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Lays remains the dominant snack brand in India
In India, Frito-Lay has staved off the challenge from ITC, its first serious national-level competitor in the Indian savory snacks market. With a dominant market share in the Rs 3,000-crore branded salty snacks category, the firm says it is fast-tracking on innovation and execution-based growth. Frito-Lay's executive director marketing, Deepika Warrier, spoke to Ratna Bhushan about changing category dynamics, the threat from private labels, portfolio transformation to healthier choices and tapping rural opportunity.

Despite ITC's entry into snack foods, Frito-Lay remains the dominant player. What are the challenges to remain as market leader?

Being market leader means never being complacent. In a hyper-competitive market, we've focused on building intimate connections with consumers (both our core brands Lay's and Kurkure are 'love marks' with Indian snackers). We've repositioned our brands based on relevant consumer insights -Kurkure's tedha hai par mera hai is based on the insight of Indians being increasingly confident about their imperfections. Lay's be a little dillogical is based on the transition head-heart moments in young people's stressful lives.

We've driven up engagement levels and interactivity of our brands with programmes that put consumers in control. We're also getting more regional and segmented in our marketing, supported by regional flavours or the small pack communication developed for lower town classes to support the Rs 3 Kurkure pack. We are maniacal about tracking quality, driving execution and dominance in retail. What we've also stepped up is our pace of innovation. Between 2008 and 2009, we launched close to 20 products including Aliva crackers, Kurkure Desi Beats wheat lime, Cheetos Whoosh whole grain better for you snacks, and Lay's Stax for premium indulgent snacking.

A number of smaller brands and private labels claim to be taking away share from established players like yours. They also play the cheaper price advantage.

Low-commodity prices have seen a spate of low-cost entrants into the category this year. The good news is that they are driving conversion from unbranded to branded salty snacks. We have defined some key tasks to deal with low-cost players. These include stretching the equity of Lay's and Kurkure with low unit price packs at Rs 5 and Rs 3;ensuring that occasional consumers don't downgrade by monitoring the price-value of these brands;and using flanker brands like Uncle Chipps and Lehar namkeens to target this growth opportunity. In modern trade, we are actually holding our own and doing much better than other categories versus private labels.
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