Pharma major Alembic makes a dash into sugar free space

MUMBAI: The one billion pharma major Alembic has taken a giant leap into the sugar substitute market with the launch of no calorie sugar substitute 'Zero'. Alembic now becomes the fourth domestic player in the Indian market after Sugar Free, Equal and Sweetex.



Elaborating on the rationale behind Zero's launch, Alembic president Pradeep Rane says, "In keeping with Alembic's corporate philosophy of providing quality health care products, we have made a conscious decision to aggressively target 'proactive health seekers'. With urban lifestyles so intermeshed with professional and personal stresses, the health conscious urban dweller does not find time for personal fitness and health."


According to the research conducted by the company, a new set of emerging consumers called proactive consumers were identified who lie in the age group of 30 - 40. Throwing light on the same Alembic consumer healthcare head Geogi Zachariah pointed out , "These set of consumers unlike in earlier times, see their colleagues and friends dying due heart attacks, diabetes and other sugar related disease. So, somewhere there has come about an inertia to keep themselves fit. They are looking at options to reduce their calorie consumption and sugar is a key contributor to calories. This emerged as an opportunity." Another unique selling proposition is the fact that the company is introducing Sucralose for the first time in India.


Sucralose is the key differentiation between Zero and the other players. According to the company, this zero calorie sugar substitute is derived from sugar and tastes just like sugar, providing the much needed succor to the millions of health conscious Indians. Sucralose has been currently approved by 42 countries around the world including its approval by the leading regulatory authorities like US Food & Drug Administration ( FDA), Joint FAO/WHO expert committee on Food Additives and the National Food Authority of Australia among others.

Sucralose is a new generation molecule in the sweetening market. Adds Zachariah. " If one looks at Aspartam or Saccharine which are other molecules which act as a sweetener, Sucralose is the only one that is made from sugar and tastes like sugar. Its 600 times sweeter than sugar and is stable at higher temperatures which the other two are not."


The sugar substitute market today commands a total market share of Rs 600 million. The leader being Sugar Free with a total of 70 per cent market share, followed by Equal with a market share of about 15 - 20 per cent. The Sugar substitute space is growing today at about 28 per cent per annum. With Zero's entry, Alembic expects this space to grow at about 35 - 40 per cent.

Zero's game plan is very clearly to garner 10 per cent of market share by the end of 2005. Explains Zachariah, "The product has a gestation period and needs education of the consumer unlike a FMCG product. But once sampled they will remain a customer. So, the graph that I see is a graph which slowly moves upwards. We will break even in the first year and profits will come in the second year."

Also, the total market share is expected to grow from Rs 600 million to Rs 900 million by the end of this year.


The marketing plan is to focus on consumers who belong to SEC A1 A2 category between the age group of 30- 40. Competitors today take the problem solution route, and target people who essentially have a problem with sugar. While that will also be an integral part of Zero's consumption, as a marketing strategy the company is looking at this new set of emerging consumers who have not been tapped into before.

Coming to the promotional blitz, the whole campaign will be divided in two phases. Phase one will see the education of consumers about the molecule Sucralose and its superior quality in terms of it being a safer molecule and stable at high temperatures, which will last for three and a half months.

The second phase will then move onto the benefits of zero calorie which will be more broad based and will be the real brand building exercise which is scheduled for another 3.5 months.




Considering the category is relatively small, the first task will be to introduce the brand and make it salient. The focus has been on demonstrating what the product is and how one uses it.

TV is going to be the lead medium. Along with that, a fair mix of print and outdoor will be used where the messages would be tailored to best utilise the merit of the medium

As one moves forward, one will see the communication evolve into more lifestyle based advertising where the focus will be the 'proactive health seekers' with the theme of 'Live Lite'

How different from competition?

Says Leo Burnett creative director Vikas Mehta, " We are very well differentiated from our competition both at a product level as well as the mindspace that we occupy. At the product level, we have a unique advantage of having Sucralose as our molecule. All leading brands in the market today are made of Aspartame, the ill effects of which have been proven across the world. While Aspartame based sweeteners are low calorie, Sucralose is a zero calorie sweetener with numerous other product advantages. It has a natural taste, it is safe for children, can be used for cooking and so on."

Mehta adds, "Even as a brand, we see a significant part of our usage coming from the PHS in a market that is currently dominated by diabetics. We would want to see our product going beyond the therapeutic usage alone. Which is where the lifestyle based positioning and a theme like 'Live Lite' would make us sufficiently different from our competition."

A lot of emphasis will also be given to below the line and in shop promotion. Internet will also be a strong medium, wherein a dedicated website for the product called has already been launched. To ensure hits, the site has not been confined to Zero consumption, but has left it open for anyone who wants to keep fit.

The total marketing investment is about Rs 25 - 30 million for the year. The aim is to hit a total turnover of Rs 60 million for the year 2005. The priority markets being the 28 metros in the first phase and then getting into the 23 metros (5 lakh + population) in the second phase.



Is the aim to convert every sugar consumer to a Zero consumer ?

"No, that's too far fetched, although we are looking at positioning it as a substitute for sugar but what will prevent the consumer will be the price value equation," explains Zachariah.

Priced at Rs 60 for 90 tablets, Alembic seems gung ho about their entry and confident about the success of Zero. Interestingly, the competition is priced at Rs 50 for 100 tablets.

Whether the consumers catch on to Sucralose being a safer molecule and willing to pay that slight premium in this very price driven market is something that only the year end review of the brand would reveal.

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