Beverage cos To target Rural Markets to push healthier drinks

Along with PepsiCo companies including Gujarat-based Manpasand Beverages Dabur and Bisleri have started packing juices and juicebased drinks into small affordable PET bottles for rural consumption
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In a strategic shift, beverage companies across the country have decided to target rural India to push healthier drinks, as the growth of sugary carbonated drinks has started tapering off.

Currently, rural and semi-urban segments occupy 60% of the juice market in India and have been growing faster than metros, according to data from US-headquartered PepsiCo, which sells Pepsi, 7UP, and Mountain Dew.

Along with PepsiCo, companies, including Gujarat-based Manpasand Beverages, Dabur and Bisleri have started packing juices and juice-based drinks into small affordable PET bottles for rural consumption. Traditionally, sugary fizzy drinks priced at Rs 10 were mainstays in rural and semi-urban markets.

“Any shop in rural areas that stocks digestive biscuits will be able to sell juice,” said Abhishek Singh, director of Manpasand Beverages. The Vadodara-based company has developed juices sweetened with honey instead of sugar. “As we are deeply entrenched in semi-urban markets, we have noticed people there have started opting for healthier alternatives, which explains the penetration of digestive biscuits,” he added.

Fresca juices, which has been selling litchi and apple juices in small packs is upping the ante with two-litre family sized packs. “It makes more economical sense for customers in smaller towns,” said Akhil Gupta, MD of Fresca Juices. “We have seen people coming in tractors to pick up crates of juices in villages.”

PepsiCo, which just launched juice-based drinks under the Slice brand has partnered with Ravi Jaipuria-led Varun Beverages to increase its reach in rural and semi-urban areas. It aims to double sales of its juice brand Tropicana by 2020 and is shifting away marketing money from its main carbonated brands. “We have reduced our investments on commoditised, low-margin segments including low juice content segments,” said Deepika Warrier, VP-nutrition category at PepsiCo India.

“With growing health consciousness, the market for healthy beverages has expanded exponentially. On one hand, we are driving our 200ml portion packs in low penetration geographies through a mix of demand as well as distribution enhancement and on-ground visibility initiatives. On the other, we have also expanded the range with the launch of a fruit beverage, Real Koolerz at a lower price point,” Dabur India marketing head-foods Mayank Kumar said.