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INTERVIEW

“The direct-to-consumer model has gained traction”
Monday, 10 June, 2024, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Asahi Kasei is a leading kitchen consumables company that develops technologically advanced solutions to elevate meal preparation and food storage. The company’s kitchen consumables portfolio comprises an array of cutting-edge products, including cooking sheets, frying pan foil, premium wrap, and zipper bags. These technologically advanced solutions are seamlessly designed to simplify meal preparation and elevate food storage convenience.

Luve Oberoi, senior marketing manager, Asahi Kasei, talks about the current landscape of kitchen consumable industry in India and its global trends in an email interaction with F&B News. Excerpts:

Share Asahi Kasei’s journey in the kitchen consumable industry.
Our journey in India's kitchen consumable industry began humbly in 2013, starting in Mumbai with just three SKUs. Over the past decade, our growth has been remarkable, expanding to offer a diverse range of 10 high-quality products across more than 15 states nationwide. Entering an unorganised market in 2013, the kitchen consumables category had virtually no presence in mainstream retail outlets. However, our sustained efforts have led to a significant transformation, with our brand, now prominently visible and driving growth in the sector.

Moreover our strategic collaborations with culinary experts like chef Amrita Raichand and chef Ranveer Brar, coupled with accolades like Industry Leadership Award, further solidify our position as a trusted leader in the kitchen consumable industry.

How has the kitchen consumable industry evolved over the years in India?
The kitchen consumable industry in India has undergone significant evolution over the years, reflecting changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and a growing awareness of health and sustainability. In the past, the market primarily consisted of basic kitchen essentials, but there has been a notable shift towards innovation and specialised products. With the rise of health-conscious consumers, there's been an increased demand for eco-friendly and health-oriented consumables, leading to the introduction of products like silicone-coated baking sheet and premium wrap with advanced barrier properties. Additionally, the industry has embraced convenience-focused solutions, such as zipper bag for easy storage. The advent of online platforms has also played a crucial role, providing consumers with a wide array of choices and facilitating the accessibility of niche products.

Elaborate on the company's consumables portfolio. How these products address specific consumer needs?
Our kitchen consumables portfolio offers four distinctive products tailored to address diverse consumer needs. The premium wrap, crafted from special PVDC material, extends food storage life with its high barrier property, reducing wastage and keeping food fresh and odour-free. The frying pan foil, featuring a silicone coating, revolutionises cooking by eliminating the need for oil, catering to health-conscious individuals. The baking sheet, is heat-resistant and stick-free, enhances baking experiences with its versatility and convenience. Completing the lineup, our zipper bag provides a secure seal for preserving the freshness of chopped vegetables and meats. These products together showcase the brand's commitment to delivering innovative, high-quality solutions that elevate the kitchen experience for our valued customers.

What are the key global trends in the kitchen consumables market?
In the global kitchen consumables market several key trends are shaping the industry. Firstly, there is a notable surge in demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products, driven by increased consumer awareness of environmental impact. Manufacturers are responding with innovative packaging solutions, reusable materials, and a focus on reducing carbon footprints. Health and wellness continue to be significant influencers, with a growing preference for consumables that support healthier cooking practices. Convenience remains a paramount factor, leading to the development of time-saving products like pre-cut and pre-packaged consumables. Moreover, smart technology integration is gaining traction, with the emergence of intelligent packaging that monitors freshness and expiration dates. Online retail platforms and e-commerce channels are playing a crucial role in expanding the global reach of kitchen consumables, providing consumers with diverse options and information.

How has the rise of e-commerce and online platforms affected the distribution and sales channels in this industry?
The rise of e-commerce and online platforms has significantly transformed the distribution and sales channels within the kitchen consumables industry. Traditional brick-and-mortar retail is now complemented, if not surpassed, by the convenience and accessibility offered by online platforms. Consumers increasingly prefer the ease of browsing, comparing, and purchasing kitchen consumables from the comfort of their homes. E-commerce has expanded the market reach for manufacturers, enabling them to connect with a global audience. This shift has prompted companies to establish robust online presence, optimise digital marketing strategies, and enhance user experiences on e-commerce platforms. Additionally, online channels provide a platform for niche and specialised products, catering to diverse consumer needs. The direct-to-consumer model has gained traction, allowing brands to build stronger relationships with their customer base.

How does the integration of smart solutions impact the kitchen consumables market?
Smart solutions elevate functionality and contribute to a more connected and efficient kitchen experience for consumers. The integration of smart solutions in the kitchen consumables market enhances convenience through intelligent packaging that monitors freshness and expiration dates. Smart kitchen appliances and devices synergise with consumables, streamlining cooking processes and offering precision and control. Beyond smart packaging, our commitment to catering to customer needs and convenience is reflected in our product line. Items like premium wrap, baking sheet, and frying pan foil have been meticulously designed with integrated cutters, providing users with a hassle-free and precise experience. Additionally, our zipper bag incorporates labelling space, facilitating meal prepping and organisation, an innovative approach that adds a layer of convenience for consumers.

How does the company ensure that its technologically advanced solutions stand out in a competitive market?
As a Japanese company with a rich heritage spanning over 50 years, we have continuously set ourselves apart in the competitive market through relentless dedication to technological innovation. Our longstanding commitment to pioneering advanced solutions has solidified our reputation as a leader in the industry. Leveraging decades of experience, we have perfected the art of blending traditional Japanese craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology to create products that surpass consumer expectations. From our earliest offerings to our latest innovations, our focus remains unwaveringly on providing superior quality, functionality, and user experience. This steadfast dedication to excellence has enabled us to maintain a prominent position in the market, setting the standard for technological advancement in the industry.

In comparison to others, our kitchen consumable products stand out due to their exceptional technological aspects. Our products incorporate state-of-the-art materials and manufacturing techniques, ensuring durability, efficiency, and safety. For instance, our silicone-coated baking sheet boasts advanced non-stick properties, providing unparalleled convenience and ease of cleaning. Furthermore, our premium wrap is engineered with cutting-edge barrier technologies, preserving food freshness and extending shelf life. By consistently pushing the boundaries of innovation, we strive to exceed customer expectations and deliver unmatched value in every product we offer.

Discuss any collaborations or partnerships that have contributed to the company's success.
Our strategic collaborations and partnerships have played a pivotal role in our company's success. Partnering with chef Amrita Raichand has allowed us to connect with a niche audience, tapping into her expertise to cater to specific culinary preferences. On the other hand, our recent collaboration with chef Ranveer Brar has been instrumental in reaching a broader and more diverse audience, contributing significantly to our exponential growth. These partnerships not only enhance our brand's credibility but also enable us to cater to a wide spectrum of consumers, solidifying our position in the market.

How is the role of sustainability evolving in the kitchen consumables sector?
The kitchen consumables sector is undergoing a rapid evolution towards sustainability,characterised by a noticeable shift towards eco-friendly packaging and the reduction of single-use plastics. As a brand, we are at the forefront of this movement, showcasing our unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability through products like premium wrap, baking sheet, frying pan foil, and zipper bag – all meticulously crafted with the revolutionary PVDC (polyvinylidene chloride). This innovative material surpasses traditional plastics by blocking 2.5 times more moisture and retaining 200 times higher oxygen levels, resulting in a significant reduction in plastic usage and aligning with our overarching green initiatives.  

Currently growing at a 5% CAGR, with expectations of doubling in the future, the wrapping category demonstrates substantial potential. In anticipation of a surge in demand for sustainable kitchen consumables, we are proactively adapting to the changing needs of urban lifestyles, with a strong emphasis on convenience and eco-friendliness. The introduction and utilisation of PVDC underscore our brand's unwavering commitment to eco-friendly practices, responsibly utilising petroleum resources and minimising environmental impact. Notably, our PVDC establishes a new standard for sustainability, boasting an impressive 62 oxygen gas permeability and 7.3 moisture permeability, surpassing traditional PVC or PE wraps. In essence, our brand stands as a pioneer in championing sustainable practices, showcasing how innovative materials can redefine industry norms and contribute to a more environmentally friendly future.

To address the critical issue of food wastage, we actively raise awareness and promote sustainable products. Through a unique social media campaign, users sharing photos using our products contribute to meal donations to the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Last year, we provided 92,000 meals, and in 2024, we pledge to contribute 92,000 meals, contributing to hunger prevention and food wastage reduction.

In alignment with our commitment to sustainability, we proudly hold the EPR (Extended Producer’s Responsibility) certificate. This ensures responsible management throughout the lifecycle of our products. Collaborating with Shakti Plastic, a waste management company with CPCB registration, we initiate plastic waste collection and recycling, minimising environmental impact and accelerating sustainable waste solutions. We continue to set industry standards, exemplifying how innovative materials and practices can contribute to a greener future.

What challenges and opportunities does the company foresee in this industry in the coming years?
In the coming years, we anticipate facing both challenges and opportunities influenced by the changing preferences of consumers and the constant drive for innovation. Meeting the ever-changing needs of consumers demands constant attention and flexibility, bringing forth a mix of challenges and opportunities. Our dedication to innovation becomes vital in navigating these changes, opening doors for the company to create sustainable products that match the evolving expectations of consumers.

What are the future plans for the company?
In response to the ever-evolving needs of our consumers, our company is strategically planning to introduce new products within the kitchen consumable category. This initiative aligns with our commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends and continuously offering innovative solutions that cater to the changing preferences and demands of our valued customers.
 
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