New Delhi: Beverage maker Coca-Cola Co.’s vice-president (marketing) for India and South-West Asia, Ricardo Fort, is busy expanding the company’s product portfolio, tweaking packaging and exploring new marketing tools to reach out to a larger consumer base. Fort, who came to India last year from Coca-Cola Brazil, spoke about the latest consumer trends and Coca-Cola’s plans. Edited excerpts:
Are there any new consumer trends in India that will have a bearing on Coca-Cola’s plans?
Growing market: Coca-Cola’s Ricardo Fort says the beverage company is bullish on India.
There are several trends that we see in the international markets, and, some of them we have begun to see in India. Trends are different from short-term consumer behaviour and pattern. For instance, in India, we increasingly see women go out to work. This has a bearing on their shopping habits and behaviour. Also, concerns related to environment and health such as obesity are going up... These trends should be kept in mind by marketeers while chalking out their business plans.
Is Coca-Cola keeping pace with these trends?
To address issues related to sustainability and environment, we will soon start giving messages on our labels... On the health front, we have already started giving information on the calorie content in our beverages. In terms of media, we have primarily been using TV and print. But, going ahead, we will make conscious efforts to leverage the digital media and forms of experiential marketing such as events.
Any plans to launch new products in 2010?
We have a product innovation pipeline. There are dozens of new products under development. But what will be launched when, it’s difficult to say. Having said that, we are very bullish on India. In the last two months, we have launched two new products—Burn, the energy drink, and Minute Maid NimbuFresh, first in the south and, as we speak, it is being rolled out in other parts of the country. In the next two-three years, you will see much more in terms of new product launches and campaigns since we have achieved a critical mass in India and now we are in a position to invest more here.
In 2009, Coca-Cola spent much more in India on advertising on the mass media than PepsiCo. Have you significantly increased your advertising spends?
As a matter of policy, we cannot share figures on how much we spent. But I would say we are an important advertiser, and, to reach out to the same number of people we have reached out to in the past, the company will have to spend a lot (more) on advertising.
Most consumer product companies are very bullish about the rural markets. How do you look at non-urban markets?
As a country, the overall consumption of packaged beverage is very disproportionate. In the rural markets, we are investing in getting the infrastructure such as coolers in place as well as investing in distribution, logistics and transportation.
That the right product size is available is crucial. For instance, the Rs8 glass bottles sell more in rural markets.