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This 82-year-old brand has grown to become a feeling in our country, it is not just any a cookie you dip in your chai.
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How Parle-G continues to exceed its sales record despite a recession

This 82-year-old brand has grown to become a feeling in our country, it is not just any a cookie you dip in your chai.
  • Parle-G registered its best sales figures in over eight decades during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
  • We caught up with Mayank Shah, Sr. Category Head, Parle Products to understand how the brand managed to meet the ever-increasing demand, secret behind hike in sales, its shifting focus on digital mediums and overall marketing strategy.
We all have grown up munching on Parle-G, dunking it in our chai and savouring the half-tea-soaked cookie everyday before rushing to school. The five-rupees pack came to the rescue yet again, cured the lockdown blues when our migrants trekked hundreds of kilometers back home. As a result, while many businesses struggled to survive, this home-grown glucose biscuit hasn’t seen its sales dip even for a day. In fact, Parle-G broke its own sales record by selling the maximum number of biscuits during lockdown in eight decades.

Parle saw its overall market share increasing by nearly 5% in May and 80-90% of this growth came from Parle-G sales.

“We have witnessed that during natural calamities and during COVID, there is an urgent need to supply rations to people and Parle-G has always been the go-to product and comfort food in any situation or location. It has a longer shelf life and the packaging keeps the biscuits fresh, thereby making it an ideal storage item,” said Mayank Shah, Sr. Category Head, Parle Products.

Various NGOs and welfare organizations included Parle-G in their donation kits when Cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal and Odisha. Many people stocked it at home for emergencies. Another reason why Parle-G saw an uptick in sales is because the whole country was home and needed something healthy to snack on.

“Today, most spending is happening on food and given the behavior, we are noticing people buying all sorts of biscuits, not just for snacking but for preparing various dishes. This is one reason why the demand went up. The second reason being staying at home has increased the consumption drastically. Typically, at the workplace the focus remains at work, at school focus is on studying but at home 24x7, consumption of food and snacking goes up. This is the reason why we saw uptick in consumption and we expect that this momentum will continue going forward as long as there are some or the other form of restrictions and also because of the concerns that people have in consuming outside food,” tells Shah.

Challenges of meeting the market demand

But how did Parle manage to meet this ever-increasing demand with scarcity of labor?

“Right from day one, we were on the job in terms of ensuring that we get permissions to operate our plant, to ensure that the people are taking care of supply chains so any issues coming at any local level, there was a team that was functioning and taking care of those things to ensure smooth operation. Right from sourcing to manufacturing and supply chain, there were partners and teams already taking care of it. A big challenge was, a paucity of labor and the government additionally declared that offices will not operate with more than 50 percent capacity, which has changed today, initially it was even less than that,” said Shah.

He added, “Depending on how a particular zone is affected, we probably have 20-40% labourers. To inspire and get laborers on board, we had to make them understand that it was not just a commercial activity rather it was food security of the country because of the sheer volume and consumption by people.”

Shifting focus on digital mediums

The lockdown has pushed even a traditional brand like Parle to embrace digital and explore the options available to reach out to its customers. While its ‘G Maane Genius’ iconic tagline continues to be a part of popular culture, to make it more relevant today and increase its recall value, Parle recently partnered with Amazon Prime Video for Shakuntala Devi.

Talking about this partnership, Shah said, “This partnership celebrates what sets us apart, which is the generations of children that go above and beyond exploring possibilities in a way that makes their little world and imagination better.”

Shah told us that the brand shifted its lion’s share from TV to digital during the lockdown because there was no fresh content on TV and on the other hand, there was a disproportionately higher rate on digital.

“We would be investing a good amount of our budget into digital. Pre-COVID, the investments were typically 10 to 12% of the budget. During the initial part of the COVID, not just ours but many companies invested almost one third of the budget spent on digital. Now within a year or two, we will see almost about 20-25% of the total advertising spend happening on digital. Secondly, associations on OTT or TV only if we see a good synergy with our brand. So unless and until there is no great synergy in between our brand communication or brand proposition and the medium or rather the property with which we are associated, we normally don't associate,” said he.

Tweaking marketing strategy to stay relevant

This 82-year-old brand has grown to become a feeling in our country, it is not just any a cookie you dip in your chai. There is immense nostalgia associated with it. And to resonate with its consumers in gloomy times, Parle tweaked its overall marketing strategy.

“We ensured that Parle remained part of consumers' life. Although we observed advertising by many brands, we opted to stay relevant and sometimes out of it. Rather, we continued talking to consumers about inspiring in these times, making them appreciate the role of the frontline workers and ensuring that they understand how the lockdown is beneficial to everybody. So they were not only public service ads which we executed, but ads of our products which talked about how we are part of their life by sharing their concerns. So, most of our communication was topical in nature.”

When asked what keeps Shah motivated and at it, he said, “Today we are seeing many companies in the same category, same sector, who are giving up saying that it's the time of lockdown and nothing can be done. On the other hand and extreme, we can see companies that view this as an opportunity to rise up and go all out and carve out an opportunity out of constraint. We have seen both sides of the spectrum. A positive frame of mind, a positive bent of mind and a motivated team is something that makes all the difference.”