Chennai: It is once again relaunch time for the Horlicks team at GlaxoSmithkline Consumer Healthcare. This time it is coupled with the launch of three new flavours - chocolate, vanilla and honey.
The new ones as well as the existing product, Horlicks Regular, now come in a new glass container. The chocolate flavour is not really new, as way back in 1991 the company launched its Chocolate Horlicks.
It was only last year that GlaxoSmithkline Consumer Healthcare had positioned the brand as an immunity enhancer. And early this year the company relaunched the Junior Horlicks brand.
Says Sucheta Govil, marketing general manager, nutritional healthcare: "The brand is now relaunched with the core essence of 'pleasurable nourishment' embodying modernity, youthfulness, vibrancy and vigour."
Can the Horlicks team pull it off? It is a Rs 800-crore (the total sales of Horlicks in India) question that is being asked about this product that is in production in the country since 1960.
Brown scores over white The health food drink segment is classified into two categories - white liquid (Horlicks, Viva, Complan, Milo) and brown liquid (chocolate based drinks: Boost, Bourvita). For both the white liquid, South and East India are a major market while the brown liquid has its presence felt in North and West India.
The reason is simple. Milk-deficient South and East preferred white liquid powders (Horlicks, Viva, Complan) as the drink could be prepared with hot water whereas the milk-flush North and West preferred the chocolate drinks that taste good in milk. Further, South in general is a coffee-drinking market and for the people products like Horlicks are generally reserved for special guests/relatives and for the sick and convalescing.
With no major competition Horlicks rules the roost in South and East. The skewed consumption pattern of the 40,000 tonne per annum (tpa) Horlicks reflects this aspect as South and East account for 46 and 49 per cent, respectively, of the total demand. But the situation is slowly changing. A combination of factors like increase in income levels, improved milk availability and aggressive promotions saw sales of brown drinks going up in South.
Horlicks, meanwhile, acquired the image of a drink for the sick and convalescing. The image is so ingrained in the consumer minds that Horlicks is invariably presented to people who fall sick by those who visit them.
"It is a substitute drink for guests when the filter-coffee decoction is not ready and certainly a drink for the old and sick. My two daughters (one in twelfth standard and the other doing an engineering course) never touch Horlicks," says Vasantha Raghunathan, a middle-level executive in a company as to the reasons why she buys Horlicks bimonthly.
And it is this brand belief - a walking-stick brand, which means a drink for the old, sick and convalescing - that GlaxoSmithkline Consumer Healthcare team is trying to turn upside down with its new positioning: a drink for youth; a pleasurable nourishment drink.
The factors that led to the relaunch or repositioning are: the saturation of the Rs 900-crore white drink market, availability of competing products with a different positioning (health drinks, performance enhancers), the growing influence of the children (pester power as marketing buffs puts it) in deciding the family's beverage choice, and large number of households switching over to single beverage for reasons of economics.
As all the above are inter-linked for companies it is more important catching the young than sticking to the old or dying generation.
Part of the reason for Horlicks' repositioning is the reported 5-per cent decline in sales during January-March 2003 compared to the corresponding period in 2002. The company which is used to increasing the product price twice a year has not done that even once since January 2002, states a newsletter from a big retail chain.
According to officials, sales have been stagnating as the company was not able to make major inroads in the northern and western markets. Now, for the Horlicks team at GlaxoSmithkline Consumer Healthcare it is going to be an uphill task in communicating the change to the consumers.
Says Anindya Dasgupta, marketing manager: "We are contemporarising the brand. Traditionally Horlicks as a brand spoke to mothers and other adults. Our new campaign is expected to convert many children (eight to 14 years) in favour of Horlicks. The theme of our commercials is based on kids with a positive attitude. And children in general like other kids with a positive attitude."
According to him between July and September 2003 Horlicks will be the most visible food brand in South. Sixty-five per cent of the ad-spend (around Rs 10 crore) will be for the visual medium and the balance for the print and others.
Apart from the high-decibel media campaign, the company also plans to conduct an inter-school competition called Activity 2003 in which around 1.5 million students are expected to take part. "We also plan to develop a new website and make it the preferred site for the children."
Unlike its other drink (the Rs 170-crore Boost, promoted by Sachin Tendulkar), the new Horlicks does not have a brand ambassador. "May be in the future," says Dasgupta.
While all the action will be in the general Horlicks segment, the focus of Junior Horlicks (target segment: kids between one and three) will continue to remain the same. The brand will continue to talk to the mother since the purchase decision rests with her.