Consumers are looking for more premium experiences: Shailja Joshi, Pepsico India

PepsiCo forayed into premium potato chips in 2022 with Lay’s Gourmet. Shailja Joshi, Director of Marketing - Potato Chips Category, PepsiCo India, explains premiumisation in the category and plans for a new Rs.20 SKU to scale up.

By Neethu Mohan

How has the reception been to Lay’s Gourmet?

We launched Lay’s gourmet in August 2022. By far the response for the products has been good. We were aware of the specific audience and the outlets for the products. The kind of traction we got both in terms of offtakes and repeats has been good. The Gourmet audiences are those who relish and enjoy finer things in life. The kind of occasions it caters to are more indulgent ones, where one wants to treat themselves with finer snacking experiences.

Because of the overwhelming reception received from the core consumers or the first people to latch into something like Lay’s Gourmet, we clearly saw the need of expanding it further. Hence, we are launching Rs.20 packs to take the category to the next level of audiences and scale it further. This price point is very important for the next level scale up from the retail and consumer point of view. The Rs.20 packs will be soon seen in the market and will be distributed more pervasively.

Do you see the Gourmet consumer being different from the Lay’s consumer?

The segmentation is not a demographic segmentation, it is more of an occasion and need-based one. A consumer might at one point in time want to consume a Lay’s because he/she wants to have fun with friends, it is more of a large get together, fun with friends snack. The same set of consumers in a different mood or on a different occasion might be a consumer of Lay’s Gourmet too.

Also, post Covid we have also witnessed that there is an expansion of how consumers overall are looking for more premium experiences across categories. With Lay’s Gourmet, we definitely see a lot more consumers come into snacking because they want a finer experience in snacking.

‘Not just cooked, crafted’. You have retained the line while roping in Saif Ali Khan as brand ambassador. While Saif is recognised for his royal lineage, he has also been an ambassador for Lay’s in the past. Was there a concern on that front? 

Our association with Saif Ali Khan has been a greatest one in the past and the journey the brand was in at that point of time with Saif was fabulous.

We have roped him in for Lay’s Gourmet which is about finer experience. The chips that are finely crafted. He was an apt choice for the brand. We were more excited to onboard him as there is nobody better who can represent products with fine taste and regality.



Why was the need felt for a brand ambassador?

At PepsiCo overall and as custodians of brands, it is not about the need felt of a brand ambassador. We work with brand ambassadors when we feel that there is a certain amount of strength added to the brand image. Also both brand and the ambassador should be inter-related, both should go together. When we were thinking of this crafted experience or fine taste, we knew that Saif Ali Khan could bring in a lot of value here. The world of Saif and Gourmet could fit in, make that world even richer. It was the whole idea of where he brought in that kind of richness to the brand.

The pricing is well below a popular premium brand that sells around Rs.100. How has this helped Gourmet? Between Gourmet’s Rs.30 and Rs.50 SKUs, what is the share of each?

We are leaders in the potato chips category globally. The kind of expertise and learnings we were able to build while launching the category was not only limited to the Indian market. Our understanding of segmentation gave us a very clear idea about the Gourmet segment price points. For the past months we have been in the market, we also see that the strategy is working.

Because of the kind of channel they cater to, the share is mostly skewed towards Rs.30 packs which goes to the more traditional trade network. The Rs.50 pack is more for e-commerce, quick commerce and modern trade.

The Lay’s Gourmet chips are available in three flavours-Lime & Cracked Pepper, Thai Sweet Chilli and Vintage Cheese & Paprika. Which is the fastest selling flavour? Are you planning to introduce more?

We have actually got disproportionately good response for Thai Sweet Chilli. The flavour is something which a larger set of consumers are loving. The difference between the sales of three flavours is not huge. We are also at a stage where more people are trying the products and the consumer base is also growing.

While as a company we always have a robust pipeline of flavours that we keep developing as and when needed. That work is taking place on Gourmet as well. But currently we want to sustain our business with these three flavours. When the need arises, we will definitely introduce more flavours.

Lay’s Maxx, Lay’s @ Home, Thin, Gourmet. How is each faring and are there any new categories the brand is planning to venture into?

The last two years have been about expansion and providing consumers what they need. Lay’s @ Home is part of the core proposition, it is a platform we created year on year and it is very successful for us. The objective was to get consumers to stock Lay’s more at home. It has helped us in fantastic growth in household penetration. It has driven the large packs growth for us. The campaign have worked well for the brand.

All other launches, like Wafer Style, Sizzling Hot etc. have been in the market for more than a year and are consistently scaling up. Doing very well for us. They are also providing incremental business to the brand.

Gourmet was launched last year. We have plans of a phased scale up. Now with the launch of Rs.20 packs we are planning for the next level of scale up.

PepsiCo India tied up with Swiggy and Dunzo for exclusive Lay’s e-stores. How has this taken off?

We got a really great response in terms of e-commerce and quick commerce with the partnerships. As platforms, these are more consumer-friendly and convenient. We have seen the strategic importance of these channels as a category.

These associations are strategically very important for us. We keep doing a lot of launches, partnerships, advertisements etc which are yielding results for us.

What would be the media mix for the campaign featuring Saif Ali Khan?

We have a robust media plan in place. We have already gone live with the campaign with our main TVC. You will soon see it on IPL and on digital on IPL. We have also got very intense engagement plans on digital.

Digital has a disproportionate play for Gourmet because of the kind of audience that the category caters to are ready to engage with us on digital. Gourmet’s media plans is going to be one of the biggest after Lay’s  @Home which is already live with actor Rajkummar Rao, with which we are present in IPL and digital. TV is also an important medium for the Gourmet campaign. E-com and quick commerce also will come into the picture.


Print is presently not in the media plan of Lay’s Gourmet. We are consolidating more of our spends on TV and digital. Also, this is going to be a larger campaign that will keep running. We are still evaluating what else can be done to capture the entire 360. Hence, print medium is not completely out of the plan, but in the next one month it is not considered.

What are the consumption behaviour changes you have noticed in the category in the last two years? Has at-home consumption during Covid meant larger SKU offtake? Has that remained?

One big change I have observed is that the consumers are looking for more premium experience. That’s also the reason why premium categories across all the segments are growing, including us.

Another trend that is booming is the need for snacking at home. The kind of snacking occasions during pre and post Covid has become bigger and there are new occasions that have started coming in.

Value keeps playing an important role. We look at it more as, what are we worth paying more for? Whether the consumers are constantly seeing more value in your brand – not only from what you provide as a product at a price point, but also as a proposition.




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