BL Agro is best known in India for its flagship Bail Kolhu mustard oil brand, and edible oils has been the firm’s main business since its establishment about 50 years back, being especially popular in North India.
More recently, the firm launched a line of packaged food products under the brand Nourish in 2019, and believes that this range is the key for it to achieve the same level of recognition in South India as well.
“We have gained and retained the trust of consumers in North India [for many years] and from now until March 2022, the main area of focus for us will be on South India,” BL Agro Managing Director Ashish Khandelwal told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“The Nourish brand has a very strong focus on high quality, and this is why we are zooming in on the South with this range as consumers in this region are the ones looking for more quality products as compared to the North, and gives us more hope that the range can do better here.
“An example is with pulses, which is one of the key Nourish offerings – consumers in South India are more on the lookout for high quality pulses because these are not as readily available in the South compared to the North despite being a household staple.”
The Nourish brand currently offers some 70-plus other food products including flour, spices, dried fruits, pasta, cornflakes, and pulses, but the firm aims to increase this number by around six-fold to hit the 400 SKU mark within the next few years.
“We want to offer consumers all the products they need in their kitchen under the Nourish brand, so the aim is to have some 400 products in this portfolio by 2025,” said Khandelwal.
“The original aim was 2023 to hit 400, but COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in this due to problems with accessing and getting international personnel to install machinery, so we revised this goal back by some two years.
“By 2023 though, we do plan to already have products from some important key growth categories such as beverages and alcoholic brewery products in the portfolio.”
When asked why BL Agro feels consumers might be more drawn to Nourish over other brands selling similar products given the simplicity of the brand’s offerings versus potentially novel products, he added that the focus here is on food safety and hygiene, which has become an increasing concern in India.
“Food safety and quality are amongst consumer’s biggest concerns especially since the pandemic arrived, and what Nourish wants to do is provide an option that can allay their fears,” he said.
“Amongst our efforts to do this include packaging all items in vacuum packs to maintain hygiene and quality, doing the required lab tests to ensure the products are 100% pure with no adulterants, and using all-local ingredients whether these are pulses, spices, cornflakes, etc.
“We also have our own internal logistics system to carry products across the country – the cost per kilogramme is slightly higher as a result, but the system works as consumers have the assurance that quality is maintained and are willing to pay slightly more for the food safety factor.”
Nourish products are currently available in over 4,000 retailers from supermarkets to mom-n-pop stores to self-service standalone stores across the country.
Speeding up production but not yet NPD
Despite the firm’s plans to grow quickly, Khandelwal also told us that new product development will be on hold for some time until March 2022 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had several machines forced to stand idle since the start of 2020, so the focus will be first on the production of current products and market expansion,” he said.
“When things are more stable and we get in the machines we need to be installed, new product development will definitely start again quickly – the aim for 2022/2023 is to add another 100 products at least to the portfolio, such that by the end of 2023 we’ll be looking at at least 170 to 175 Nourish-branded products.”
The newest products under the Nourish brand from now till March 2022 will be in its breakfast range – three flavours of cornflakes (Classic, Rose Almond and Kesar Pista/Saffron Pistachio) and a range of mueslis.