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“We have invested Rs 120 crore to create new product lines”

Varun Chaudhary, Managing Director, CG Foods India

As the trends towards healthy snacking and ready-to-eat foods pick up in India, many new products and variants are entering the market. CG Foods India, the FMCG vertical of Nepal-based Chaudhary Group (CG) Corp Global, is emerging as one of the leading players in this space. After becoming a household brand in North-East India, the company’s noodles brand Wai Wai is all set to foray into western and southern states now. In a recent conversation with nuFFooDS Spectrum, Varun Chaudhary, Managing Director, CG Foods India, shares more on the growth of the company across multiple categories. Edited excerpts: 

CG Foods has its presence in snack foods manufacturing. How has the company been doing in this segment? Are there any new launches that you would like to disclose?

The Indian snack food market, in particular the ready-to-eat (RTE) segment, which had been growing steadily saw a spurt in the last two years due to the increased consumption of such foods, as the work from home culture gained strength since the first lockdown in March 2020. Our flagship brand and product, Wai Wai noodles, registered a stunning 50 per cent growth rate since the start of the pandemic, to the extent that the Indian market now constitutes over 33 per cent of the global sales of Wai Wai. Of the 3 billion packets of Wai Wai noodles sold across the world annually, India accounted for 1 billion packets.

One of the great learnings in the course of the pandemic for us as a company was that while people wanted something that was RTE, they also wanted healthy snacking – more so as physical mobility was severely curtailed due to the lockdowns, which impacted work-out schedules of people. This is why we came out with Mama Punte and MiMi Bhujiya in two unique packs from Wai Wai, priced at just Rs 1 and Rs 2, to ensure that we offer just the right size of snack at an extremely affordable price point which can be consumed as a filler without any guilt or risking inadvertent overeating. And to offer a choice for different palates, we launched them in both vegetarian and chicken variants and from what we have seen so far, the response to these new launches has been very encouraging.

Which category of CG Foods is expected to contribute most to the food business revenue in FY 2022? Could you give the tentative shares of each category? Also, which country is projected to be your highest grosser, and what could be India’s contribution to your total income?

Since noodles are our flagship product, they contribute the most.  Of the Rs 700 crore turnover in the last fiscal, the contribution of WAI WAI noodles was approximately Rs 550 crore, while the bhujiya segment earned revenues of Rs 150 crore. Being the home base, Nepal is the country that generates the highest revenue, but India is fast catching up and contributes 40 per cent to the total global revenue.

How much does export of food products contribute to the food business of CG Foods?

Right now, the demand in India is so great and is growing so fast that the entire production capacity here is being utilised to cater to the Indian market. Moreover, with new launches in the bhujiya and pasta segment, plus new noodle flavours that are in the pipeline, the focus of the Indian operations is on the domestic market, though we have only recently started exploring the export market from here, which already constitutes 3 per cent of the Indian revenues and is expected to grow further.

Are there any expansion plans in terms of food brands in India? Are any new launches in the pipeline?

The surge in growth, both in sales and revenue, in the last two years has been phenomenal, which is why the company engaged in capacity expansion across five of its manufacturing units involving an investment of Rs 120 crore in order to create new product lines.

Earlier this year in June, we began construction on our first plant in the African continent, located in Cairo, Egypt, which will help us in catering to the burgeoning North African market for RTE snacks. The plant, scheduled to become operational next year in June, spread across 23,932 sq mt with roughly 10,000 sq mt (2.5 acres) of built-up area, will have a production capacity of over 1 million packs per day, half of which will be exported.

We are also working towards undertaking a plant expansion in West Bengal within 6 months. In addition, we are currently in talks to make a big acquisition for which we are evaluating some companies and will be making an announcement soon. In addition, to cater to the demand for the festive season this year, we are launching gift hampers in distinct price segments by WAI WAI. We have also recently launched three new premium spicy instant noodles brands in the northeast containing top chillies from Northeast India, including Dalle Khursani and Bhut Jolokia. All these three variants – Akbare, Dynamite and Pyro – are available in both Veg and Non-Veg versions. While Akbare and Pyro noodles are made from Dalle Khursani (round chillies), also popularly known as Akbare Chilli, a special chilli variety with a SHU (Scoville Heat Units) level of 1,00,000 to 3,50,000 SHU and is grown in Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Nepal, the second variant, Dynamite is flavoured with the legendary Ghost Pepper or Bhut Jolokia, which is among the top 10 hottest peppers in the world, with an SHU level exceeding 1 million.

CG Foods has also expanded its FMCG portfolio in India with the launch of sauces, vinegar and pastas. These include the Wai Wai Green Chilli Sauce, which is made with the finest fiery chilli found in Gujarat, the Green Jwala chilli, Wai Wai Red Chilli Sauce, made using Bhut Jolokia, Wai Wai Schezwan Chunky Sauce, made with red chilli, garlic and sautéed onions and the Wai Wai Soya Sauce is made from a blend of soya beans and used as a seasoning agent while sautéing vegetables.  It can also be used as a marinade ingredient for meat and vegetables.

We have also launched Wai Wai Vinegar, a synthetic vinegar with a mild fruity aroma which can be used as a salad dressing and also as a flavouring agent for both vegetable and meat products.

We have also introduced two new pasta flavours, Wai Wai X-Press Cheese Pasta, seasoned with delicious Cheddar cheese and a dash of tantalizing spices, and Wai Wai X-Press Tomato Pasta, which, as the name indicates is made with tomatoes, coupled with aromatic Italian seasoning.

Innovations in plant-based foods & drinks have been on the rise recently. Are you planning to cater to this sector in the near future?

Yes, most definitely we will be entering this segment of plant-based foods and drinks soon, as the market for these products is now taking off. We are exploring a frozen vegetables product line and plant-based keema, meat patties and nuggets. We are also exploring this in soya-based meat & peas-based protein. The company is also establishing a dedicated production line and kitchen for these products at our Roopangarh factory.

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