In May, Anfords Pakistan introduced Swiss Premium, the first cream cheese spread to be manufactured locally. The company has been in the consumer goods business since 1959 and has two established divisions: oral care (Doctor Toothpaste and Mr White Smoker’s Toothpaste) and cosmetics (Arte perfumes, lotions and anti-lice shampoos).
The food division was recently added to the company’s portfolio and Swiss Premium is their first product. According to Muhammad Abid Badar, COO, Food Division, Anfords Pakistan, the product is the brainchild of Imtiaz-ur-Rahman, Chairman, Anfords Pakistan; he realised that cream cheese in Pakistan was imported and expensive and therefore, there was a gap in the market for a brand that tasted good and was more economical.
Badar says the R&D for Swiss Premium took two to three years and that “although cream cheese is a frequently consumed product abroad, it is not commonly used in Pakistan and we wanted to introduce a healthy and affordable option. We received feedback from our European vendors, while our local R&D team (which consisted of food technologists) focused on using high-quality ingredients to create a product with high nutritional values.”
Swiss Premium is currently available in two flavours – Original and Cheddar – and available in 250 gram jars priced at Rs 420. More flavours are planned and complementary products such as sauces and dips are in the pipeline. Because it is locally manufactured, Swiss Premium has an edge over imported brands (for example, Puck cream cheese is priced at Rs 720 for a 250 gram tub), the reason being the taxes imposed on such products.
“The hike of taxes on imported goods was our opportunity to provide a product at a very competitive price point despite using top of the line ingredients from all over the world,” says Badar.
Swiss Premium is distributed through Anfords Pakistan’s existing channels in major cities across Pakistan, including Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Jhelum, Karachi, Lahore, Larkana, Multan, Peshawar, Quetta, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Sukkur. A few specialised food distributors have also been added to the network in several cities. Swiss Premium is also available on e-commerce platforms such as Daraz and according to Shehan Rayer, Chief Creative Officer, East River (Swiss Premium’s agency), since the onset of the pandemic, online purchases have increased by 70 to 80%, especially in the foods category.
The brand has been promoted via a 360-degree campaign. “The creative relationship between the brand and the agency was a very open one and we were given a free hand,” says Rayer. “The slogan, ‘Sab Pe Chalta Hai’ came naturally; we tasted the product on rusks, crackers and parathas and realised it tasted good with every one of them.” Swiss Premium’s target audience are upper and middle class families.
"We want to encourage them to replace their breakfast spreads with Swiss Premium cream cheese,” says Rayer. “The TVC communicates the fact that all ages and family members can benefit from this healthy spread in their breakfast and snacks. According to feedback received from mothers, Swiss Premium can easily be used to enhance the taste of lasagne, wraps and salads – further endorsing our tagline ‘Sab Pe Chalta Hai.’”
Rayer adds that the campaign aims to convert consumers who buy imported brands as well as attract people who do not usually eat cream cheese. “Our key promotional messages are focused on convincing customers that Swiss Premium is a healthier and more versatile alternative to mayonnaise or margarine. Educating and expanding the cream cheese market is one of the objectives of the campaign.”
A social media influencer campaign is underway, whereby foodies showcase different ways that Swiss Premium can be used. “We are collaborating with chefs on food channels who will use Swiss Premium in different recipes. All these initiatives are part of a long-term growth strategy,” adds Badar.
Like all other businesses, the pandemic posed challenges. “We were rethinking our launch as it was an unprecedented situation and we expected distribution challenges. However, the food industry actually grew in this time and we decided that depriving people from such a healthy and nutritious food option on account of the pandemic was not wise,” points out Badar.
Nevertheless, the brand did face logistical issues, especially in Punjab, as cities were locked down during Ramzan and Eid and supermarkets’ opening hours were limited. Furthermore, brand sampling in supermarkets was limited as SOPs restrict these kinds of promotions.
Anfords Pakistan have a number of products in the pipeline and aim to increase their food division over the next year. “We want Swiss Premium to be a trusted local brand and all our promotional efforts will work in that direction,” concludes Badar.