How Abhay Parnerkar drives home the ‘Ghar ka fast food’ proposition

Abhay Parnerkar, CEO, Godrej Tyson Foods Ltd, talks of expanding the Yummiez portfolio, USP of keeping products preservative-free with IQF technology, and future plans for the business

Srabana LahiriUpdated: Monday, January 23, 2023, 10:40 AM IST
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Abhay Parnerkar, CEO, Godrej Tyson Foods Ltd |

When Abhay Parnerkar ate the ready-in-two-minutes Maggi in his childhood, little did he know that one day he would lead Godrej Tyson Foods, with a vast portfolio of vegetarian and non-vegetarian ready-to-cook frozen foods under popular brand names like Real Good Chicken and Yummiez. Conscious of fitness, his focus remains on ensuring taste, health and hygiene of the entire range of products, in effect delivering to customers the ‘Ghar Ka Fast Food’ experience. 

Please take us through your background and growing up years… What life experiences from those years have shaped you as a person? 

The biggest life-shaping experience for me was diversity. I’ve never spent more than 3-4 years in one place. I have lived across multiple cities and countries. I was a very outgoing kid. Growing up, I experienced diverse foods and cuisines, thanks to multi-cultural neighbours. In fact, though my family had strictly vegetarian food habits, I grew up eating non-vegetarian food with neighbours and friends. 

What are the marketing lessons you have garnered while working with The Coca-Cola Company across Asia, Africa and Europe, and now at Godrej Tyson Foods? 

Every market – be it Africa, Europe or Asia – comes with its own advantages and disadvantages; hence each market has been a learning ground for me. I was associated with The Coca-Cola Company for more than 17 years in these markets at various levels. I have lived in five countries, while leading businesses and teams in 20+ countries across three continents. For a country as diverse as ours, with a promising economy, these learnings are a plus point. This is especially true when it comes to strengthening and expanding our existing portfolio in cities where we have a limited or zero presence. The experiences gathered in multiple international markets, especially consumer insights, come to my aid in the long run, especially while launching new products.

You recently launched the Crispy Potato Starz under Godrej Yummiez. Tell us about the expansion strategy of the company’s vegetarian ready-to-cook product portfolio as well as plans to drive penetration of products. 

Godrej Yummiez Crispy Potato Starz has been our latest launch, making it the third back-to-back launch from the Godrej Yummiez stable, in 2022 alone. While Godrej Yummiez began its inaugural run with the launch of non-vegetarian products, our persistent endeavour to gather feedback from our consumers made us realize that two-thirds of the demand in India’s snacking space is for vegetarian products. Keeping that in mind, in 2018 we began a state-of-the art facility in Ludhiana, Punjab which helped us increase our traction. With price points for vegetarian products being lower than that of non-vegetarian products, we are in the process of penetrating stand-alone stores as well as e-commerce websites with more of our products. Plans are afoot to expand distribution in cities where we are present currently, and also expanding to other cities where we have a limited or no presence such as Udaipur, Varanasi and Mangalore.

How are the company’s non-vegetarian ready-to-cook products doing? What is the outlook for Real Good Chicken? Is demand higher for veg or non-veg products across markets?

Today, we have outperformed our competitors by becoming the market leader in the non-veg ready-to-cook frozen foods category. In terms of sales, Godrej Yummiez non-veg products contribute 55% to our total sales versus 45% from our vegetarian products. The outlook for Real Good Chicken is positive and extremely encouraging. The consumer shift from butcher-cut to packaged chicken is driven by better shopper experience and hygiene. Since we have the advantage of backward integration, we have farm-to-fork control on the hygiene of the chicken. We will continue to deliver that to our consumers.

Tell us about your ‘Ghar Ka Fast Food’ proposition, and USP of your products in an increasingly health-conscious marketplace. What are the differentiators vis a vis competition in the category? 

In a space where consumers are increasingly conscious of the choices they make during a purchase, we at Godrej Tyson Foods are aware that we need to deliver products that are safe and hygienic, while keeping the taste intact. For a brand such as Godrej Yummiez, consumers look at us with a sense of legacy and trust. The ‘Ghar Ka Fast Food’ proposition is built on the same principles, by maintaining the authentic taste of our products while also providing a dining out experience at home. As market leaders, we are also responsible to constantly invest and evolve in delivering our best. As such, we use Individual Quick Freeze (IQF) technology, to ensure the highest safety and quality standards, across taste, hygiene and health. The best outcome of IQF technology is that our food products do not need any preservatives - which makes us stand out compared to our competitors today. Be it the new addition, Crispy Potato Starz, or the existing product portfolio, they are devoid of any preservatives which today is a major health concern for many consumers in India.

What can be called the top three talking points at Godrej Tyson Foods as a business right now? What are your plans for it in the coming year?

Abhay Parnerkar, CEO, Godrej Tyson Foods Ltd

Abhay Parnerkar, CEO, Godrej Tyson Foods Ltd |

We are focussed on expanding and strengthening our distribution channels by increasing the existing store count by 50% in cities in which we are currently present. We also have goals to penetrate new cities, to reach out to a wider customer base. Further, we are focused on probable new launches in the upcoming financial year. Our latest launch has been the Godrej Yummiez Crispy Potato Starz, which was the third in the category after Godrej Yummiez Paneer Pops and Godrej Yummiez Mix Veggies, and we expect this to boost overall growth by 30% in FY23.

How do you expect the ready-to-cook frozen foods category as a whole to grow? What are the challenges before it in India, and what immediate steps are required to make the industry function better?

The frozen foods market in India is pegged at approximately Rs 3,500 crore today. I am bullish about the frozen foods category seeing over 10% growth in the coming years. The definition of what the best-suited snack is for an individual or a household has changed. While it will be interesting to watch India’s snacking industry growth story, we at Godrej Yummiez need to continue to invest in research and development, to which we are highly committed as responsible marketers and manufacturers.

What are some key insights from the India Snacking Report recently released by Godrej Yummiez?

The India Snacking Report by Godrej Yummiez is an insightful study that was undertaken to understand the changing attitudes of Indian consumers towards snacking in general and frozen foods in particular. The report definitely shows that moving forward, the dynamics of India’s snacking habits will be based on the five pillars described by the acronym STTEM (Safety, Technology, Taste, Ease and Mood Uplifter). The report points out that 73% of Indians feel taste is the biggest reason for snacking when it comes to potato and vegetarian frozen snacks, while 55% of Indians binge on frozen foods as a mood uplifter during various occasions. In terms of ease, 51% of Indians believe that frozen snacks are easily available and hence make it easier for consumption. In terms of awareness of technology, a majority of Indian’s (53%) could recall they have heard of IQF technology, wherein Delhi and Kolkata ranked amongst the top two cities. Another interesting highlight of this report is that when it comes to opting for Indian snacks versus Western snacks, an overwhelming majority (61%) of consumers opt for Indian snacks.

Finally, tell us about Abhay Parnerkar, the person, beyond the realm of work. What are you passionate about? What defines your personality?

I am very close to my family – my wife and three lovely daughters. As I move through life, I’d like to spend a lot of time with them. Unfortunately, I don’t get much time these days as they are in a different city. I am also passionate about travel and use travel as a means to experience different cultures and societies in India as well as around the world. As a direct impact of travel, I am also very experimental with food. I have been to 60+ countries and enjoyed different kinds of food and cuisines. Over the years, I have also been taking fitness seriously and like to engage in outdoor sports and other fitness activities. I am very keen about making an impact on people and society around me; so I intend to spend at least some time every week on volunteering.

What is a motto that you believe in and follow every day?

Every day is a new day that can teach us something or the other and help us in expanding our thinking and planning horizon for the future. I am a firm believer that as a business operator, I must consistently deliver much ahead of plan results, to which I am committed.

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