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NEW DELHI : Demand for on-the-go food categories such as beverages, milkshakes, smaller packets of chips and confectionery continue to improve as mobility rebounds and more consumers resume travelling, said executives at fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. Several categories, however, remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Typically, sales of such products are strongly linked to out-of-home consumption and rely on movement of people outside their homes who buy single-serve packs on the go. These categories were significantly impacted as the pandemic brought with it mobility restrictions. Moreover, consumption of packaged foods moved inside homes.

Several companies said with the progress on vaccinations, more consumers have started visiting malls and markets, and also resumed travelling, leading to improved demand for such products.

Chennai-based CavinKare is resuming advertising spends on categories such as milkshakes and personal care products after cutting spends during the peak of the second covid wave.

Venkatesh Vijayaraghavan, CEO and director, FMCG, CavinKare, said sales of its milkshake brand, for instance, remain below pre-pandemic levels, but are inching closer to that number. Demand has remained steady over the past two to three months, he said.

“In general, we saw skincare getting affected as a category, we saw some of our milkshakes and out-of-home consumption categories get affected in the second wave. Those are categories that we have taken a conscious call not to spend too much. But, of late, we have been upping our spends. I think as schools and colleges have opened up, more milkshakes in particular have started coming back," he said.

Packaged snacks company Bikano said out-of-home consumption sales have “improved" in recent times as consumers step out with the intention of making a purchase and travelling for business and personal reasons. For instance, in the current quarter, the company reported a 25% jump in average monthly sales of its on-the-go or smaller packs priced between 5 to 20. However, they still lag the pre-pandemic levels.

Manish Aggarwal, director, Bikanervala Foods Pvt. Ltd, expects out-of-home consumption to touch pre-pandemic levels by December-end as more people get vaccinated. “With unlock 2.0, we have seen a recovery in movement in our supply chain management and logistics towards the distribution of our products. Hence, home consumption of foods increased due to improvement in consumer mobility. The demand for small packs has subsequently increased too," he said.

Categories such as cold beverages and ready-to-eat products like salted snacks depend on train services, schools and college canteen consumption and general mobility of people. Most of these are still not at peak levels yet, according to data sourced from Bizom, a retail intelligence platform tracking sales at 7.5 million retail stores.

For instance, within personal care, sales are still lower than pre-covid levels by 11%; whereas in dairy, they continue to tread lower by 14%.

Bizom said categories such as ready-to-eat products grew ahead of ready-to-cook products between July and August. This, the platform said, is an indicator of consumers buying products on the go.

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