The covid-19 pandemic has accelerated consumer demand for products that provide safe experiences, an aspect that trusted brands have capitalized on with their reputation and recall value. Speaking at CMO Dialogues, a Mint initiative, FMCG marketers said the past five months had seen consumers look for the familiar in brands that could assure them of quality as well as safety.

“We are focusing on first going after the core, we are definitely seeing consumers moving to what they are familiar with—what signals to them quality, safety and that is going to be products that have been around for a while and that’s our core portfolio,” said Dilen Gandhi, senior director and category head, foods, PepsiCo India.

Gandhi said that a big chunk of the company’s products consumption used to sit in the unorganized sector but with heightened awareness around health and hygiene, the switch from unpackaged to packaged will only get accelerated. The lockdown boded well for the company’s Quaker oats portfolio as consumers sought into more convenience and health foods aided by the adoption of digital shopping behaviour.

Gandhi, along with co-panellist Anil Viswanathan, senior director, marketing (chocolates), insights and analytics at Mondelez India agreed there was no way Indians were going to give up on snacking. But their portions are growing smaller, some of them are even investigating ingredients used and country of origin.

“Perception and focus on one’s health and safety definitely has increased salience with implications for categories and brand consumption,” Viswanathan said. “Having said that, when it comes to snacking, it is on trend, I think increasingly given our urban lifestyle consumers are moving from three square meals to snacking often and in the space we are in—we see our roles as providing consumer the right choice. There is a role and opportunity for all kinds of snacks to exist,” he added.

To be sure, Indians have turned to traditional immunity boosters in hordes to fight corona over the past few months. According to a Mint report, data measurement firm Nielsen had estimated that in June, sales of Chyavanprash, an Ayurvedic mixture grew 283% from a year ago. Branded honey was up 39% year-on-year while liquid toilet soaps saw a category growth of 112% in the month of June.

“Safety is a big parameter and a (known) brand connotes trust,” said Pankaj Sharma, director, consumer products division, L’Oreal India whose company had seen big traction for its skin cleansing portfolio. Personal care brand RSH Global Pvt Ltd also saw an extension in its hygiene business with its chief marketing officer Poulami Roy saying consumers were particularly drawn towards wash and moisturization products.

“No amount of advertising can take away the trust you have built with a brand. After what you eat, what you put on your face becomes most important for a consumer,” Roy said adding that while company has always used natural ingredients and products, it has never claimed to accentuate consumers’ features but simply help maintain them.

Marketers also expressed confidence in small-town and rural India as a robust growth story. While neighbourhood kirana stores have continued to function, they said, consumers are also relying on e-commerce to meet their needs.

“The bottom of the pyramid is always more demanding. It’s not about finding a new product for them but discovering the right price point,” L’Oreal’s Sharma said adding that the company believes in the appeal of innovations like small sachets besides the power of the brand itself.

Suneera Tandon contributed to the story.

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