Even as the nation attempts to get back on its feet after an unprecedented lockdown and deal with the subsequent economic impact, FMCG brands are playing their own part in this revival. Anticipating a surge in demand for hygiene and health products, FMCG companies have launched gadget disinfectants, vegetables cleaners, sanitizers, immunity-boosting foods in the last few weeks and have more disinfectants in the pipeline to capitalise on the heightened demand for such goods. Firms launched hand sanitisers initially, but are expanding their portfolio by entering newer categories such as floor and surface cleaners, disinfectant sprays and immunity building products.
Dabur India has observed that personal hygiene products like hand-sanitisers have become an essential part of the monthly grocery baskets. This has catalysed their decision to launch a slew of ayurveda-backed preventive healthcare and personal hygiene products. The firm advanced the launch of its hand-sanitiser brand Dabur Sanitize and launched Dabur Tulsi Drops, an immunity booster under its healthcare over-the-counter (OTC) portfolio.
Similarly, ITC, Dabur, Marico and Godrej have launched more than three dozen products and variants in the health and hygiene segment over the past month. Amul launched the world's first Tulsi (Basil) & Ginger milk variants aimed at boosting immunity in a bid to capture consumer sentiments. ITC came up with the “Nim Wash” vegetable and fruit wash which helps disinfect fresh produce while Marico came up with a similar product that was christened “Veggie clean”. Meanwhile, FMCG major Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) is betting big on its hygiene products range and plans to build the category as its "new core" in the next two to three years. Packaged goods company, CavinKare, too has launched a gadget as well as surface disinfectant under the Bacto-V brand, after rolling out hand sanitizers under its Nyle and Chik brands. Most companies have also ramped up production of their existing ranges to ensure uninterrupted supplies of their products and strengthened tie-ups with online platforms for timely delivery to consumers.
Not One Trick Ponies
However, while firms are racing to launch their innovative new products and market them to an eager consumer, they are also mindful of the need to innovate elsewhere. From DTC (direct to consumer) deliveries to insurances for front-line employees, FMCG firms are leaving no stone unturned in their attempts to stay ahead of the curve. More than a dozen consumer goods companies including Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Mondelez, Procter & Gamble, Dabur and Colgate have started selling products directly to consumers. That means circumventing traditional trade and distributor networks in areas where last-mile delivery has been disrupted due to Covid-19 restrictions by partnering startups such as Dunzo, Scootsy and Swiggy by listing brand stores on their portals and even reaching out to resident welfare associations (RWAs) through their sales staff. Godrej Consumer Products Limited for instance, is expanding its digital initiatives and increasing its presence in the e-commerce channels. The company is working with the channels partners and is also engaging through business-to-consumer (B2C) model, selling the products directly to the end-users.
Keeping the safety of frontline employees in mind, Nestle India, Godrej Consumers Products Ltd, Marico and Dabur are also securing their people on ground with personal protective equipment while providing special insurance covers to frontline workforce, including those of distributors, who are engaged in supply and distribution of their products during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Race Heats Up
According to Nielsen, the hand wash segment in India expanded 60% in March compared to 7% in the preceding three months, the floor cleaner growth rate doubled to 24% while hand sanitiser ballooned by 340% in March compared to 24% in December to February. It is also expected that consumers could shift some of their discretionary spends into health products, boosting demand. Saugata Gupta, CEO of Marico said, “The health, hygiene and immunity market will expand tremendously. The share of wallet will move from eating out and travel to these products.” On similar lines, as Godrej Consumer Products Limited plans to expand its Protekt brand, Anirban Banerjee, its Global head (Innovation) said, “We are cognizant of the changes taking place across our markets and are taking steps to organise our categories and new product portfolios effectively to meet this demand in an agile manner.” Only time will tell if this could mean increased competition in a segment that has traditionally been dominated by a duopoly of Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol and HUL’s Lifebuoy brands.