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How digital, direct marketing and word-of-mouth has helped Fabelle reach out to a targeted audience and expand its presence in 4 years
Fabelle is present in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai currently but is also working towards expanding its presence to other Tier 1, Tier 2 and rural marketsFabelle
Fabelle's business has grown much ahead of the category and its own internal forecast
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How digital, direct marketing and word-of-mouth has helped Fabelle reach out to a targeted audience and expand its presence in 4 years

Fabelle's business has grown much ahead of the category and its own internal forecast
  • Fabelle launched its first chocolate boutique in Bengaluru and has today expanded to 15 boutiques across top 6 metros.
  • Its aim is now to grow its reach further in both the luxury and the mass premium segment. It is ensuring it is available at all touchpoints to ensure a great experience for its consumers.
  • In a market where well-established players are also putting their best foot forward to woo consumers with their mass premium segment offerings, Anuj Rustagi, Chief Operating Officer, Chocolate, Coffee, Confectionery and New Category Development - Foods, ITC Limited, tells us Fabelle's strategy to bite a bigger piece of the Indian market.
It was back in 2016 that ITC ventured into the premium chocolates segment with the launch of Fabelle. The brand had been in the making for close to 10 years. To provide an ‘immersive, participative and engaging chocolate experience to consumers’, the brand launched its first chocolate boutique, a global format to retail chocolates in the country in the same year, starting with Bengaluru. The brand now has expanded to 15 boutiques across top 6 metros.

Within the next two years, Fabelle extended its offerings to the mass premium segment. This move was in line with the brand’s endeavour to take its offerings to a wider audience. It was then that it made itself available at premium retailers like Nature’s Basket, Foodhall, Spencer’s etc.

To further expand its reach, the brand has invested Rs 100 crore on a manufacturing facility. The brand is now on a mission, to bite a bigger piece of the country’s chocolate market that has well-established players like Mondelez, Nestle, and now even Amul putting their best foot forward with the launch of their premium chocolate ranges.

Over the past few years, the brand has been using the power of digital to its advantage, to reach out to its target audience. Direct marketing and word-of-mouth have helped it create a loyal base.

We recently caught up with Anuj Rustagi, Chief Operating Officer, Chocolate, Coffee, Confectionery and New Category Development - Foods, ITC Limited, to understand how the brand is navigating a segment that has some strong players already and to understand its strategy to growing its footprint in the market.

Excerpts:

Q) Walk us through brand Fabelle’s journey from 2016 till today. What kind of growth have you witnessed and how do you plan to reach out to more consumers?

Considering the scope and potential to grow the Indian chocolate market, we launched Fabelle in 2016. We launched our first chocolate boutique, a global format to retail chocolates in the country in 2016, starting with Bengaluru and has expanded to 15 boutiques across top 6 metros. After building credibility and consumer trust in the premium luxury chocolates segment, we extended our offerings to the mass premium segment in 2018 by taking our offerings to premium retailers in the country like Nature’s Basket, Foodhall, Spencer’s et al.
We also invested Rs 100 crore to set up a greenfield state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Haridwar with a capacity of 5,000 tonnes per annum. Further to this, we had also set up a cold chain in our warehouses, redistribution centers and also at retail touch points, to deliver our chocolates in the most pristine condition to our consumers. The company invested in the latest global cooling technologies and real-time digital monitoring systems to ensure that the cold chain is efficient and always functioning, so that there’s no product quality deterioration.
Once the required logistics were in place, we leveraged ITC’s strong distribution network to expand our retails touch points and are currently available via 10000+ retailers in India. Currently, we are also amplifying our reach via the digital ecosystem through food delivery service apps like Swiggy, Zomato, ITC eStore, Amazon. Our business has grown much ahead of the category and our internal forecast.

Q) Do you plan to come up with more 'massy' products with lower price points?

We entered the mass premium/FMCG segment in 2018 with two unique formats – Fabelle Choco Deck and Fabelle Soft Centres. Earlier this year, riding at the back of encouraging consumer response which we received after launching Ruby Gianduja in the luxury segment, we extended the experience of Ruby Chocolate to the larger consumer base by launching Fabelle Choco Deck Milk & Ruby Chocolate

Our products are already available in 10 SKUs at popular price points, ranging between Rs 25 to Rs 350. Going forward, Fabelle will continue to focus on creating one-of-a-kind chocolate experiences in India that are highly aspirational and in line with global brands and possibly better. We will focus on expanding the presence of luxury segment across all relevant touchpoints with the right range and also build a portfolio of products that span not only in the luxury segment but also in premium mass retail segments under Fabelle.

Q) Fabelle has a website but it's more of a discovery platform. Are there plans to start selling on fabelle.in too or will you continue only selling on other ecommerce platforms?


Indeed Fabelle’s website is a discovery platform but I our offerings across the luxury and mass premium range are already being retailed through our own D2C ecosystem, which consists of a takeaway menu, ITC eStore, ITC Hotels App or ITC Store on Wheels for purchase. We're also utilizing the traditional e-commerce channels like Amazon, Big Basket, Flipkart to make the luxury range available and delivered to consumers. Emerging channels like EasyDiner, Dunzo etc are also being explored to enable people to buy chocolates.

Q) You launched your first brand campaign earlier this year, almost 4 years after launching the brand. What kept you away from traditional advertising till now?

Our media choices have been to sharp target our consumers in key geographies using digital as a key medium which also enables consumers to get more information and engage with brands directly, especially in the luxury segments. Besides digital, positive word-of-mouth has been a key part of our marketing communication mix in building the brand’s familiarity amongst the larger audience, alongside our new, trend setting launches like Ruby Gianduja, Trinity Truffles, Independence Day and work with chocolatiers like Billie Mckay, Sarah Todd etc which has given Fabelle the desired visibility. Direct marketing is also a key lever to engage with UHNI and HNI consumers and creating customised experiences in gifting and for self-consumption.

As our brand presence extended across segments, across price points, we felt it was an appropriate time to include TV in marketing mix for our mass premium range while continuing focus on digital and earned media.

Q) Other players are also strengthening their offerings in the premium chocolate segment. How have you been able to create a niche for yourself?

Earlier, Indian consumers purchased imported brands that were available via alternate channels in a range of retail outlets across key metro cities as no major global premium chocolate brand operated officially in India. Erratic supplies, lack of product quality, authenticity, product range suited to Indian consumers, variety for self-consumption and gifting were some of the major concerns of Indian consumers with regards to the global brands available in India via alternate channels.

International travel (prior to the pandemic), exposure to global food trends via social media, food blogs and sites, food programs (Masterchef) and an increase in purchasing power are redefining lifestyle choices of the upper middle class and elite consumers. Hence, India has become a key market for major luxury brands leading to a rapid rise in demand for gourmet food and the same is also seen in the chocolates category. Gourmet experiences in chocolates are defined as handcrafted, using finest ingredients, crafted by experts and those that engage all senses. Brand imagery has also become important as increasingly prosperous Indians are choosing brands that are in line with their aspirations of consuming premium global products/offerings while gifting has also emerged as an important trend in premium chocolates segment.

With all of the above, consumers were also seeking an immersive experience. To address these need-based gaps, we launched our first chocolate boutique in 2016 which has now expanded to 15 boutiques. We are now looking at attractive markets like Amritsar to further extend our presence.

The overall experience in the Chocolate Boutique led by Fabelle Master chocolatiers and boutique associates is aimed to create an engaging experience that not only makes a range of chocolate products available to consumers but also an experience that helps consumer know more about chocolates like the origins, chocolate processing techniques and appreciating the nuances of a luxury chocolate experience.

Furthermore, we are the only chocolatier to offer 60+ diverse range of chocolate experiences through 5 varieties of globally popular hand-crafted creations. We are the only brand to retail all 5 types’ chocolates in the world - White, Milk, Dark, Ruby and a new type ‘Dark Milk’.

Q) The premium chocolate segment is still a very small part of the chocolates business. How are you wooing more consumers, and increasing your market share?

In the luxury segment, during the pandemic, we shifted our presence from physical to digital platforms to take luxury closer to consumers to wish to indulge within the safe confines of their homes. We enabled that shift through presence across digital mediums, e-commerce channels, food delivery sites like Swiggy and Zomato, enabled take-aways from our boutiques and tele-ordering. Our unique Fabelle on Wheels also visits residential societies for consumers to make direct purchase. Besides this, we have also focused on gifting during Diwali for Corporates and individuals alike with launch of innovative products like Continents Desserts Collection, Indian Desserts Collection etc. As normalcy gradually resumes, we have also opened operations at our boutiques while ensuring 100% adherence to safety and hygiene standards.

In the FMCG space, we are expanding our distribution reach to all key touchpoints and ensure that the right price product is placed at the right channel. Product offerings which are at price points of Rs 25, Rs 40 and Rs 45 are available in small format outlets as well whereas in the large format outlets we operate in the price points of Rs 70 to Rs 350.

As our brand presence extended across segments, across price points, we felt it was an appropriate time to include TV in marketing mix for our mass premium range while continuing focus on digital and earned media.

Q) What is your growth strategy going ahead? Do you plan to take your brand to smaller cities?

At the moment, we retail out of six major cities in India including Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai in the luxury and the mass premium segment. Currently, our efforts are focused towards making our chocolates more accessible to consumers based out of these markets and we also plan to expand our presence in other Tier 1, Tier 2 & rural markets.