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From cigarettes to food: ITC all set to enter niche vegetable mart with potatoes and onions
DNA - 12 Sep 2017

ITC, India's diversified conglomerate with revenues of over Rs 55,000 crore, is set for its fruits and vegetables (F&G) foray with the launch of its first product.

The tobacco to fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) major has been test-marketing internally developed unique potato varieties in select few markets for the past few months. Post an encouraging response, the company has decided to introduce the potatoes in the coming months, said top company executives.

According to Sanjiv Puri, chief executive officer and executive director, ITC Ltd, going forward the company will increasingly focus on fruits, vegetables and sea foods.

"Very soon, we will be launching potatoes in fresh form. We will have two unique potato offerings viz low sugar and antioxidant-rich. The idea is to introduce one new commodity into the market every few months. We are also working on onion dehydrates and plan to launch it before the year-end," Puri said during a select media meeting in New Delhi recently.

The potato variants have been developed by ITC group company Technico Agri Sciences Ltd, which also has the IP rights.

Pricing, distribution and availability related details have been kept under wraps. However, DNA Money has learned that ITC will be creating a new brand altogether for launching the fruits and vegetables.

While ITC has been operating in the seafood space with a fair amount of exports, the company recently launched 'super safe' prawns – tested for over 230 potential pesticides and contaminates – under the brand ITC Master Chef.

"We are going to increase our focus on perishables because India processes only 2-3% of the perishables and there is an enormous amount of wastage," Puri said, adding that the estimated figure is almost Rs 92,000 crore.

Another reason for focusing on this category is pricing issues and onions is a classical example. "At times (onion) prices are very low and farmers suffer and at times prices skyrocket and it becomes a major issue for the consumers. So we are going to bring in many of these items to the consumers either in fresh and or enhanced shelf life (frozen, dehydrated and puree) form," said Puri.

The company is also working on creating health and wellness related products using soy protein isolate. According to S Sivakumar, group head – agri and IT businesses, ITC, it (soy protein isolate) could be a dedicated offering or as an ingredient in a health/wellness product. The company has also acquired a 110-acre farm to grow medicinal and aromatic plants in Bhopal.

"The extracts (from medicinal and aromatic plants) will be used for creating variants in the existing range of products as well as creating new products altogether," said Sivakumar.

(The reporter's visit to ITC facilities at Bhopal, Haridwar and New Delhi was hosted by the company)

...& ANALYSIS

The potato variants have been developed by ITC's Technico Agri Sciences Ltd
Going forward it will increasingly focus on fruits, vegetables and sea foods
ITC will do so under a new brand altogether