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FMCG: The trends to watch out for in 2021
Leading FMCG brands on their outlook for 2021 as we move forward
Experts are now optimistic that the FMCG industry will see an appreciable improvement this year
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FMCG: The trends to watch out for in 2021

Experts are now optimistic that the FMCG industry will see an appreciable improvement this year
  • The year 2020 was a roller coaster ride for businesses of all kinds and sizes and negatively impacted economic growth worldwide.
  • However, after June 2020, one industry that continued to see stable cash flow and income was FMCG.
  • In today’s feature, we speak to leading FMCG brands on their outlook for 2021 as we move forward.
The pandemic has taught the brandverse to be prepared for the unexpected. Owing to the fear of contracting the virus by going out, brands had to rethink and realign their strategies to reach out to consumers in new ways. Online shopping platforms opened up their services to deliver 24*7 and people started hoarding daily essentials, including FMCG products. So, many FMCG brands partnered with e-commerce platforms like Dunzo, Flipkart, Grofers, BigBasket, etc to deliver within the comfort of consumers’ homes.

Consumer habits also evolved with COVID and ‘immunity’ became the buzzword in the FMCG industry. Marketers reverted by launching ready-to-eat meal options and immunity-based packaged goods.

However, with COVID vaccine now a reality, consumer sentiment is already picking up and the economy is in revival mode. Going by the latest reports, 2021 will augur well for small retailers leading to an increased sales from local markets and kirana stores.

According to Nielsen India, after an unprecedented decline of -19% in the Jan-Mar quarter, FMCG industry displayed signs of recovery in Q3’20 with a 1.6% growth (versus Q3 ‘19).

In 2020, rural markets outperformed urban India and became critical for FMCG giants. Brands relied on rural markets to drive growth during the trying times. FMCG witnessed a double digit growth of 10.6% in Q3’20 in Rural India, while the bigger cities (>1 Lakh population including metros and Town Class 1) played catch-up. The rural markets bounced back in Q3 handsomely on the back of support provided by the government as well as good agriculture, reverse migration and a lower unemployment rate.

With immunity being the focus in the ‘new normal’, new launches have been made in the health and hygiene basket including categories like hand sanitisers, floor cleaners, toilet cleaners, antiseptic liquids. These new launches contributed to 37% (in value) of all new launches in the COVID period (Nielsen India).

According to Kantar Worldpane, FMCG sector in India is expected to report a 4-5% volume growth in FY21, driven by rural areas that are expected to grow two percentage points ahead of the urban regions that are hit harder by COVID-19 pandemic.

While COVID-19 has curtailed economic growth in the FMCG sector, experts are now optimistic that the industry will see an appreciable improvement this year. Here are some of the trends they expect to see in 2021:

R S Sodhi, MD, GCMMF (AMUL):

The biggest impact in FMCG food is the shift among the consumers from loose and unbranded to trusting packed food and affordable brands in Tier II and III. There, people have come from loose to smaller packs and brands.

I don't think the demand in high end consumer products will grow as much now. There'll be a tremendous increase in demand for branded FMCG products that are affordable, available in smaller packs and mainly cater to Tier II III cities.

For the past two years, at Amul, we have been trying to ensure we reach the towns that have over 10,000 population, which helps us cover the 15 to 20 bigger villages around those towns. Currently, we are working with 10,000 distributors. We have already covered 50% of these 10,000 population towns in India and in another one year, we'll cover all the towns. We're mainly investing in Tier II and III cities, opening our own branches and depots all over India. We recently opened a centre in Leh.

Anil Viswanathan, senior director, marketing (chocolates), insights and analytics, Mondelez India:

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of snacking. As per Mondelēz International’s recently released second annual State of Snacking report, 9 in 10 Indian adults (88%) say they are snacking more or the same (22%) during the pandemic than before it, with millennials being especially likely to say they prefer snacks over meals (85%). A majority expect this trend to continue, saying they plan to continue eating small snacks throughout the day, as opposed to fewer large meals (82%), and that snacking will be part of their “new normal” even after the pandemic ends (81%). Ultimately, 8 in 10 believe “the current pandemic will have a long-term impact on how we consume snacks as a society” (81%). This unprecedented year has also brought about a significant behavioral change especially on how consumers are purchasing snacks. A majority say they have started to buy snacks online more often than they do in-store or offline (74%), with 8 in 10 planning to continue shopping for snacks online once the pandemic is over (81%). A similar percentage also say the pandemic has opened their eyes to so many more ways to get snacks than they knew existed before (80%), including half who have discovered snacks to try on social media (50%). It was also very heartening to note that, even while at home this year, Indians are social snackers.

With health and safety continuing to be a priority, consumers are trying to strike a balance between indulging and being mindful (80%), and in doing so; they (80%) are relying on trusted snacking brands like Cadbury, OREO, and Bournvita, seeking assurance of safety and superior quality.

At Mondelez India, we understand the role our products play in our consumers’ life and the aim is to leverage these trends to empower them with more choice, creating greater shopping opportunities and innovating, while keeping our promise of consumer-centricity intact, throughout our growth journey.

Sudhir Langer, CEO, Raymond Consumer Care:

Conscious Communication

Today’s young ‘woke’ consumers were already moving away from the excesses of consumerism and leaning towards sustainable conscious brands before the pandemic and lockdowns hit their lives.

The all-round strain of the pandemic from volatile job markets and a possible looming global recession to health and environment concerns; along with the way lockdowns were framed as health versus economy predicaments—as if one has to be sacrificed for the other—has left many questioning the very basis of our consumer-driven economy. I feel, the months in lockdown have only strengthened that introspection and has further fueled the young consumers’ move towards purpose and value, making them think-twice before buying by taking in to consideration the long-term impact of their spends not only on their finances, but on their own beliefs, on society and on the planet.

So, with conscious consumption here to stay, when consumers buy, it is going to be as much for brand values as it is for product payoff.

Keeping this in mind a big communication trend I see emerging as we move into 2021 is brands engaging more purposefully with deeper more sentient conversations. These could include brands talking about their environmental and sustainability efforts, community initiatives, health impact and most importantly value addition.

Fortunately for us this is not a shift to adapt to; but a way of operating. We have always believed in empowering, enabling and operating consciously. Hence, it’s not only our communication like our recent Park Avenue Germ Protect soap film about our protagonist helping his community but at every level we are constantly taking steps to enhance efficiencies for a better world like our soon to be launched sustainable and eco-friendly packaging.

Sumit Mathur, Director Marketing Kellogg South Asia:

The pandemic is a black swan event that brought several changes at the economic and societal levels. Consumers had to face economic stress which made them more discretionary in their consumption choices. Our virtual connects with over 450 consumers amidst the lockdown made it clear that items which they do not deem to be too essential are unlikely to find a place in their shopping carts. Come 2021, only brands solving a real consumer problem or adding value to their lives will be on top of their minds. It has become increasingly important for brands to feel the pulse of the consumer and provide authentic solutions to stay relevant. Kellogg’s has paid attention to the consumer’s shifting needs and adapted with agility to ensure it solves consumers’ nutritional demands in the most convenient manner and this will continue to be our focus in the coming year.