“In January 2020, digital channels accounted for only 4-5% of our sales; today, their share is above 30%. So, e-commerce has replaced modern trade in our strategy now”, shared Rohan Mirchandani, CEO, Drums Food International in an interview with Financial Express in February this year.
This experience reflects the new food selling trend. Artisanal food firms want to communicate and sell directly to their consumers, cutting out the retailing costs. This has been really given a strong push by the pandemic. This has created an opportunity for various brands to pivot and take brand experiences directly to consumers using digital PR.
‘Direct-to-consumer’ is the new communication channel for targeting audiences using digital platforms.
Smitha Menon, culinary editor, Conde Nast Traveller, India, says, “Brands are benefitting by selling directly to customers via Instagram and WhatsApp, as it puts them in touch with what customers really want and need. Icestasy (ice creams) is one such brand that comes to mind. They were a B2B brand with a very small B2C business that completely revamped during the lockdown. Changed branding and packaging to be more customer facing”.
Artisanal food brands are now nurturing one-to-one relationships via digital communications, offering solutions to consumers for their individual preferences.
Crowdsourcing communication post pandemic
Consumers want to build an emotional connect with their food. This is why artisanal brands are opting to crowdsource consumer voices as their cheerleaders to add to sales and increase awareness. Interest in nutritious and handmade brands, grew manifold. No more is the consumer's voice just another frivolous post on social media that a brand can ignore or ‘like’. Any digital conversation by a consumer makes the brands sit-up and pay attention, because these voices now come with immense integrity.
As artisanal brands navigated this positive change, I am sharing a few growth stories, using strategic digital communication.
Praakritik - Sharp rise in digital selling
“The pandemic allowed us to optimise costs, reduce innumerable contact points, opened up a completely different channel and gave direction in terms of what our consumers are looking for. Thus, making it easier to narrow down on our new products and positively making changes in the existing ones. Pre-covid, our online business used to contribute 10% of our turnovers, but post-COVID, it grew to roughly 35% of our revenues (and is growing every month!)”, shared Dharmishtha Goenka, founder & CEO, Praakritik, a certified organic grocery brand.
Aghalya Ramasamy and Sachit Subramanian directors at Praakritik, “Running discounts used to be the way we pushed sales in the past but now we do it by communicating the importance or benefits of our products”.
Consumers appreciate brands who are able to authentically tell their story about nutrition and clean ingredients. So, when I saw Gouris Goodies move away from retail (just before the pandemic and all-through last year), even though they had a well-established subscription model, it made me sit up and question.
Direct to Consumer=Direct Consumer Connect
Mohit Gupta who handles marketing for Gouris' Goodies, explained why this artisanal brand chose to go ‘direct-to-consumer’!
Says Gupta “ We moved from retail distribution to a direct-to-consumer model, with an objective to become a zero-waste business. And it goes without saying, to build a direct connect with our consumers. This approach enabled us to get a better understanding and we were able to target our marketing much, much better. The other big benefit was that we were able to reach consumers nationwide without having to go through a chain of distributors or retailers”, adds Mohit Gupta.
Building relationships has always been a great way to ensure future revenues. For consumers, going the artisanal brand-route began with thriving on one-of-its-kind, but slowly became a primary choice,as brands connected well with their compelling stories. In a way, also an opportunity to explore #MadeInIndia brands and go as regional and local, as they want!
Pooja Trehan is Founder, PRestaurants and Co-founder PRPOI