A View from a Beverage Brand Manager’s Desk Under Quarantine

by Akshay D'Souza

April 1, 2020 | 01 min read


I’m the brand manager of one of India’s leading fruit beverage companies. Over the past few years, it’s been gratifying to see the consumer trend move away from sugary cola drinks to healthy fruit drink brands like ours. 

It had been a good ride until Jan-2020 when I heard about COVID-19 and its challenges for China. I didn’t give much thought to it. I was busy preparing my business for the summer months when almost 2/3rd of my annual sales are done in just four months. Also, the IPL was around the corner. People will stock up on our beverages. They would throw IPL bashes and stock up on party sized packs. Not leaving the IPL fans far behind are those on road. These travellers would simply consume more single serve packs. 

Naturally, I was bracing for another great summer for our business and slobbering over the proposed of becoming a star performer for yet another year. However, it was not the summer we were anticipating. We have been hit hard and how…

Travel is restricted so our single serve business is impacted. Parties and gatherings are getting cancelled and with it are all party size packs. IPL is all but cancelled and there go our opportunities to stock at home.  

As a result, we’re barely managing to keep our noses above water. While we grew by almost 60% last year around the same time, our sales have gone flat. In fact, the lockdown has our sales seeing negative results.

The days ahead do not look good at all. We see more travel restrictions, event cancellations and other such disaster management rules impacting our growth. 

But guess what, I did see a big trend of professional folks working from home. My friends from the health drinks category seem to have it good. Some millet-based drinks have grown 3-4x this March. It almost seems like deja vu. Are healthy drinks cannibalising the market share of fruit-based beverages? Are we coming full circle? After all, we did eat into the market share of carbonated drinks. 

Water on the other hand is a very different story. There is a trend of folks stocking our 20L packs at home in greater quantities. This business is up by almost 50% in March. 

However our smaller packs of 500Ml & 1L water have dropped by over 20% due to restricted movement of people. So while volumes have gone up, our realizations per litre of packaged water have dropped significantly.

(Note: These are early trends until 17th Mar and being assessed at a category level only.)

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