while 10 are owned premises. Brand Parle-G falls in the ‘below-Rs100 per kg’ affordable / value category – which accounts for one-third of overall industry revenues and accounts for over 50% of sales volume. The overall Indian biscuit sector is pegged at Rs 36,000 - Rs37,000 crore in fiscal 2020.
“Premiumisation in biscuits needs to be seen in comparison with other categories within food - such as chips, chocolates and soft drinks; most of these are more expensive than biscuits,” explains Crisil’s Sethi.
“So consumers make these trade-offs in the overall food category - rather than within biscuits. That has led to rise in premium biscuits consumption,” he adds.
The 'premium segment' has been growing at a much faster rate as demand for low-priced biscuits have been declining even in rural markets. In terms of value, premium biscuits would have out-gunned the value segment. But in terms of numbers sold, the affordable segment led by Parle-G would have stolen a march over their pricier peers in the last three months.
Tough cookies never really crumble, do they?