In the first week of April, just before Ramzan began, Unilever Pakistan launched their global mayonnaise brand – Hellmann’s – in Pakistan. Hellman’s falls in the ‘dressings’ category within Unilever Pakistan’s food portfolio (it includes Knorr Chilli Garlic Sauce and Ketchup) and is produced locally at Unilever’s food factory in Lahore. It is the first mayonnaise brand that Unilever has introduced in Pakistan and is available in Faisalabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi (products such as ketchup and mayonnaise are primarily consumed in urban markets).
Initially, Hellmann’s was sold via the Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) division, which supplies sauces, condiments and dressings to restaurants. Unilever had been considering entering the mayonnaise category for some time, and after Covid-19 hit last year, the ensuing lockdowns resulted in a surge in the demand for products in their foods portfolio (including those limited to UFS and available in select stores), as people stopped ordering from restaurants and started to cook at home. It was an ideal time to introduce Hellman’s Mayonnaise.
“We saw a huge interest in products which were part of our UFS portfolio, which include sauces and condiments and were available in stores such as Imtiaz and Metro. People went there looking for dressings we had under our UFS umbrella, such as barbeque sauce, garlic mayonnaise and cheese mayonnaise,” says Mariam Keshodia, Brand Lead, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, Unilever Pakistan. “Given this trend, we believed consumers were ready to try out different solutions to help them experiment with food.”
The Pakistani mayonnaise market has a few strong local players. Young’s is the leader with a 90% market share and a 30-year-old presence; National entered the market a couple of years ago and Dipitt launched their mayonnaise brand last year. Although local competition is strong, the urban penetration of mayonnaise stands at 30% – relatively low compared to products such as ketchup, which has an urban penetration of 80%. Clearly, the mayonnaise market has room for growth and Unilever plan to encourage people to view Hellmann’s as a regular purchase when they do their monthly groceries. “Once we get people to start using Hellmann’s by convincing them that it will help them prepare food similar to that available at restaurants, we will establish ourselves as the best mayonnaise available,” says Keshodia.
Prior to being introduced in Pakistan, Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, unlike other imported brands such as American Garden and Heinz, was not available in the market. “This turned out to be positive for us, as we don’t have to worry about grey channels. With our level of distribution and shelf presence, we now aim to target a market that previously opted for imported brands of mayonnaise,” says Keshodia.
Hellmann’s is available in four SKUs – 100 ml, 200 ml, 475 ml and 900 ml, priced at Rs 70, Rs 150, Rs 350 and Rs 550, respectively. It is more expensive than the local counterparts (Young’s 100 ml pack is priced at Rs 45 and National Foods’ 200 ml pack at Rs 85). However, Keshodia is of the opinion that the range of SKUs that Hellman’s provides will prove to be a positive point. “Our 100 ml pack is priced at Rs 70 and this will help us to penetrate the market,” points out Keshodia. “With the kind of ingredients we are using, we feel that the taste and texture of Hellman’s Mayonnaise will make it stand apart and justify its slightly premium price.”
Hellmann’s is distributed through Unilever’s existing channels for food products. However, in addition to supermarkets, Unilever has branched out to bakeries, where their products are usually not available. “Our ice cream business uses bakeries as distribution points, so we distributed our mayo there via the same channels. Hellmann’s availability at bakeries makes sense as it can be used with products such as bread, eggs and buns. We are also cross-branding with frozen foods, and in supermarkets our product is available near the frozen foods aisles as mayo complements frozen products such as burgers and french fries,” says Keshodia.
With regard to promotion and the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic poses, Keshodia opines that “when you launch a new food brand you want to intercept customers at various touch points. Ideally, we would have wanted them to try mini burgers with Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, or have fries dipped in it, but we had to scale down plans due to recent lockdowns and the ensuing SOPs.”
Currently, all communication centres on announcing that the “World’s No. 1 Mayonnaise brand” has come to Pakistan. “We will be focusing on secondary characteristics like Hellmann’s extra creamy texture at a later stage,” says Keshodia. The brand has been actively promoted on digital and OOH and TV have also been used to promote the product, which is also available on several e-commerce platforms.
“The association we aim to create is that Pakistanis love food and this love of food binds us all together... and if you want to prepare delicious tasting food then Hellmann’s is your partner,” says Keshodia. “By virtue of the society we are in, the target audience for all food brands are women as they usually prepare the food at home and are responsible for what their families consume.” However, Unilever are also making a conscious decision to target anyone interested in cooking, making quick-fix snacks, or having restaurant-like meals at home irrespective of gender or age on their digital channels, where there is a possibility of creating sub-audiences. “We can focus more on psychographics on digital, rather than demographics,” says Keshodia.