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    A new kind of white revolution in the milk industry

    Synopsis

    Everyone wants a piece of the milk cake, it seems, as the industry is seeing an influx of new players.

    Getty Images
    To capture the surge in demand for milk and other dairy products during the pandemic, several newer players in the field have also dialed up marketing initiatives in recent months.
    The legacy of milk consumption in India is unique. It’s the birthplace of the humble haldi doodh, which westerners in recent years have branded as ‘turmeric latte’ or ‘golden milk’. Indians use milk in everything from malted drinks and mithais to all sorts of beauty regimens and religious and cultural rituals. Here, a glass full of milk goes a long way, from sehat to suhaag raat.

    Statistically, India accounts for 1/5th of global milk production, making it the world’s largest producer, but the bulk of consumption is domestic. According to the latest report by market research firm IMARC Group, the dairy market in India reached a value of Rs. 10,527 billion in 2019. The expected CAGR is 15% over the next few years.

    Twenty-five years ago, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) released the iconic ‘Doodh Doodh’ ad to spur milk consumption in urban India. The commercial that turned into an earworm in the ‘90s was a part of ‘Operation Flood’, which was launched in 1970 by NDDB and Dr Verghese Kurien, who is known as the Father of the White Revolution. The ad is one of the most iconic campaigns of all time.

    In 2020, as the world barrelled toward a health crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus and people everywhere looked for ways to boost their immunity, dairy major Amul played another familiar tune on Indian television. Brought out of the archive, ‘Amul doodh peeta hai India’ aired again on national TV, reaching millions of people in locked-down India. Amul’s advertising blitz spotlighted the ‘goodness of milk’ at a time when milk needed to do more than just provide energy and nutrients to grow.

    The original immunity booster will “always be milk”, believes RS Sodhi, managing director of GCMMF (Amul), adding that “today, consumers are moving towards branded and trustworthy companies more than ever, when it comes to milk.” This year, the farmer-owned dairy cooperative launched ginger and tulsi milk, adding to its basket of packaged immunity-boosting milk-based beverages like haldi doodh.

    Making Milk Cool
    To capture the surge in demand for milk and other dairy products during the pandemic, several newer players in the field have also dialed up marketing initiatives in recent months. However, most lack the budgets to mount a large multi-media marketing and advertising campaign.

    Nashik-based Sarda Farms is building the brand using social media and a community of mothers, mostly. During the lockdown, the makers of A2 milk — cow’s milk that is free of a form of beta-casein proteins called A1, associated with mommy bloggers and nutritionists to generate “authentic content”, says Nitin Sawale, COO, Sarda Farms.

    The company has ‘Milk Councillors’ who talk to consumers on a regular basis not only for “product awareness and feedback but also for insight mining,” says Sawale. Consumers in urban India are looking for more farm-to-table food options, a trend that’s going to stick, he says. And, interestingly, Sawale says their consumers are also asking more questions about cow-care. He tells BE, “Younger consumers have realised that good milk always comes from happy cows. They want one-source milk and are conscious about what they are consuming,” adds Sawale.

    Taking the uber-influencer route, Parag Milk Foods’ Pride of Cows recently roped in Bollywood celebrity Kareena Kapoor Khan, who is expecting her second child. It's a good fit for a premium brand like Pride of Cows because Kapoor advocates “localism” in food, says Akshali Shah, senior vice president - strategy, sales & marketing, Parag Milk Foods. “People want to talk about their brand experiences on social media. These content sets bring a certain badge value for premium brands like us,” says Shah. In the last quarter, the brand introduced dahi and ghee as product extensions. Parag Milk Foods is currently generating Rs 50-60 crore in revenue from Pride of Cows and expecting a 25% growth in the coming year.

    According to various industry reports, the global A2 milk market was valued at USD 5.13 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach USD 26.3 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 22.5% from 2019 to 2026.

    Got Doodh?
    Everyone wants a piece of the milk cake, it seems, as the industry is seeing an influx of new players. Startup brands are adding new layers of tech and innovation, but the dairy-tech space is at a nascent stage. New brands like Swiggy-owned Supr Daily, BigBasket’s Daily, Gurugram-based Country Delight, Kalaari Capital-backed MilkBasket, bootstrapped MilkyMorning, are attempting to digitize the unorganised dairy ecosystem - from farming and production to distribution and marketing.

    Bengaluru-based MilkLane, that brands itself as the maker of toxin and antibiotic safe milk, also forayed into the ready-to-eat segment with Nutrinos, a dairy-based fortified snack for kids. Talking about the brand’s latest product extension, the company’s chief marketing officer, Vivek Sharma, says, “In urban India, an increasing number of parents are acknowledging the issues of hidden hunger and malnutrition, even in affluent families. They are looking for healthy and safe dairy products that are available conveniently and complete daily nutritional requirements while being palatable and fun for kids.”

    Experts believe hyperlocal companies customise demands and embrace large scale technology integration at a much faster rate. However, for new brands it is difficult “to break the entry barrier when it comes to competing with both the well-established national players and the well-entrenched local brands,” says Mausumi Kar, managing director, Motivator, a GroupM-owned media investment company.

    A new kind of white revolution is underway in the milk industry, but “unless a new entrant has a distinct benefit to offer, consumers tend to go for the tried and the tested,” says Kar. That’s one of the main reasons why the dairy industry is dominated by local players and a handful of national brands. She adds, “To stand out and gain acceptance, a new entrant would need to highlight a unique but relevant point of differentiation.” Marketers who crack that code can expect a golden latte.

    BE Snapshot
    Consumers are moving towards branded and trustworthy companies more than ever when it comes to milk.

    Younger consumers are seeking more farm-to-table options in dairy. They are also asking questions about the origins of products and cow-care.

    Hyperlocal startup brands are focusing on micro consumer-needs.

    To stand out and gain acceptance, new players will need a unique but relevant point of differentiation.
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    6 Comments on this Story

    Rohit Sengeebiochem2 days ago
    It is high team that India starts thinking about Fortified Milk. Fat Soluble Vitamins like Vitamin A, D and Vitamin E should be made compulsory in milk.
    The NDDB and FSSAI should take proactive steps to fortify milk with Vitamins to ensure a great impact of National Health.
    Regards
    Rohit Dubepatil.
    Shiva Kumar2 days ago
    Yes the AVAILABILITY OF MILK has become very nice .
    Even then many POOR ARE UNABLE TO AFORD IT .
    CONCERNED AUTHORITIES SHOULD LOOK INTO THIS , TO SEE THAT EVEN POOR SHOULD ALSO HAVE AN EASY ACCESS TO CONSUME MILK.
    Further we Should also Plan to EXPORT MILK PRODUCTS TO ENRICH OUR MOTHER LAND.
    With Best Wishes For Betterment Always.
    ZEN DAHODI3 days ago
    Indian dairy industry can also develop more faster and catch the world market too only if we also consider cow as the milk producer rather than a symbol of our religion and mother allowing cows to retire painfully and die miserably without contributing value of her body for other valuable use.
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