ANUSHA ZAHID: In an article published in Aurora’s May-June 2017 edition, approximately 90 million litres of branded ice cream were consumed every year at that point. How has the category grown?
SYED TALHA IMAM: The frozen desserts category does not formally report numbers. However, as per market estimates, the category witnessed an average growth of approximately six percent until 2019 and has been growing steadily over the past few years. Our research suggests that growth would have been even greater had we not encountered the challenges that Covid-19 posed. However, the category has recovered and is heading towards yet another growth year.
AZ: In 2017, it was estimated that Omoré’s market share was 30% and Wall’s was 60% (the remaining 10% was attributed to other players such as Hico, Igloo and Yummy). Has this changed?
STI: To reiterate, category numbers are not reported through specific sources and estimates are made based on market availability. Small players in the frozen dessert category are regionally focused and we see them struggling with distribution, and as imported ice- cream brands are expensive, even for well-off consumers, they continue to be of low significance. The two major players by virtue of market presence and distribution are Wall’s and Omoré. We are on an aggressive growth trajectory and expect to be a bigger player than we have previously been.
AZ: How has Omoré’s brand portfolio evolved?
STI: Omoré has high engagement across a wide range of demographics and our brand portfolio includes flavours and SKUs that reflect varying preferences within different age groups and this is the reason why we introduce new frozen desserts every year based on research, feedback and innovation. That said, seasonality is a core component as it influences flavour profiles. We have extended our Chocbar range to include flavours such as coffee and orange. We have also capitalised on the growing trend of ‘self-expression’ through emoticons by launching our ‘emoticons range’ – Cool Omoji and Love Omoji. To attract the younger segment, we have introduced globally popular flavours such as Cookies & Cream, Cotton Candy and Pistachio Chocolate. For our family pack consumers, we continue to offer tubs in ‘nostalgic’ flavours such as Matka Kulfi (launched recently).
AZ: The desi flavours are popular among which consumer segment?
STI: The ‘family segment’ – middle aged consumers looking to please their families with a value for money offering that is well suited post dinner. In this segment, Cookie Mania, Kulfa, Mango, Pista and Shahi Mango are some of our bestselling flavours. However, our ‘impulse range’ has seen desi flavours in sticks gain traction and here we lead with flavours such as Caramel Chocbar and our car shaped Vroom. ‘Indulgent’ flavours such as Candi, Cookie Mania and Vanilla Hazelnut do well, as do our range of three-flavour lollies – Lick-a-Flavour and Traffic Light.
AZ: Who are your major competitors?
STI: For me, snacks, desserts, refreshments or even quick bites are competition. For the frozen desserts category, which is much bigger globally than it is in Pakistan, the potential is huge and there is room for all players to grow. Providing relief and refreshments to Pakistani consumers in the hot summer months is what we aim for. The brands that accomplish this innovatively and economically will get the larger market share. In the frozen dessert segment, our biggest competition is Wall’s. We monitor the growth and popularity of some of the smaller regionally focused players as well. Ice-cream shops tend to target premium consumers, so although we note their popular flavours, we don’t think of them as direct competition.
AZ: How has your brand positioning changed in the last few years?
STI: We have a very young population who seeks and rewards innovation; they want excitement and a little bit of adventure. Thus, we are positioned to make everyday moments exciting for them. Omoré is a brand that caters to a wide age group and our communication is inclusive and relevant to all of them. We want to excite consumers with opportunities to enjoy new sensory experiences. The thematic execution of the TVC we recently launched, ‘Wow Bhara Bite’ has been crafted to drive taste and creaminess while at the same time highlighting and building the brand’s distinct assets and SKU assortment. The TVC is fresh, vibrant, spontaneous and light-hearted, reflecting the personality of the brand, its colours and its new design architecture, yet staying true to some of its signature characteristics, such as the well- loved jingle. We want to keep driving that as well as increase our availability across Pakistan.
AZ: Which SKUs are more popular in terms of sales?
STI: Sticks/bars are the most accessible format within the single serve range. We are inclusive in our consumption habits and therefore multi-serves represent a fair share of the category. The multi-serve segment has grown because due to the pandemic consumers were mostly homebound. However, we will continue to be an innovative and affordable brand accessible to everyone. With the pandemic and its global impacts, cost pressures have increased. Raw materials are expensive and although we would like to absorb most of the costs, inevitably some are passed on to the customer, which impacts affordability, especially on the larger packs. We are however determined to keep affordable price points intact, such as the Rs 10, 20 and 30 price ranges, which will remain a key focus.
AZ: Brands like Hico, Gourmet and Yummy have more consumers in Punjab while Igloo and Wall’s have a strong base in Sindh. Where is Omoré’s consumer base strongest?
STI: We are a national brand with availability across Pakistan in all major cities. The volume skew is towards Punjab and KPK; however, we expect Sindh to be our next growth driver.
AZ: How has Covid-19 affected the ice-cream business?
STI: The pandemic did impact sales last year, but it did not diminish our spirit. We believe in the ability of the market to bounce back. The pandemic has led to further acceleration of our contribution and availability on digital platforms. Our focus on occasion-based consumption has increased and so has our focus on trike placement and availability.
AZ: How have Omoré’s distribution channels expanded? Has there been an emphasis on gaining a presence in smaller cities and towns?
STI: Frozen dessert consumption in Pakistan is very low and increasing distribution will lead to growth. Affordability is a key component and is skewed towards the bigger cities. With a very young population and following a popular price point strategy, there is room to grow further in the bigger cities. Compared to markets like Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey, Pakistan’s urban population has a smaller per capita consumption and has a long way to go.
AZ: What media do you use to promote your products?
STI: TV, digital and in-store branding. We do not utilise print and radio much due to changing consumer preferences. Over the past few years, especially after lockdowns, digital has become extremely important, particularly among the young.
AZ: What are the major challenges facing the ice-cream businesses today?
STI: The retail industry is changing rapidly. New methods of service will be adopted and the opportunities are unlimited for brands that rise to the occasion with speed and decisiveness. I see e-retail becoming a high contributor. A large portfolio and speed of delivery will be key advantages. The brands that adapt the quickest, and do so in an innovative and economical way, will win the larger market share.
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