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Demand much better now than in Q4: FieldFresh Foods chief


Retail sales have overtaken sales in channels like hotels and restaurants and in-home snacking is here to stay, said Yogesh Bellani, chief executive of FieldFresh Foods, which sells condiments, juices and snacks under the Del Monte brand. Bellani said commodity and freight inflation has necessitated a lot of rebalance of costs. Excerpts from an interview.

Q. Has the easing of Covid-19 curbs led to improved demand?
We are seeing early signs of revival. June has been much better than May. Restricted timings had become the single biggest challenge over the last two months. Now with disruptions easing out, stock replenishment too has improved. In terms of demand, things are looking much better now than in the fourth quarter.

Q. With surge in in-home consumption and restaurants and hotels shut down for long , how has the consumption pattern shifted?
Now retail sales are much bigger, compared to the hotels and restaurants channels. We grew the retail business significantly last year. In-home surge in consumption led to a lot of category relevance, and now the split is more dominant in favour of retail. Even as the food services sector reopens, we still expect the larger share of in-home demand to stay.

Q. How has commodity inflation impacted your business?

We’ve been impacted by commodity inflation, freight, logistics, crude prices and packaging costs. There is a lot of rebalancing to be done. We’ve been challenged by tepid demand, so in such an environment, it has been very difficult to pass on price increases to consumers. There is a lot of pressure on margins, and demand shock over the last two months is a reality. One can pass on only so much of the burden to consumers.

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Q. Which are your top-selling categories now?

Ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, dips, sauces, olive oil. These are a direct consequence of higher at-home snacking.

Q. What new categories do you plan to foray into?

We have identified niches or white spaces; we see lots of opportunities around health and wellness – it is a very pronounced consumer trend. Last year, we introduced fortified juices, and now we have added coconut water to our franchise. Apart from the direct consumer benefit of health, packaged coconut water also allays consumer fear about safety and hygiene – that’s another tick in the box.

But we plan to stay within the Del Monte brand; we will build on that franchise now.



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