The Ready to Eat range is growing rapidly: Orkla IMEA

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Arabian Diaries caught up with Ashvin Subramanyam, CEO of Orkla India at Gulfood, 19 February 2024. Below is the transcript of the interview.

Arabian Diaries: With the rise of digital activity and online grocery shopping, how is Orkla IMEA leveraging technology to meet the evolving needs of consumers in the UAE and KSA?\

Ashvin Subramanyam: So very happy to talk about it and so very relevant question as consumer behavior is changing. I would talk about it in 2 ways. I talk about it on the one hand on content on how we are building digital content and also how we are matching their shopping needs. Content increasingly if you look at how we’re communicating to our consumers we’re doing a significant amount of that communication through digital content and digital platforms. This is curated short format, visual first, image first, video first content. So that’s the first part. The second part is we are accelerating our presence in our sales on ecommerce platform. So, we are now quite active on both Noon and Talabat. These are popular e-commerce platforms here in the Middle East. In fact, in the Emirates, we are now getting about one and a half percent of our sales on e-commerce platforms now and a few years ago that was significantly lower so now we are clearly seeing good momentum on e-commerce as well.

Arabian Diaries: With convenience emerging as a key factor driving consumer choices, how is Orkla IMEA innovating its product offerings to meet the demand?

Ashvin Subramanyam: So, the rise in convenience in many ways is a mark of prosperity in a nation. As countries get more and more wealthy, both people in the house start working and therefore there’s no time to cook so the household needs convenience. So, we are looking at convenience solutions both in terms of how our spices are offered so in fact if you look at this bottle over here that’s a convenient way to give spices, we have a dispenser here which makes it easy to fold and a space here for a spoon. So, convenience comes in the form of packaging, which, and this is an example, convenience also comes in the form of our product formats. So, we have a range of ready to eat and ready to cook offerings as well and that offering is growing quite rapidly. We’re seeing about high single digit low double-digit growth now in the convenience offerings. It’s in ethnic sweets and also seen in breakfasts and also in meals.

Arabian Diaries: Considering the increasing influence of social media on consumer behavior, how is Orkla IMEA planning to capitalize on platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram to promote its products and engage with its target audience?

Ashvin Subramanyam: So, it’s interesting you mentioned those platforms because those platforms are so critical and heavily used here in the Middle East.  There is a phrase that we use in marketing and I’m sure my marketing colleagues will be also familiar with that and that is “content is king”. Right?  And digital platforms allow you a high use of images and videos and recipe demonstrations. In food, seeing the food, tasting the food is a big part of the experience and digital platforms allow us to showcase that. We can show the recipes. It’s almost like people see the rescue and feel that they are spelling the recipe. So that’s really how we’re trying to do it, in content, digital contact.

Arabian Diaries: Considering the remarkable growth in e-commerce, especially in the F&B sector, how is Orkla IMEA positioning itself to capitalize on this trend and expand its reach in the Middle Eastern market?

Ashvin Subramanyam: So e-commerce for us is not just one more sales avenue in many ways it’s also a marketing avenue. Because e-commerce also allows you to showcase your video assets, your brand assets, it allows you to tell your product story really well. So, for us e-commerce is a whole wider platform. It’s not just about revenue, it’s also about communicating the brand story. And that’s something we’re doing actively through content through search optimization and through search marketing as well.

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