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INTERVIEW

“There is great scope for growth for organised brands”
Monday, 31 October, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Pescafresh is India’s first D2C in the seafood and meat category. Over the years, the company's portfolio has been diversified with trademarked products such as the country’s first - No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) Chicken, Tender Red Mutton and NAE Free Range Eggs.

The seafood and meats category is still untapped and there is room for everyone. With healthy competition, all the brands are trying to develop this segment, said Sangram Sawant, founder,  Pescafresh, in an email interaction with Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:

How would you describe the current scene for D2C brands’ fresh fish and meat brands?
With customers increasingly becoming more conscious about their preferences, they are demanding the same from their brands too. D2C food brands are innovating to provide their customers with a diverse range of options.

There is great scope for growth for organised brands in this largely unorganised sector. Pescafresh as a brand focuses on giving its 100% to democratise freshness. Customers love the idea of a hassle-free experience where they get their seafood and meat right at their doorstep.

Innovation comes along with a nuance of educating the consumer, which is another consumer touchpoint for us. We already have features like videos showcasing the methods to cook and hacks to handle seafood and meats, available on our platform. The brand focuses on providing high-quality, hygienically processed meat to consumers at their doorstep.

What are the visible trends in this space?
The fresh seafood and meats industry has recently seen an increase in demand due to the pandemic. For convenience, consumers prefer ready-to-eat food, do-it-yourself (DIY) meals, and grilled and marinated products. This trend can also be seen in the rise of convenience food in the RTC and RTE segments. People are looking for food products that reduce the time, effort, and stress of cooking with the growing trend of healthy convenience foods.

Brands are aware that millennials are a hyper-connected and tech-savvy segment of buyers who use hybrid techniques such as researching products online and then purchasing from a store or vice versa. They prioritise omni experience and convenience over everything else. This has compelled brands like us to become omnipresent.

How has the brand fared in the market so far since its inception in 2004?
Our brand, India’s first D2C in the seafood and meat category, began the journey with a principle: To bring the flavour of freshness right to the customer's doorstep at an affordable price.

Over the years, the company's portfolio has been diversified with trademarked products such as the country’s first - No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) Chicken, Tender Red Mutton, and NAE Free Range Eggs, and many more. To complement the current offering, the company will introduce more than 100 new products across our Ready to Eat (RTE), Ready to Cook (RTC) and raw range.

The company has a well-established supply chain that sources the most fresh seafood from over 40 landing centres. We are credited with bringing the first fresh chilled salmon consignments from Norway, Scotland, and Canada. With over a decade of consumer insights, we have developed vertical-specific differentiated products like NAE chicken, 95% ocean caught, directly sourced seafood.

There is transparency in business through technology, so that our customers can make a firm decision.

As the first live commerce platform in the seafood and meats space, how have your customers viewed the offerings from PescaLive over those in conventional outlets?
World’s first live commercial platform on seafood and meat category, PescaLive is built on the principle of what you see is what you get. In India, customers believe that finding fresh, high-quality seafood and meat online is  a huge challenge. Our interactive platform, developed by our in-house tech team, features the 'fresh catch of the day,' everyday at 9:30 am, taking customers to the source in real time. Customers buy seafood and other meats that they see on PescaLive. It also features processing centres processes, live cooking marathons, expert panel talks, and influencer engagements among other activities. It’s like having a market in your living room.

What is the technology adopted to ensure efficiency and transparency? Which tech is supporting the business?
As a brand that has believed in democratising freshness for more than 18 years, we have been distraught to see how technology has been exploited to spread false information or mislead consumers. We believe that transparency is the key, and we are eager to lead and usher in a new era of eliminating opacity from this category. This is the reason we thought of our recently launched platform, PescaLive and we will keep updating the app, so that the interaction with the customers are seamless.

Our ‘Shore to Door’ mantra ensures that our products are 100% fresh and of superior quality, which is accomplished by our team of experts who inspect products at every stage from supply to delivery. We also adhere to the highest quality and hygiene standards with FSSAI standard, and also working to become HACCP compliant for our facilities.

The company has its presence only in two cities, what are the expansion plans envisaged?
Our company is headquartered in Mumbai, and we recently expanded our operations to Pune. As part of our expansion plans, we will be entering the Bengaluru and Delhi NCR markets by November. We are also planning to target Hyderabad in the coming months.

Which are the fastest growing products and which markets indicate promising growth prospects?
We have built ourselves over the years as a consumer insights company. Whatever we bring to our customers, is based on what they demanded for. So whether it is our NAE Chicken or Tender Red Mutton, seafood or RTE-RTC products, we have created loyal customers with a consistent increase in users. During the pandemic, the market saw an increase in ‘convenience-driven consumers.’ Furthermore, consumers today are more aware of and exposed to global trends. They are now upwardly mobile, have less time to devote to cooking, but a renewed desire to try new cuisines and enjoy food experiences. The company has brought to the customers, premium and affordable products in this category, including our exotic seafood and meats spreads and deli meats. The differentiation lies in using raw meats only from the company, as opposed to using wasted meats.

There is considerable competition, how does your company fare in this scenario?
The seafood and meats category is still untapped and there is room for everyone. With healthy competition, all the brands are trying to develop this segment. At Pescafresh, we are always innovating and developing technology to keep our products 100% fresh. We are enhancing customer experience with a developed ecosystem by engaging strategic partners. We feel that as long as we have a differentiating  factor, customers will choose our brand. Another factor which sets us apart and also helps us ramp up the operation, is strategic tie-ups for sourcing of quality raw products and last mile delivery.

What was the impact of the pandemic on the company?
While there was some initial hesitation among a section of people when it came to consuming non-vegetarian food during the pandemic, we had a huge number of new customer acquisitions due to our well-established safety standards. Our brand was very clear from the beginning that the quality, hygiene, and freshness of the products will not be compromised. Additionally, we did not hike prices as our brand is very customer-focused. Consumers looked for  safe and eat healthy food that was free from antibiotics, chemicals and was  fresh. The focus is on clean products and  we became an obvious choice for many.

Tell us about the fund infusion into the company since inception. How much was raised through UK-based Elara India and for what?
We raised $2 million in a new funding round led by UK-based Elara India Opportunities Fund in April. The brand is using the fresh capital to invest in geographical expansions and technological intervention that will improve the overall customer experience. We are also looking to build  three processing plants that will be completed by the end of this calendar year. We aim to leverage our processing capacities and expand into newer Tier-I markets by the end of the current financial year.
 
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