Interview: Health, wellness categories key to India’s top rice exporter for growth

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After having established itself as the world’s largest rice miller and India’s leading exporter of fragrant and long-grained varieties of basmati rice, India Gate recently broke new ground by diversifying into health foods—chia and flax seeds. 

Biman Mukherji spoke to Ayush Gupta, Business Head, India Gate Basmati Rice at KRBL Ltd, to understand the reasons as well as whether this move is part of a broader diversification taking place in India, which is the world’s top rice exporter. 

Why is India Gate getting into health foods? Is this because there is growing awareness about healthy foods post the pandemic?

We believe that the health of our company is intrinsically linked to the health and resilience of the people we deal with, the society we operate in, and the environment. Keeping this in mind, we are geared up to be one of the brands in India that makes ‘Healthier Future’ a reality.

We intend to do so by ingraining the health quotient in the staple diet of more than half of the world’s population. From being a player in a niche agri-product category, we are now expanding our reach and capabilities to touch more consumers with our health and nutrition-rich rice-based product basket.

We aim to be a vital player in the wellness industry, while making a significant positive difference to the lives and economy of our country’s backbone – the farming community.

There was a growing awareness of immunity boosting products, which gave a fillip to the health range in FY 2020. This also was reflected in our health portfolio, which saw over 20% growth till Q3. Consumers are in a lookout for healthy and nutritionally superior food for dietary needs and to minimize stress levels.

Further, rising consciousness among the urban population to have a check on one’s diet and weight is redefining the need trends.

We answered this need by venturing into the ‘Health Food’ segment. Thereby, not just addressed an emerging lifestyle revolution but making it happen as well. Entering into the ‘healthy’ food products segment, the company launched products such as India Gate Basmati Brown Rice, India Gate Non-Basmati Brown Rice, and Quinoa.

It helped the company to tap a new customer segment while enhancing off-take in the packaged rice segment.

 The new ‘Health’ product offerings not only resonate with the company’s ‘Ingraining a Health Future’ mindset but also helps strengthen its diversified product portfolio. The ‘Health’ product offerings of the Company are strategically positioned to cater to different consumer segments at various geographical locations and across price points.

Therefore, they are likely to enhance affordability and off-take while creating a sustainable product portfolio for the future.

What kind of arrangements has your company entered into with farmers for health foods? Are these the same farmers who supply you rice?

As a company, we are always ensuring that all our procurements are happening as per highest quality standards and ensuring established norms by the government for buying.

All agricultural products require standardisation and quality checks before getting into a packaged form. For health products as well, we are going to the farmers and buying quality grains to maintain consistent quality standards.

As the awareness regarding health seeds is growing every passing day, more and more farmers are sowing these products in the fields. The good thing is that today, we are not dependent on importing these products as most of them are growing within our country.

We are closely working with farmer families and educating them about the techniques and advice to make sure only the best quality ingredients are growing in their fields.

The set of farmers and products vary from product to product as per the geographies they are growing in. These can be the same farmers who are supplying us rice and can be different also.

Will such crops help in building more sustainable agriculture production given that rice is a water guzzler?

Health foods and products are not yet in the staples category, they are solving the purpose of an evolved and informed consumer who is choosing these products for their nutritional needs.

However, KRBL is also closely working with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute for developing varieties that consume less water and still give higher yield. In the recent years there are several such varieties have been introduced and providing record yields to farmers. This is only getting better as there are more such varieties being tested.

What other foods are you planning to diversify into?

The future is how we are making more sense to our consumers. Being the market leaders in traditional basmati rice space, the management has now strategically moved to take the company to an altogether different league by foraying into the ‘healthy food’ segment with the launch of three new nutritionally superior products – India Gate Sprouted Brown Rice, India Gate Chia Seed, and India Gate Flax Seed along with the existing portfolio of Brown rice, Brown Basmati rice and Quinoa.

 The company’s move to position itself as the producer of ‘healthy’ food products is a smart move to align the company with the increasing trend of consumers wanting to have healthy and nutritionally superior food.

Significantly, the company has also positioned its new ‘healthy’ food offerings as a brand extension of its flagship and premium brand India Gate, thus expecting to get a head start for these products in the international market.

 In future, plans are to add Rice Bran oil, Health seeds—Pumpkin seeds, Brown Rice Poha, Fortified Rice, Diabetic Rice etc to the ‘healthy food’ segment and keep expanding the product portfolio

Through the largest rice and healthy food portfolio we aim to become one stop shop for the consumers in whatever way they want to consume us.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at Indoasiancommodities.com. He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at biman.mukherji@indoasiancommodities.in

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