FNB News – “We were able to return to normal trading procedure”

Orika, a premium spice and seasoning brand, is dedicated to bringing extraordinary flavors from around the world to every Indian home. The company is committed to minimizing its ecological footprint throughout the supply chain, while improving farming practices and overall farm incomes. However, the pandemic has resulted in a shift in consumer inclination from traditional brick and mortar distribution channels to online retail platforms for purchasing spices in India. Akshita Budhiraja, director, Orika, shares details on changes, growth, trends, sustainability and the post Covid-19 recovery plan for the industry, in an interview with Kimberley Fernandes. Extracts:

Tell us about your company’s product portfolio. What type of research is devoted to the development of these products?
Orika is a premium spices and seasonings, B2C wing from Paras Spices Pvt. Ltd, a brand dedicated to enriching everyday meals with extraordinary flavors. The spices are hand picked all over the world with places most famous for them. Some of our premium offerings include marinades, seasonings, spices, spice blends, wellness drinks, flavored lemonades and special immunity boosting products.
When it comes to our research and development process, our team is committed to creating a unique product.

The process begins with brainstorming with our research and development experts to develop a new lip-smacking blend. Their new solution is reviewed by our sensory evaluation and quality assurance department to eliminate any flaws. Once we achieve the desired result, the new recipe is transferred from the research and development department to the production plant. Only the best quality ingredients, sourced from the best regions, are used and processed in our state-of-the-art facilities.

To maintain quality and consistency, high quality raw materials and ingredients are purchased from our trusted and approved suppliers. Our sourcing is supported by the upstream integration of over 20,000 hectares of main crops and so we get the perfect recipe from the drawing board to your shelves.

How has the industry’s competitive landscape changed during Covid-19 and how will these changes affect key industry players?
Due to Covid-19, consumption today is determined by factors such as nutritional value, hygiene and sanitation. People are always aware of moving and that is clearly a major demographic variable here. Consumers are also concerned about their health, which means established brands with a higher trust factor and strong supply chain links will have a clear advantage. Additionally, a shift in retailers with strong digital capabilities is growing as retailers with weaker e-commerce offerings lose consumer interest.

Tell us about the growth and future direction of your business in this highly competitive market.
The global food industry is changing faster than the pace known to conventional wisdom. This evolution is driven by consumer awareness and expectations higher than ever, as well as technological advances. Through our proactive approach, we have been able to survive and thrive in this highly competitive market, not only because of our in-depth knowledge of the products, infrastructure or technology, but also because of our vision. The vision is to meet and exceed the expectations of all stakeholders, ranging from our own employees, suppliers, society and, most importantly, our customers and users.

What are the key factors that would differentiate your brand from existing brands in the market?
What sets us apart from others is our desire to establish an artisanal brand. While all other brands take a more business approach, we focus on sustainable and responsible sourcing with an unwavering attitude to food quality and safety. Backed by state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, skilled professionals and years of expertise, we’ve touched lives with the impeccable taste of our products.

How has your marketing budget and marketing mix been affected as a result of the pandemic?
As was the need of the hour, we had to move towards digital marketing and e-commerce portals outside of our offline presence. We struggled a bit at first, but in no time we established a strong digital presence. To meet customer needs, we have expanded our offline presence to over 2,000 outlets in Delhi NCR, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala, Pathankot, Mumbai and Bangalore. Our brands have found their place among major restaurant brands like Taj, Oberoi’s and Eros Group of Hotels. In addition, with a focus on easy availability, our products can be seen on various online portals like Amazon, LBB, Milk Basket, JioMart, Foodhall, Reliance Fresh and we have our own updated e-commerce site with amazing recipes based on our products.

Give us a brief description of your company’s sustainable development plan. How has containment and unlocking affected the relationship with your distribution network?

Sustainable sourcing is at the top of our list of priorities. Our sustainable sourcing model focuses on minimizing our ecological footprint while trying to improve farming practices and farm incomes in general. With sustainability also comes compliance, we adhere to strict standards right from the farm gate in line with IPM, ICM and Global GAP.

We are also part of the SAN (Sustainable Agriculture Network), thus reiterating our commitment to biodiversity conservation and rural development.

Yes, the lockout and unlock affected our distribution network as we source from all over the world, and due to the lockdown there have been some import issues. The prices of raw materials had increased and sometimes certain materials were also unavailable. Initially, it took a while to balance this out, but little by little after constantly working on it, we were able to get back to normal operating procedures.

Do you plan to launch any new products in light of changing industry trends after Covid19?
Of course, Covid has had an impact on the food and beverage industry, but has not affected our business in a supreme way. Ever since people started cooking at home, our products like seasonings and marinades were always in demand. We even imagined lemonades to beat the heat which were very appreciated by our customers. Our current sprinkler launch is also getting good feedback. We are working on launching a range of mills and expanding our range of whole spices. To meet the ever-growing need for immunity-boosting products, we will be adding to our range of wellness drinks and our research and development team is also working on healthy soup mixes.

Do you have collaboration projects with the main food platforms in India and abroad for the distribution of your products?
Yes, we have always been open to collaborations and we recently collaborated with Food Talk India. We are also open to collaborations and distributions abroad. In fact, one of our ambitions is to spread the magic of spices across the world and we are working harder every day to achieve this goal.

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