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Despite weak consumer sentiment, rising input costs and inflation hovering at 7.24 per cent, the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment came out unscathed in 2012. Overall, the sector witnessed a growth of 15-20 per cent this year.
ITC, Godrej Consumers and Hindustan Unilever were the star performers, according to analysts. The stocks were able to pull the overall sector through upward re-rating (an act of changing the value of a share on the stock exchange, either upwards or downwards).
The other major players such as Marico, Emami, and Dabur witnessed healthy growth in terms of revenues and bottom-line, which was largely pricing-led rather than volume. Most of the companies either increased prices by 4-5 per cent or reduced the grammage of the products to protect their margins, at the same time leading to down trading in several categories such as edible oils, soaps, and packaged foods.
According to Nitin Mathur of research firm Espirito Santo, packaged food that grew at 15-20 per cent in 2011 came down to 0-2 per cent this year.
packaged food items
“There was pressure of slowdown all across the FMCG sector. Bottom lines were under pressure due to an increase in input and other costs. However, the sector performed well compared to other sectors,” said N Krishna Mohan, CEO, Sales, Supply Chain and Human Capital, Emami Ltd.
However, according to Marico’s Chaitanya Deshpande, Executive Vice-President and Head Investor Relations, the rise in cost of raw materials saw some easing in 2012 as against previous couple of years. Most companies were also impacted by lower ordering through the canteen stores department channel, which usually contributes about 5-6 per cent to overall sales.
“There has been increased spending on skin, personal care and health care this year, across demographics. The growth, at least for Emami, has been holistic with increased consumption across the urban and rural markets. Consumption from rural India continued to be good and this propelled strong volume and value growths,” Krishna Mohan added.
For Godrej, the growth came in from new channels, product innovation, and pollination across regions and expansion of the distribution network. New launches such as creme-based hair colour and extension of Cinthol into categories such as face wash and moisturisers gave an added impetus to the overall business. HUL also went in for extensions in brands such as Lux, Pepsodent and Pureit.
For Dabur, the year 2012 undertook a mega initiative to substantially expand its distribution footprint and drive profitable growth. This initiative was aimed at doubling the direct distribution reach in rural markets, customising trade promotions and providing focused servicing through a dedicated sales team in these markets.
The year also witnessed a transition from unbranded to branded consumer goods, which was the biggest growth driver for consumer companies. This, in turn, implied that the onus was on companies to keep innovating and attracting new consumers to the category.
“Field resources are being deployed in the deep hinterland in the high potential districts of these States to establish networks for doubling rural coverage and considerably increase contact frequencies. With this, our products are now reaching out to villages of 3,000 populations. Going ahead, we will continue to drive growth on the back of our distribution enhancement initiatives, unique promotional activities and product innovation,” said Dabur CEO Sunil Duggal.
For Dabur, categories such as health supplements, shampoos, foods, skin care and home care reported strong growth during the year.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of weak consumer environment, all consumer companies have increased focus on advertising, which in turn, has led to increased media rates. Advertising cost has increased by 20 per cent compared to last year.
On the sector’s performance in the coming year, Espirito Santo said that 2013 would witness a lot of activity in terms of mergers and acquisitions, as there has been less growth and companies are sitting on huge piles of cash. It also said that next 2-3 quarters would see no volume growth if the slowdown persists.
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