For PepsiCo’s Shailja Joshi, the chips are never down

Srabana Lahiri | Updated on: Monday, January 17, 2022, 07:29 AM IST

Shailja Joshi, Director-Marketing, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India |
Shailja Joshi, Director-Marketing, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India |

Shailja Joshi, Director-Marketing, Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India, says at-home demand for products across the company’s Foods portfolio has been leading the recovery trend, and that she is committed to the idea of strengthening Brand Lay’s through relevance, distinction and innovation.

Please give us an overview of the Potato Chips category of PepsiCo and how it has fared over the last couple of years. What have been the highlights, according to you?

In the last few years, we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the business landscape. For us at PepsiCo India, at-home demand for our products across the Foods portfolio has been leading the recovery trend. Consumers in the urban markets were also looking for convenient snacking options – not only for self-consumption but also for the many in-home experiences planned with friends and family. The latter has fuelled the demand for large packs significantly. On the distribution front, consumers are still cautious to step out of their homes, even for buying essentials. The demand for online deliveries – especially for food and other essentials – had seen a significant rise which has led Direct to Customer (D2C) channels to take precedence. In line with this, PepsiCo India tied up with Swiggy and Dunzo for exclusive Lay’s e-stores. These partnerships helped us ensure availability and seamless last-mile delivery of our products. Digital penetration has also seen a significant surge as consumers continue to look for products that are readily available while seeking great quality and value in their purchases – shining the spotlight on e-commerce platforms. Our partnership with Blinkit, Big Basket, etc., not only helped us reach customers through their robust digitally integrated channel, but also drove greater visibility for the product assortment.

What is the percentage contribution by revenue of the Potato Chips category to the overall company’s revenue in India?

In the past year, we’ve witnessed a significant uptake in our Foods category, with significant increase in revenue. The Potato Chips category has vastly contributed to this in terms of penetration and frequency of purchase. This category has always been important for us from both an internal as well as external competitive landscape point of view. Our expertise in this category has enabled new country innovations, leading to relevance and importance of Lay’s with our consumers and within the company.

What is the insight behind launching Lay’s Wafer Style, the ‘thinnest chips’ from the house of Lay’s? What is the target audience? What have you set out to do with this product?

A large part of the Wafers category is still unorganized with strong localized play. Industry sources show that in the Indian chips market (estimated to be around Rs 1,000 crore), the thin-cut segment is growing rapidly and around 2.5 times faster than the ridged category. The flat-cut category is differentiated from other snacks for its lighter cut, lighter flavours, and crisper, thinner texture. This makes it a comfort snack suited for anytime, anywhere snacking. With our core business already doing well and innovation being a priority, there could not have been a time more apt time for this launch. Lay’s continues to target the Indian youth with Wafer Style’s irresistible tastes and unique flavours in a sleek, thin and light chip. We also strongly believe that India is not one but made up of ‘many Indiascoming together – each part having its own unique culture and taste palate. Thus, as one of the most loved snack brands in the country, we focus on curating offerings that suit this wide array of flavour palates that exist every few kilometers in India.

How has the new campaign #PaperThinWaferThin for Lay’s Wafer Style with actors Alia Bhatt and Siddhant Chaturvedi played out? What are the other marketing efforts specific to this launch?

The Lay’s Wafer Style #PaperThinWaferThin campaign has once again positioned us as a front-runner in product innovations. The TVC features Lay’s brand ambassador and Bollywood superstar Alia Bhatt and actor Siddhant Chaturvedi – icons that the Indian youth adores and resonates with. We’re excited to have our brand ambassador featuring alongside Siddhanth Chaturvedi to create magic with this new campaign. Fans are excited to watch the duo together once again and the TVC film has received over 13 million views on YouTube. The TVC launch was first in the line of numerous activations that we have in the pipeline. Lay’s Wafer Style is also being brought to life through a robust 360-degree digital surround campaign panning across multiple platforms.

You have region-specific formats for Lay’s Wafer Style chips. How do you plan to build on the reach? Tell us about some of your upcoming consumer engagement strategies overall for the Potato Chips category.

Our localization strategy has been well-displayed with Lay’s Wafer Style’s initial launch in the South Indian market. Taking a cue from the traditional hand-made and home-dried pappadams that are relished as part of every traditional South Indian meal, we launched Lay’s Wafer Style in ‘Salt with Pepper’ and ‘Sundried Chilli’ flavours, to tap into this ritual that is unique to the Southern part of the country. The product received an overwhelming response from our fans across Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala. Catering to this response, we plan to expand our footprint in the South with market-specific offerings. The focus on localization is also reflected in our media strategy, as we continue advertising to our consumers in local languages to maintain a connection with them. Going forward as well, we stand committed to the idea of strengthening brand Lay’s through relevance and distinction, by taking more familiar and local flavours to our consumers across India, whilst communicating with them in their native languages.

Do you foresee any challenges considering the increased health awareness post-pandemic, and that chips are considered to be in the junk food category?

Lockdown and its implications placed consumers in situations that they had never seen before – inducing numerous changes in their lifestyles. Amongst these many changes were increased consumer awareness and a growing preference to switch to a healthier lifestyle. At PepsiCo India, we continue to stand committed to constantly transforming our product portfolio by introducing healthier choices, thereby, catering to our consumers who are on different stages of their health and nutrition journeys.

Going forward, what will be your main focus areas for the Potato Chips category of PepsiCo? What are your strategies to grow the category, and product innovation to meet evolving consumer needs?

Innovation, in line with three key consumer truths, has helped us pivot our plans and work towards bringing joy as well as value to our consumers. Firstly, consumers were becoming increasingly value-conscious; secondly, they were seeking innovative brand offerings that were in line with their evolving preferences; and lastly, they were gravitating towards brands that were willing to ‘Solve, Not Sell’ and lead with purpose in these challenging times. We expanded our brand footprint and portfolio across the country to drive innovations and value for consumers with the launch of offerings such as Lay’s MAXX, Lay’s @Home, and our most recent addition, Lay’s Wafer Style. Going forward, we continue to stand committed to the idea of strengthening Brand Lay’s through relevance, distinction and innovation.

What is a life lesson you have learnt on the ground as a marketer?

One key lesson for me as a marketer is that in the entire value chain and ecosystem of the brand, if someone is responsible for knowing the consumers better than even what they would know themselves; it’s we the category teams. We need to constantly hear, reach out and engage with our consumers in a way that’s relevant to them. Besides this, the recent times have also taught us marketers the need to be authentic and genuine- a brand with a purpose can be seen through and emerge as a brand that consumers love.

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Published on: Monday, January 17, 2022, 07:29 AM IST