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Foreseeing it as the next big thing, Kurkure taps into $2-2.5 bn chaat category

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of Kurkure Chaat Fills, a street food-inspired Namkeen, Aastha Bhasin, Category Lead- Kurkure, PepsiCo India, delved deeper into the nitty gritty of what led to the genesis of the new product and its two variants across magic pricing points, the creative and media strategy, challenges in the category and more

Aastha Bhasin

Launched in India in 1999, PepsiCo’s spiced crunchy puffcorn snack made from rice, lentil and corn, Kurkure has amassed for itself a significant market share and has truly emerged as the ‘centre of the plate’ for many.

In fact, just as the brand name is a literal translation of the term ‘crunchy’ in Hindi, the product proposition has been a testing ground for numerous foodies owing to its ability to transform into a wholesome meal with a few additions.

According to Aastha Bhasin, Category Lead- Kurkure, PepsiCo India, the launch of Kurkure Chaat Fills, although inspired by the street food and chaat flavours of India, is not a competitor to the homemade experiences curated by Kurkure lovers, but an entirely different yet enticing format.

The launch of Kurkure Chaat Fills, catering to the street food enthusiast segment in a convenient and groundbreaking ready-to-eat format, marks Kurkure's third product launch this year.

Earlier, the brand had launched Kurkure Playz, an offering that banks on factors such as crunch, texture, softness and melting capabilities as well as Kurkure Sizzlin’ Hot which brought PepsiCo’s flagship global Flamin' Hot platform to Kurkure.

“It's a platform where we're taking inspiration from street food or chaat, which in India is such a sizable category, that it accounts for almost USD $2-2.5 billion. In fact, we found out that almost 46% of consumers today are actually looking for something that’s not only new but is also chaat-inspired. A lot of it also had to do with the underlying trend of increased experimentation that also reflected on snacking and the exploration coming from different markets,” she said.

Throwing light on the other triggers which led the brand to come up with not just the new product offering but also the two flavours- Papdi Chaat Twist and Bhel Chutney Twist, she mentioned that when the brand started researching more on the chaat-inspired snacks that consumers get in today’s day and age, it was found out that the other products were majorly topically seasoned, meaning that the products had just the flavour of chaat, but PepsiCo being the category innovator that it is, it was only prudent to spruce things up with the introduction of a new product which gives one a multi-sensorial and multi-textural taste.

“We wanted to combine the iconic crunch of Kurkure and the insertion of chaat into it to make it authentic via some concentrated cohesive flavours of tamarind, onion and garlic amongst other chaat-inspired condiments and that’s how the breakthrough innovation of offering a centre-filled product with the taste-like filling and crunch of a chaat was actually incepted in the form of Kurkure Chaat Fills,” she said.

Commenting on the variant bit, she elaborated that since the brand was essentially looking at having two chaat or street foods which work across the North-South-East-West zones, the top two variants that came as relevant to all consumers were Paapdi Chaat and Bhel and while the names might differ from zone to zone, the love for these two offerings was very dominant, had a wider footprint and more love from consumers.

Moreover, Bhasin also highlighted that from a product standpoint, for PepsiCo, it is important that we have a consumer view on breakthrough innovations which makes pre-screening an effective criteria.

“From an advertising point of view, a lot of AB testing is happening on digital media now because it keeps you agile and ensures that you are reaching the right audience with the right communication. Also, since I am all for data as long as it helps one effectively target their audience and give them the message that they are looking for, personally, this technology should not be used in a gimmicky way to tell a story and should instead benefit the consumer, ultimately,” she added.

Throwing light on the media strategy for the latest offering which leads up to Kurkure being a house to over 14 products, Bhasin stated that while the brand is focused on driving effective reach, it is extremely essential to ensure that the message actually lands with the consumers and there’s a remembrance and understanding build-up for how the product is differentiated.

“The affordable price points have also been kept aside keeping in mind that it helps in trials because even though Kurkure Chaat Fills is a modern twist on street food, it comes in the magic price points of Rs 10 and Rs 20, which is way cheaper than the price for a plate of chaat itself and taps into the the authentic essence of Indian street food by infusing our global technology to the local palates.”

Later, she also opined that as part of the creative and media strategy wherein one essentially figures out which consumer profiles, needs and segments should the offering speak to, the brand owing to its pan-India presence will be using the same rigour as any other offering for Kurkure Chaat Fills as well.

“While we look at the Indian youth essentially, the family has also been one of the anchor points for Kurkure. Kurkure Chaat Fills is actually meant for anybody who wants to have a savoury, delicious snack,” she stated.

With this particular product launch coinciding with the festive season, Kurkure’s recently appointed brand ambassador, Sara Ali Khan, has also made her TVC debut for the brand which aims to launch the commercial not just in Hindi but across multiple languages.

Conceptualised by Leo Burnett, the creative AOR for PepsiCo India, the new 60-seconder ‘Maal Andar Hai’ TVC complements the 360° advertising approach that the brand has taken for the launch of Kurkure Chaat Fills comprising of mainline, digital and influencer marketing amongst others and highlights the immersive multi-textural experience of the product offering in a humorous way.

Vikram Pandey (Spiky), National Creative Director, Leo Burnett, said, “When we started working on this campaign, we had a breakthrough moment when one of the team members came up with the line ‘Asli Maal Andar Hai’. A perfect way to highlight the distinctive new feature of the latest offering from Kurkure – a flavourful filling inside the Kurkure pellet. And keeping with the light-hearted quirky tonality that is associated with the brand, our film exemplifies this concept literally.”

The TVC stars the newly onboarded brand ambassador in an entirely new and unexpected role – as the sinister leader of a gang of misfits. Set inside an abandoned warehouse, one of her informants, Guddu, claims to possess crucial information about the elusive "maal" hidden inside a cupboard, which to Khan’s surprise leads to the revelation of a packet of Kurkure Chaat Fills.

Believing this to be another one of Guddu's failures, Khan prepares herself to pull the trigger, but her demeanour quickly changes when she takes a bite of the brand’s latest offering and is captivated by its flavourful filling, leading up to Guddu's life being spared as she exclaims, "maal to je ke andar hai!"

The TVC:

The spokesperson also highlighted that, unlike any other product launch event that PepsiCo has conducted in the past year, the launch of Kurkure Chaat Fills also saw a room full of 50-odd food and lifestyle influencers, of which almost 95% were people who the brand had reached out on social media owing to the fact that they had been talking about Kurkure and they just came to the launch event for the love of the brand.

Under the integrated communication strategy, authentic content creators are believed to play an extremely important role, be it the micro-influencers or even macro influencers, and will help in getting candid feedback as well as word of mouth, as per the spokesperson.

Since the product launch has just happened during the festive season and the campaign has gone live only now, Bhasin stated that the brand has looked at the festive season from both a communication and media perspective and identified that what consumers are seeking from Kurkure is two distinct means- convenience and value, both of which the assortment really talks to along with its positioning as premium which makes it apt for gifting as well.

Furthermore, Bhasin, who is fondly referred to as a marketer with Midas Touch since her Quaker days, wherein she had been at the forefront of the complete brand overhaul, emphasised that while the Namkeen category overall is huge and highly fragmented with a lot many local players, Kurkure has been a leading player for over two decades now, so much so, that it was enlisted under one of the most chosen FMCG brands in India as per a Kantar survey conducted recently.

“The fact that we have been able to build this brand over time by constantly offering the consumers the products that they are thinking of and that too ahead of anybody else at a protective value through our right mix of revenue management and distribution capabilities is a predicament to the consumer love that Kurkure has built for itself owing to the approach of keeping consumers at the centre of what we do and ensuring that we walk the path with them and stay true to their evolving needs,” she added.

Highlighting the category challenges that the brand faces in today’s environment, she also stated that while the biggest challenge of inflationary pressure and overall global economic slowdown has been winding down for businesses and brands, it is becoming crucial for entities to re-engineer themselves continually in the back end to bring in efficiencies to match the equation for the consumers.


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