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ITC launches milk and yoghurt in Kolkata
Mint - 30 Oct 2018

The company will introduce other products such as paneer and  milk beverages within a few months

Capping 10 years of research and product development at Munger in Bihar,  cigarettes and consumer goods maker ITC Ltd on Tuesday launched its dairy  products in Kolkata under its flagship Aashirvad brand.

With the  introduction of pouched milk in the first metro city after test marketing in  Bihar, ITC has set for itself an ambitious target of grabbing at least 8% share  of the estimated Rs1,800 crore market in Kolkata within a year. While curd was  introduced along with milk, other products such as paneer and milk beverages  will follow within months.

"It started  10 years ago with artificial insemination," recalled Hemant Malik, divisional  chief executive of the foods business. The aim at that point was to improve  cattle health and build capacity, he added.

For the  first three years of working with dairy farmers in Munger, ITC did not buy any  milk at all, according to Malik. Thereafter, ITC started to buy milk to  understand the challenges of building a full-fledged enterprise.

The first  challenge was to secure the milk from bacterial growth before it could be  despatched to bulk freezing centres, Malik said, adding, to address the  problem, the company had to invest in rapid milk freezers.

ITC will  conduct around 75 tests to test product consistency and quality, Malik said.

Because of  its short shelf life, the distribution chain for pouched milk has been built  from scratch, according to Sanjay Singal, chief operating officer of the dairy  and beverages division.

Initially,  ITC will source milk from Munger and process it at a facility near Kolkata,  owned and operated by a partner. In 10 days, the company will start procuring  milk from local farmers of West Bengal, Malik said.

Kolkata  consumes around 1.2 million litres of pouched milk a year.

ITC aims to  scale up sales to around 100,000 litres within a year, distributing pouched milk  every day in the morning. It is the only product that ITC will distribute daily  - all its other products have longer shelf life.

Though  priced competitively, ITC is setting new standards in processing to remove  bacteria, according to another executive. "Its standards are way above any  competitor."

The fact  that ITC is using the Aashirvad brand for its dairy products is an indication  of its long-term plans and confidence in the scalability of the enterprise.

Malik,  however, said ITC had no immediate plans of rolling out dairy products across  India.

ITC  has a capacity of producing around 250,000 litres of unprocessed milk at  Munger. At present, it is using only around half of its installed capacity.  Curd is being produced from milk sourced locally in West Bengal, according to  Singal.

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