Snack makers look for a boost from late-night World Cup games
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New Delhi/Mumbai: Football fan Toshik Anand’s refrigerator is well stocked with cans of beer and frozen snacks like sausages and potato wedges.
The 30-year-old employee of a technology startup has also stocked up generously on potato chips, other small eats and beverages to share with friends who are watching at his bachelor’s apartment late-night telecasts of the month-long 2014 Fifa World Cup that started on 12 June.
“Since most of the crucial matches are being played at midnight, one has to watch them at home,” said Anand.
For the month-long duration of the World Cup being played in Brazil, midnight snacking at home will be a way of life for football afficionados like Anand and his friends, promising a mini boost to the sales of packaged food and beverage makers.
The eight-hour, 30-minute time difference between Brazil and India means the matches are being telecast live in India between 9.30pm and 3am—long after the closing time for bars and eateries—so fans are eating and drinking at home while watching the world’s most popular spectator sport.
Chains stores such Godrej Nature’s Basket and 24/7 are running promotions to take advantage of the rising in-house consumption, which comes at a time when packaged consumer goods makers are waiting for an economic rebound to perk up sales growth.
Two years of sub-5% economic growth have caused individuals and households to cut back on discretionary spending, but the formation of a majority government after the April-May general election and the promise of economic reforms have sparked hope that consumer sentiment will improve.
“In general, there has been a lull in the last few months and this is the first big occasion following the positive turn in sentiments. We are upbeat,” said Mohit Khattar, managing director and chief executive officer at Godrej Nature’s Basket, an upscale chain of food stores owned by Mumbai-based Godrej Group.
Godrej Nature’s Basket is promoting the starters category of foods at its outlets, for instance, to woo football fans. This includes items like barbecued vegetables, kebabs, frozen foods, chips and nachos.
Demand for the ready-to-eat products category is expected to increase, said Samir Modi, president, Twenty Four Seven Convenience Stores Pvt. Ltd, part of New Delhi-based Modi Enterprises, who runs 40 convenience stores in Delhi under the 24/7 brand name.
“We are hoping for enough of a spike (in demand) post-midnight so we are stocking up accordingly for it,” Modi said.
Both Khattar and Modi said that the impact of the World Cup on their business would be visible over the next few weekends.
For brands such as Coca-Cola that are sponsoring the football extravaganza globally, midnight viewership in India is a big opportunity.
The brand is riding on the soccer frenzy in cities such as Kolkata and Bangalore by sponsoring live screenings of the matches. The cola company expects demand for its beverage portfolio to go up both in the restaurant segment as well as consumption at home.
To cater to increased consumption during the World Cup, the company has rolled out 10 million special edition Coca-Cola Brazil cans only for the Indian market, said a company spokesperson.
Sporting events in large cities are becoming increasingly relevant for consumer companies not only as a marketing opportunity but also for product trials and to drive sales of larger pack sizes, said Vikram Agarwal, founder and director, Green Dot Health Foods, which sells the Cornitos brand of nachos.
Some bars and restaurant chains also hope to see their sales rise, although the matches continue beyond their closing time.
“There is a lot of anticipation and build-up,” said Glynn Tomlinson, chief operating officer of the American chain Hard Rock India. “We always have huge crowds for the cricket season, so we’re expecting good footfall for the World Cup.”
The chain is screening the 9.30 pm matches in four of its eight outlets—in Pune, Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bangalore.
To be sure, not everyone is upbeat that the late-night football matches will give a leg-up to their top line.
For instance, brewers and spirits companies do not expect the World Cup to provide a significant boost to sales, mainly because of the late timings and the narrower reach of football relative to cricket in India.
“It will help a bit but no one is expecting a big spike. The timings are not conducive..,” said an executive at India’s largest brewer United Breweries Ltd. He declined to be named as he isn’t allowed to speak to the media.
Barring the top 10-15 cities, sporting interest in India is largely limited to cricket, said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at KWAN, a Mumbai-based entertainment and sports agency.
Although the World Cup is generating plenty of buzz among fans of the game, brands will face a challenge in addressing the market, he said.
Clearly, unsuitable match timings may translate into a missed business opportunity for most brands.
“I am very excited about FIFA as an event, but the excitement ends there. The matches are all past midnight and there is nothing one can do to convert the excitement into a business opportunity,” said Rahul Akerkar, founder, managing director and director of cuisine at deGustibus, the company which runs Indigo and the Indigo Deli chain of restaurants.
Lite Bite Foods Pvt. Ltd, which runs restaurant chains like Punjab Grill, Fresco, Asia 7 and Zambar, doesn’t expect the World Cup to have much of an impact on sales at quick service restaurants, casual dining or fine dining restaurants, said Sharad Sachdeva, chief operating officer.
Yet, at its outlets in the New Delhi international airport, the company is putting up large TV screens and creating a buzz around the World Cup to tap the peak outbound traffic late at night.
“We expect to see a sales surge of 15-20% at our airport outlets,” Sachdeva said.
Mihir Dalal in Bangalore contributed to this story.