Crackers and milk: New products aim to fill market needs

FOOD companies are always looking for ways to fill the needs of their customers, looking for new niches that they can satisfy. One company decided to tackle a perceived need for a healthy cracker for mindful snacking, while a milk giant now offers an “organic” product for parents looking for healthier options.

Food, beverage, and snack food company Mondelez Philippines is taking a stab at the country’s cracker market by introducing Tiger Crackers while touting the company’s new philosophy of making snacking mindful, according to a regional executive.

“The cracker market in the Philippines is quite large… what we found is that there is a market for something that is healthy, portionable so we made this very unique cracker,” Nikhil Rao, marketing director for cakes, biscuits, and snacks at Mondelez Southeast Asia, told BusinessWorld during a digital interview on Sept. 1.

Mr. Rao figured that the cracker market in the country is worth “a million dollars and growing,” making it a worthwhile segment to invest in.

Tiger Crackers are made by double fermentation to “make it easy to digest,” according to Mr. Rao, but in order to appeal to the Filipino palate, they introduced “unique Filipino flavors:” ensaymada and leche flan, alongside plain crackers.

And because the company is all about “mindful snacking” or making snacking healthier, each snack pack contains three crackers that come to less than 120 calories. A package of 10 snack packs is priced at P50.

The company has also introduced portion control to Oreo cookies, with each snack pack containing just three cookies.

Tiger Crackers were launched in the country in June and Mr. Rao said that the reception has been “very good” and “considering the pandemic and the category being impacted, we have been doing very well [with] the first two months hitting its targets.”

The overall snacking category has declined “by about low single digits” and according to Mr. Rao, this was caused by the lockdowns imposed in the second quarter of the year.

“People didn’t know how to react and a lot of supply to the stores were impacted,” he explained.

Mondelez, he said, has kept its head above water because it is a big company with a lot of big brands under its portfolio. And despite the decline in the snacking category, Mondelez is still seeing 2020 end “handsomely by gaining market share in most of the categories we operate in.”

Aside from Tiger and Oreo, Mondelez also produces Eden Cheese, Tang powdered drinks, Cadbury chocolate, and Cheez Whiz.

The pandemic has disrupted the daily lives of much of the world and the Philippines is no exception and with disruption comes changes, and Mr. Rao said that in the past few months he has noticed several changes in consumer behavior: people are gravitating towards big name brands, are being more conscious of their health and well-being, and are buying in bulk.

“[Families] have kids at home with them. When they’re in school the mother wouldn’t know what the child is eating so when the kids are at home they want to consciously load the pantry or the fridge with stuff they know will be okay for kids to keep eating,” he said, thus explaining the company’s pivot to healthier portion sizes.

Despite the success of Tiger Crackers in the Philippines (even though it has only been a few months since the launch), Mr. Rao said they will not be introducing Tiger Crackers in other Southeast Asia countries yet as they are “focusing on the Philippines because that’s the biggest market, and we want to get it right in the Philippines.”

Due to a growing number of parents looking for healthier options for their children, Promil has introduced an organic variant of its milk product to help parents “as they start this kind of lifestyle,” said a local executive.

“The organic base is still relatively small, but growing steadily. More parents are looking for healthier options,” Maria Cheska Cornelio, associate product manager for Promil Organic, told BusinessWorld via an e-mail interview on Aug. 28.

“It is more for parents who choose to have an organic lifestyle with their children — choosing some aspects of their life to be organic. In case [they are] interested to have this kind of lifestyle, they can easily start the smart way, step-by-step. It does not have to be a drastic change right away. They can start going organic with their child’s milk first,” she added.

But what makes something “organic?” Fruits, vegetables, and grains are labelled “organic” if they are non-GMO (made using genetically modified organisms), if they have not been treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, and “has no chemical additives or sewage sludge,” Dr. Celeste Gomez of The Medical City pediatrics section and the Institute of Functional Medicine, said during a digital briefing on Aug. 13.

For meat, dairy, poultry, and fish to be labelled “organic,” the animals should not have been treated with hormones and antibiotics and should have been fed organic grains or vegetables and no animal by-products. They also must have had access to pasture, while the fish should be wild caught and not farmed.

Conventional food, according to Dr. Gomez, is still nutritious and “isn’t entirely bad” but the presence of pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria growth add stress on our body systems.

Promil Organic is said to be made with 100% organic milk sourced from certified organic dairy farms and has a formula with higher levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and AA (arachidonic acid) “versus previous formulation to help support the development of children over three years old,” according to a company release.

The milk formula contains DHA, AA, iron, iodine, and Vitamin B12 to help the child with mental and visual development; Vitamin A and C to boost immunity; Calcium, Vitamin D, K, and Zinc to promote proper growth; and dietary fiber (oligofructose) to improve digestive health, said the release.

Promil Organic retails at P1,069 for a 900 gm can and can be bought in physical stores and online via Promil’s official stores in Lazada and Shopee. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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