Here's how Lay's is transforming its products with evolving consumer preferences
Lay's recently launched special ‘@ Home’ packs based on the insight that people were snacking more while staying at homeLay's
Shailja Joshi, Associate Director, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India talks to us about how Lay's is continuing to st...
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Here's how Lay's is transforming its products with evolving consumer preferences

Shailja Joshi, Associate Director, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India talks to us about how Lay's is continuing to st...
  • Snacking has become an important part of our work-from-home routine and many FMCG brands have witnessed an uptick in packaged food products like biscuits, cookies and chips.
  • We speak to Shailja Joshi, Associate Director, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India to understand how the last 1.5 years have been for the brand, what kind of trends it has witnessed and how it is pivoting its strategies to meet its consumers' rapidly evolving needs and preferences.
The pandemic has brought about a huge change in the way we live, work, or even snack. While stuck at home, the time we spend with our families have become important. And snacking has become an important part of that time spent at home.

There has been a visible increase in in-house consumption of processed and packaged foods including biscuits to chips, anything that people could munch on while working from home, playing board games or simply while Netflix and chilling. In fact, it is not just consumers from metros or Tier II and III cities who started snacking more, even rural consumers are riding on the trend, according to reports.

PepsiCo’s Lay’s is a product that is almost synonymous with the chips category in India. Over the last few years, Lay’s has been focusing a lot on localization to continue to stay relevant for the Indian consumers. The way it reaches out to its consumers has also evolved. The brand which gives a lot of importance to social listening recently launched special ‘@ Home’ packs based on the insight that people were snacking more at home. A lot of its strategies are paying off too as PepsiCo reported double-digit growth in India in Q2 despite the second wave of the pandemic. PepsiCo's reported that its snacks unit volume reported double-digit growth in India and Pakistan.

We recently spoke to Shailja Joshi, Associate Director, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India to understand how the last 1.5 years have been for the brand, what kind of trends it has witnessed and how it is pivoting its strategies to meet the requirements of rapidly evolving consumer preferences.
Excerpts:

Q) Walk me through the last 1.5 years. How have things been for brand Lay's?
Over the last 1.5 years, we witnessed a paradigm shift in the business landscape. The exceptional times gave birth to a new reality – new behaviors emerged, consumption patterns evolved, and brands had to re-think and re-evaluate strategies to adapt to consumer disposition. In the last year, in-home consumption grew as ‘home’ became the new social hub; affordability and accessibility became key factors for consumer decisions across categories; and consumers started choosing brands which rose to the occasion at hand.

Our strategy for Lay’s over these past months was guided by three key consumer truths–firstly, consumers were becoming increasingly value-conscious; secondly, they were seeking innovative brand offerings that were in line with their evolving preferences; and lastly, they were gravitating towards brands that were willing to ‘Solve, Not Sell’ and lead with purpose in these challenging times.

We pivoted our plans and worked towards bringing joy as well as value to our consumers. These insights formed the foundation for all our campaigns in the recent months, including –

  • Lay’s Heartwork campaign, wherein we extended support to the community by creating a narrative of gratitude.
  • The PepsiCo India x Airtel Promo, wherein we leveraged data as the key currency to deliver value.
  • #YehWaalaYaadRahega campaign, wherein we introduced new, limited-time offerings - Lay’s Herby Crush and Lay’s Cheesy Love – which were formulated basis consumers’ flavour preferences.
All in all, it’s been an eventful year for the brand – complete with distinct offerings and innovative campaigns that were loved by consumers.

Q) Being locked at home made all of us snack more. How did you capitalize on this trend?
As people continue to remain indoors in light of the ongoing times, there has certainly been an uptick in at-home consumption. Robust and in-depth research showed us that with increased time spent at home, as work-from-home, celebrations and entertainment move indoors - such as friends’ get-togethers, movie watching and other occasions -there has been a surge in consumer demand for large packs.

In line with this insight, we introduced the new, large-sized Lay’s ‘@ Home’ packs to be the perfect companions for our consumers in all their experiences ‘at home’– be it work or leisure. We leveraged four distinct moments that consumers are experiencing at home –including ‘Work At Home’, ‘Movie Watching At Home’, ‘Adda At Home’ and ‘Weekend Outing At Home’ – and curated a pack for each occasion. These packs have been strategically launched in larger sizes (priced at INR 50 and INR 85) to encourage sharing amidst at-home celebrations.

Going forward as well, we feel that consumers will continue to seek the company of their favourite snacks, resulting in a continued upsurge for in-home demand, especially as they stay indoors or work from home in these challenging times.

Q) What is Lay's current brand proposition?
Lay’s believes in filling the world with joy for one and all. The brand celebrates the joy that is unlocked when friends and dear ones come together over their much-loved packs of Lay’s.

This proposition is the common theme that runs across our recent campaigns – including ‘Lay’s Khol’ for our partnership with Airtel, ‘What’s Your RelationCHIP Status’ for the launch of Lay’s Herby Crush and Lay’s Cheesy Love, and most recently, ‘Ghar Par Lay’s, Always!’ for the introduction of our new, large-sized ‘@ Home’ packs.

Q) How has your messaging evolved over the years? Since it is a product that appeals to all age groups, how do you make your communications relevant for this wide spectrum of audience too?
Since its launch in 1995, Lay’s has established itself as a youth-centric brand that is widely-loved across the nation for its irresistible taste and unique flavours. ‘Irresistibility’ continues to be the functional benefit that we dial up in all our innovations. Our campaigns over the years have aimed at amplifying the emotional attributes of the brand via a strong storytelling approach.

As consumers showered the brand with love for its distinct, delicious flavours, Lay’s also established itself as a popular name in every Indian household through campaigns and taglines that created an emotional connect such as ‘No One Can Eat Just One’, ‘What’s The Program?’, ‘Fight For Your Flavour’, and ‘Dilogical’. More recently as well, with campaigns like ‘Smile Deke Dekho’ and ‘Heartwork’, our attempt was to share the Lay’s story with consumers through all relevant touchpoints and thereby, humanize the brand in the process.

Lay’s is a brand that is loved and consumed by people across age groups, however, at the heart of our brand strategy is a youth-centric and trendy brand.

Q) Chips as a category is a very physical product, something that people would pick up when they see them stacked on shelves in shops/malls. How have you then made yourself attractive for consumers even on digital platforms, to make sure Lay's became a part of all shopping baskets?
The recent times have brought about a significant change in consumer buying behaviour – a large section of consumers are now making a significant amount of purchases online, and we foresee this as a change that is here to stay. With this shift towards e-commerce and digital purchasing, the phenomenon of ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ becomes even more critical for brands –pushing marketers to think of innovative ways to make all key information about their products easily accessible and attractive for the digital consumer.

For us, our packs are the primary consumer touchpoint and hence, our biggest asset. We have been experimenting with unique packs innovations – placing them at the heart of all our recent campaigns and communications. Right from the Lay’s Smile packs in 2019 and Lay’s ‘@ Home’ packs in 2021, to special digital packs for Lay’s Heartwork and Lay’s Khol in 2020, we have leveraged our packaging as a medium to communicate with our audience and thereby, forge a connection with them beyond the shelf.

While digital penetration has gone up and consumers continue to look for products that are readily available, they also seek great quality and value in their purchases. This places the spotlight on e-commerce platforms, where we have adapted our play according to these consumer needs. For instance, with our partners on e-commerce such as Grofers, Big Basket, etc, we have not just invested to be present in the D2C channels, but have also strengthened our presence – in terms of assortment and visibility.

Q) With more and more people moving towards healthy products, how are you making your products more relevant for the health-conscious?
Lockdown and its implications placed consumers in situations that they had never seen before – inducing numerous changes in their lifestyles. Amongst these many changes were increased consumer awareness and a growing preference to switch to a healthier lifestyle.

At PepsiCo India, we continue to stand committed to constantly transforming our product portfolio by introducing healthier choices, thereby, catering to our consumers who are on different stages of their health and nutrition journeys.

We are also innovating and growing our nutrition portfolio to address consumers’ needs. We are targeting the breakfast and in between meals needs through our Tropicana and Quaker portfolio. Within these, we are innovating with local flavours to make the products more palatable for Indian consumers.

Q) Which marketing mediums are the most important for Lay's? How important is UGC for you, since we have seen Lay's being a part of a lot of work done by content creators, a lot of which is done organically.

As per a recent report by leading social media management platform, Hootsuite, there continues to be a rapid increase in digital adoption, with the number of social media users globally fast approaching another impressive milestone. Keeping in mind how consumers today are exploring digital and social media as their sources of both - entertainment and information, we have been maintaining a strong focus on digital media as a key marketing platform for Lay’s.

Our focus is on understanding where consumers are and what they are seeking through active social listening. We follow this up by creating insight-driven strategies that are structured to deliver social impact. For instance, moment marketing is big for us, as we view it as an opportunity to facilitate continued and relevant dialogues with our consumers online. Some recent examples are our creative posts for Raksha Bandhan, Independence Day, Eid and World Emoji Day. Additionally, we also focus on leveraging trending, innovative formats. Lay’s was amongst the first brands to use Instagram Reels, and we recently launched an AR filter as part of Lay’s ‘What’s Your RelationCHIP Status’ campaign around Valentine's Day.

Following the recent expansion of the influencer marketing industry in India, Lay’s is also amongst the leading brands to have worked extensively with content creators – including celebrities, macro as well as micro influencers. Post the success of our influencer engagement during the Lay’s Smile Deke Dekho campaign, we have created an army of content creators, whom we call ‘Friends of Lay’s’. These are bloggers and influencers who share a deep affinity for the brand, and we make sure that we connect with them as part of all our campaigns. This collaborative approach has resulted in brand Lay’s engaging with more than 4000 micro influencers over the last 2 years, resulting in incremental organic reach and conversations for the brand across social media platforms.

Q) How important has localization been for Lay's?
We strongly believe that India is not one, but is instead made up of ‘many Indias’ coming together – each part having its own unique culture and taste palate. As one of the most loved snack brands in the country, Lay’s has been focused on curating offerings that suit this wide array of flavour palates that exist at every few kilometers in India. A recent example of our localization strategy is the introduction of Lay’s Wafer Style for the South Indian market.

Taking cue from the traditional hand-made and home-dried pappadams that are relished as part of every traditional South Indian meal, we launched Lay’s Wafer Style in ‘Salt with Pepper’ and ‘Sundried Chilli’ flavours, with the aim of tapping into this ritual that is unique to the Southern part of the country. Introduced as the perfect meal accompaniment for traditional South Indian dishes (such as sambhar rice, rasam rice, dal rice, curd rice, lemon rice, etc.),the product received an overwhelming response from our fans across Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala.

The focus on localization also reflects in our media strategy, as we continue advertising to our consumers in local languages, maintaining a connect with consumers across multiple regions. Going forward as well, we stand committed to the idea of strengthening brand Lay’s through both, relevance and distinction, by taking more familiar and local flavours to our consumers across India, whilst communicating with them in their native languages.