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ITC to expand foods division with B Natural acquisition
The Tribune - 14 Apr 2015

Biz Talk: Chitranjan Dar, Chief Executive, Foods Division, ITC talks to Girja Shankar Kaura

ITC, which has business interests in various fields, also has a wide range of products under its foods division. Recently, it acquired the B Natural juice brand to gain entry into the ever expanding ready-to-drink juice market. Chitranjan Dar, chief executive, Foods Division, ITC Ltd, talks about the company's plans.

Q. What was the strategy behind the acquisition of B Natural juice brand? How does this fit in the overall ITC Foods portfolio?

A. ITC Ltd, over the past few years, has expanded and strengthened its presence in the packaged foods business with world-class brands, including Aashirvaad, Sunfeast, Dark Fantasy, Farmlite, Bingo, Yippee, Candyman and others. Many of the brands have become market leaders within the segment. With the launch of B Natural brand in the juices segment, we are looking to tap the under-penetrated branded packaged fruit beverages market in the country.

Q. How big is juice market in India? How do you see this category growing over the next few years?

A. The juices & nectars category in India is estimated to be Rs 2,400-crore market, with an annual growth rate of 20%. The category is largely urban-centric with rural contribution at less than 10%, while penetration of this segment at the national level is only around 5%. Given the lower penetration levels and consumers increasingly moving towards branded packaged juices format, we see a huge potential in the category in the years to come.

Q. How is the initial response from consumers? How do you plan to capture market share from established brands like Real & Tropicana?

A. We have planned the launch of our B Natural brand in a phased manner. In the first phase, we have launched in South & West India. We have recently launched the brand in North and Eastern parts of the country and have also added a new flavour 'Jamun Joy'. With the initial launch of seven variants, ITC's range of B Natural fruit juices & beverages is set to provide consumers a tasty, new alternative to the existing brands in the market. Besides a complete revamp of packaging, ITC has invested significantly in re-formulation of the variants with the objective of developing thicker, tastier fruit juices & beverages closer to the natural taste of fruits. The B Natural range also contains no added preservatives, artificial colours or artificial flavours.

The initial response from the consumers has been very encouraging. Through B Natural, we would like to popularise Indian fruits and recipes. We are leveraging ITC's institutional strengths in agri-sourcing, product formulation, manufacturing excellence, cuisine expertise of our ITC Hotels' chefs and trade marketing and distribution to make an impact in the category.

Q. What are your plans for North India for the brand? How are you strengthening your distribution and marketing?

A. We have timed the launch of B Natural in North India with the onset of summer. We have an exciting 360 degree marketing plan to support the launch, including print advertising, TV, radio, outdoor and digital. We will also use ITC's distribution footprint to strengthen our presence.

Q. What is the model for sourcing fruit pulp for the product? Any plans to source pulp from North Indian states?

A: A significant amount of fruit pulp for B Natural is sourced from India through our Agri Business Division which works closely with farmers across the country.

Q. How big is your juice portfolio? What are your expansion plans?

A. At present, our B Natural portfolio comprises seven variants, including Mixed Fruit Merry, Guava Gush, Orange Oomph, Mango Magic, Pineapple Poise, Litchi Luscious and Jamun Joy. The product is competitively priced at Rs 99 for a 1 litre pack and Rs 20 for a 200 ml pack. Jamun Joy is differentially priced at Rs 140 for a 1 litre pack and Rs 25 for a 200 ml pack. Over the time we will expand our range by offering juices based on popular Indian fruits.

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