In conversation with Mitu Paul, brand Head, Signature PetFood, she delves into her journey in the pet food industry, the philosophy behind her brands, challenges faced, strategies for success, insights into the premium pet food market, and advice for newcomers looking to enter this industry.

How do you transform emerging brands into remarkable successes, as showcased by your progression from Captain Jack to Dyebag and now Signature PetFood in India? 

I strongly believe that the foundation of any successful brand lies in recognising a market gap and then filling it with a tailored solution. When I embarked on the journey with Captain Zack, it became evident that there were significant voids in the grooming sector. As a united team, we dedicated ourselves to identifying and bridging those gaps through our product offerings, pricing strategy, and narrative. This journey led to a series of revelations, culminating in the establishment of our signature approach. 

I often remind my team to ask, “Are we truly listening?” Our markets are dynamic and highly interactive, boasting various influential sales channels such as retailers, digital platforms, and direct-to-consumer avenues. By attentively tuning in to these channels, they provide us with invaluable insights into the gaps that require attention. 

While products may not drastically differ from one another, subtle differentiators like premium elements and presentation play a role. However, the crux lies in how we communicate our narrative to our consumer base, which encompasses both intermediaries and end-users. It is imperative to address the entire value chain, always keeping in mind the needs of our end consumers and ensuring that we are effectively meeting them. This, I believe, is the cornerstone of crafting a successful brand story.

What does the Signature brand stand for? How many SKUs do you have and what is the real selling point of the signature brand story? 

The budding market is driven by increased disposable income, enabling pet owners to invest more in the well-being and happiness of their pets. However, with these expanded opportunities comes a heightened responsibility. As we move forward, it is imperative that we commit to sustainable practices and ethical conduct. As a community, we must acknowledge and tackle the environmental impact of our actions, striving to incorporate eco-friendly methods into our operations. Responsible sourcing, eco-conscious packaging, and sustainable manufacturing are just a few of the measures we are eager to implement in order to leave a positive mark on the planet. 

Signature’s mission is to dispel the notion that premium equates to high cost. Instead, we believe premium should be synonymous with quality. We are determined to challenge the idea that pet food cannot be produced in India. For too long, we depended on the Western world for pet nutrition, with imports dominating our markets. However, through extensive efforts, including those of our brand, Signature, we are on the brink of reshaping the landscape of the Indian pet industry. Signature was introduced after years of meticulous research and rigorous quality assessments, ensuring satisfaction for our ultimate consumers: our beloved pets. 

At Signature, we prioritise heightened palatability, improved digestibility, and chic packaging. What truly sets us apart, however, is our pricing. We have deliberately kept it affordable, with the aim of making Signature accessible to the widest possible number of Indian pet households as their preferred nutritional partner. Our dedicated team, comprising approximately 80 members operating nationwide, works tirelessly to understand, cater to, and serve the needs of the Indian pet community.

Drools has been in the market for some time, while Signature was introduced just over a year ago. The offerings and price points of Drools and Signature are quite distinct, and they have different brand identities and profiles. When you approach retailers and resellers, what challenges do you encounter? I assume people might question why these products, seemingly from the same brand house, have such different price points. How do you address and resolve these challenges? 

Drools, as a brand, has evolved into an institution in its own right. It stands as a robust economy brand, ensuring that packaged food is accessible to every pet household. One of its notable strengths lies in its extensive reach, being available in approximately 34,000 outlets. The strides Drools has made in the digital space, export markets, and across general and modern trade channels are truly commendable. 

In contrast, Signature functions as a specialized brand within this broader framework. We don’t view ourselves as competitors to the parent brand, but rather, we aim to cater to a distinct pricing segment. Together, Drools and Signature, under the same roof, strive to serve the entirety of the Indian pet community. When discussing these brands, our goal is to challenge the notion that imported brands are premium solely due to their price point. We emphasize that premium should, above all, be synonymous with quality. 

Drools Pet Food boasts the capability to offer products at various price points, owing to our robust manufacturing facilities. This includes four factories equipped with dedicated production lines for different compositions. The introduction of Signature aimed to break free from the perception that Drools is exclusively an economy brand. While Drools caters to a wide array of pet food consumers, we work in tandem to carve our niche amidst imported competitors perceived as premium. Our message remains crystal clear: premium should be defined by quality, and this quality can be achieved in-house, sourced locally, and tailored to meet the needs of the Indian pet community. 

As for the specific growth percentages in the premium pet food market, I currently do not have those figures. Nevertheless, it’s evident that both the premium and super premium segments within the pet food industry have been experiencing noteworthy expansion.

How is the premium pet food or super premium pet food growing?  

In terms of the growth of the premium and super premium pet food segments, the industry is experiencing robust expansion, ranging from approximately 15% to 30% in some cases. To put this in perspective, the total pet food industry is valued at around 4,000 crores, with the premium food segment accounting for about 20% of that, or roughly 800 crores. This signifies that the premium food sector constitutes approximately one-fifth of the entire portfolio. 

The industry as a whole is showing an impressive annual growth rate of 18% to 20%, with certain standout brands like Signature achieving growth rates surpassing 30%. Moreover, several other competitive brands are also demonstrating significant growth percentages.

What is the percentage of sales that’s happening between online and offline? 

The pet food industry continues to be primarily driven by offline sales. Online sales, facilitated through various channels including prominent marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart, as well as quick commerce and other major retail platforms, contribute to approximately 22% of the market. The remaining 78% of sales stem from traditional offline channels, encompassing retail stores and physical outlets. 

This trend is particularly noteworthy within the pet food sector, as the 22% figure for online sales is relatively high when compared to other industries in India, such as groceries, where online sales typically constitute around 10%. This shift was notably accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many individuals found themselves confined indoors, making home delivery the primary option. This period witnessed substantial growth in our online segment. Remarkably, these channels have maintained their strength, without experiencing a significant drop even after the markets returned to a semblance of normalcy.

What are your future plans? What will be the volume and what will be the revenue? 

Over the past year, we have successfully established our presence in all the key states. However, merely setting foot in these states doesn’t fully unlock the potential that lies ahead for us. In this pivotal year, our primary focus will be on bolstering visibility and educational initiatives. We are strategically planning to expand our reach to encompass all 28 to 29 states, significantly amplifying our presence in the retail sector. Presently, our products are available in only 2,500 retail outlets across India. Our goal is to increase this number three to fourfold. 

Furthermore, we have exciting plans to collaborate with numerous influential figures in the pet community, including pet influencers, vet partners, breeders, training facilities, and boarding centers. These collaborations are essential elements of the pet ecosystem, and we firmly believe that working together is the linchpin to achieving maximum visibility among our end consumers. 

While our primary focus isn’t solely on revenue, it’s evident that there is a substantial amount of groundwork to be covered this year. We’re looking at tripling both revenue and volume. Our aspirations reach beyond, and we’re committed to achieving even more.

As an Indian brand looking to enter the market for extruders and pet food, it’s evident that the market is already saturated with established MNC players who dominate the industry. When newcomers want to make their mark, what key advice or strategy would you recommend for them to succeed and distinguish themselves in this competitive landscape? 

India stands as one of the world’s largest consumer markets, making it an appealing destination for international brands spanning various product categories, including pet treats and accessories. However, for brands eyeing entry, it’s crucial to understand the four key factors influencing consumer preferences. 

First and foremost, palatability reigns supreme. Regardless of production scale, a product’s appeal to dogs or cats is paramount. Brands should conduct extensive palatability testing tailored to the unique Indian market.

Secondly, brands must provide a nutritional guarantee that resonates with local sentiments. India is a country with deep emotional connections, and the composition of a product can significantly influence consumer choices. 

Availability is the third critical pillar. Pets thrive on consistency, and pet parents are unlikely to change their preferred pet food frequently. Ensuring a dependable supply chain and seamless stock connectivity is crucial for success. 

Lastly, pricing holds substantial importance. Every household operates within a budget, but pet owners still seek the best for their furry companions. Brands that can offer a cost-effective product meeting nutritional requirements without straining pet owners’ finances are poised for success. 

In conclusion, pet brands that effectively address these four pillars have a strong chance of thriving in the Indian market. It’s noteworthy that currently, only 7% of imported pet food is utilized in India, and many pet owners remain unregistered. There is a substantial need for industry education and collaboration. Instead of fierce competition, brands should work collectively to foster growth in the category. With 93% of the market still untapped, this approach can benefit not only the brands but also the expanding community of pet parents in India, ultimately contributing to the well-being of these voiceless companions.

9. Giveaways

The pet business can have weekly, monthly, or even daily giveaways to bring footfalls to its store or visitors to its website. Since WhatsApp is free, the only cost of such promotions is for promotional products or services such dog treats, small cat toys, or fish food etc., which are to be given away. This considerably lowers marketing overheads of any pet business.

10. Collaboration/Partnership with Influencers

By collaborating with nearby businesses and partnering with influencers from pet industry, the pet business increases the number of groups to which it belongs. They need not to be in the same industry. But with Status, the pet business can become part of all these conversations. Even if members of other groups aren’t interested in its products or services, there is a chance that they might mention you in conversations on WhatsApp or other social media platforms.

WhatsApp, as a communication tool, continues to evolve and add more features in future. It is a resourceful platform that enables you to send files, images, and short video clips about your products and services. But the key to using WhatsApp effectively is to avoid abusing relationship you have built with your audience. Measurement of interaction is absolutely necessary to make sure that each message you send has value. The key is to not make every message a sales message.

WhatsApp is turning to be more valuable than ever for businesses. Using it to provide valuable engagement with audience, for learning more about customers’ needs, and as a way of spreading word about your brand are actually the optimum ways to get benefit from it. 

*Author is the only Marketing Consultant in India who helps Pet Businesses to reach out to more and more people for business growth. He also runs Petopedia, the World’s First WhatsApp Daily Pet Magazine for sharing pet related information to Pet Parents. He can be reached out on 9820270247 or samgudhate@gmail.com.

Glenands: Navigating the Pet Industry with Innovation and Passion

In an exclusive interview, Prithvi Jayakaran, Director of Glenand Group of Companies, shares insights on the company’s blend of manufacturing and retail operations, strategies to compete with e-commerce giants, and advice for new entrants in the pet industry. Discover...

Exploring Zane’s: Where Love, Wellness, and Innovation Collide

In conversation with Ritika Jhunjhunwala, Co-Founder of Zane's, she shares insights on overcoming fears, crafting organic pet products, evolving grooming trends, and fostering pet-parent relationships.How has Zane been a focal point in your life and how has that...

Unveiling the Future of Animal Health: Aimil Pharmaceuticals’ Strategic Vision

In conversation with Dr. Ikshit Sharma, Director, Aimil Pharmaceuticals India Ltd, he draws insights into Aimil's pioneering work in animal healthcare, highlighting its range of solutions, commitment to science, and strategic prioritization of research and development...