19 Apr 2019 21:30 IST

Frooti: A juicy story!

Parle Agro’s hugely popular beverage, has successfully reinvented itself many times over

It was a scene that would have gladdened the heart of any sponsor: MS Dhoni taking a sip of the fruit drink offered to him by his daughter, Ziva, just after Chennai Super Kings won IPL 2018. The drink was Frooti which, as those following the IPL would know, has been the official pouring partner of Chennai Super Kings since 2018, boasting the Twitter handle @CSKFrootiDrinksman.

Frooti was launched by Prakash Chauhan of Parle Agro India Pvt Ltd in 1985. Parle Agro is one of three companies run by the Chauhan family (the other two are Parle Products and Parle Bisleri). It was launched as a green, rectangular, convenient grab-and-go carton — the first Tetra Pak packaged drink India had ever seen. Reportedly, the budget for Frooti’s launch was about ₹20 lakh, with most of it being spent on TV communication.

Innovative launch

The company went about the launch innovatively — Frooti packs were hung from trees and people could just ‘pluck’ one and walk away! It is said that initially, people mistook the product for a soap and had to be educated on using the straw to punch a hole in the carton. Once the idea caught on, there was no stopping the craze for Frooti, with even schools in Mumbai stocking the product in their canteens.

It was an instant hit with parents, till then used to heavy glass bottles like Duke’s Mangola. Giving kids an energizing and nourishing soft drink became much easier with Frooti – all one had to do was slip it into the backpack! The refreshing taste and affordability added to the charm.

Other soft drink manufacturers scrambled to join the Tetra Pak revolution, with Godrej introducing Jumpin’. But Frooti emerged a clear market leader and its name became synonymous with the Tetra Pak, with people identifying any drink in a Tetra Pak as ‘Frooti’. Parle Agro continues to be the country’s largest user of Tetra Paks even today.

Frooti had a longer shelf-life than most products. Refrigeration (for preservation) was not necessary as the manufacturing process reportedly included the flash ‘ultra-heat’ treatment that eliminated bacteria and germs. The packaging had seven layers including paper (to retain shape), plastic (for waterproofing) and aluminium (for protection from light, oxygen and odour).

Taking on rivals

After ruling the market for over a decade, with a near 61 per cent share, Frooti saw sales diminishing as other fruit juices joined the fray — Maaza, Slice and Real. The generation that had grown up drinking Frooti still had fond memories of it but associated the drink with ‘childhood’, not youth and fun. In 2001, to cater to this generation, the company introduced a pull tab feature that eliminated the need for a straw.

It also set in motion one of the most innovative and well-conceived teaser campaigns in India to revive interest in their product and create a new ‘youthful’ consumer — the ‘Digen Verma’ campaign. For about 15 days, questions about the doings and tastes of Digen Verma popped up everywhere youngsters gathered; it generated a lot of curiosity and when finally the product was revealed to be Frooti, sales jumped by about 30 per cent.

The problem was that the brand could not live up to the hype created by the Digen Verma campaign; it also failed to sustain and satiate curiosity with follow-up campaigns.

In 2002, Frooti became the first fruit drink to be introduced in PET bottles. It also became the first company in the world to introduce mango fruit juice in triangle-shaped ‘samosa packs’ in 2004 — at just ₹2.50! This helped the product to enter the rural market and is said to have been inspired by hawkers selling peanuts in newspaper cones for as little as ₹2.

Makeover

The very next year, the brand went in for a major makeover, when it changed its packaging from green to yellow, aiming for better visibility. It was a calculated risk as consumer recall centred on the green colour; but the brand was also trying to break free of its ‘kid-centric’ tag and position itself as a drink for all age groups, especially the youth. It launched a series of campaigns to ensure top-of-the-mind recall for Frooti. For the first time, in 2013, it appointed a celebrity brand ambassador, Shah Rukh Khan.

Even as these marketing attempts went ahead, the brand was experimenting on the packaging front — using returnable glass bottles, introducing 250 ml bottle packs, and so on. In 2015, another major revamp took place, with a new design, logo, font, colour, look and packaging; the taste was also enhanced.

Since Frooti was made with the Totapuri mango, the new logotype was taken from the lettering on the crates that delivered the mangoes.

Today, Frooti contributes about 60 per cent of Parle Agro’s net worth and is said to be the second-largest selling mango-flavoured drink in India, with a market share of about 20 per cent in the mango drink category. It is available in several sizes, from 80ml triangular packs to 2 litre PET bottles.

Parle Agro has over 1 million outlets in India and over 70 manufacturing facilities, both within India and abroad. Frooti is exported to various countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Nigeria and Japan.

For new product launches, the company carefully tracks customer feedback, timing its launch after preparing the market. But sometimes serendipity plays a role. In 2017, Frooti Fizz was launched, reportedly after the present JMD & CMO Nadia Chauhan saw her children mixing soda with Frooti and drinking it joyfully. The product became an instant hit.

Ads, CSR, awards

From its most memorable jingle ‘Mango Frooti – Fresh and Juicy’ to ‘Why Grow up?’ to ‘Just like that’, the brand has now come full circle — to its original and much-loved tagline. It has always gone in for different campaigns like the ‘Mango Surprise’ where giant mangoes dropped from trees; the ‘Crazy Mango Fun’, a mango-based TV entertainment show; and now, it cheers up people having a dull day at #The FrootiLife with gifs, recipes and games. Apart from this, TV commercials, hoardings and banners, mall activities, mobile display (public transport), buntings at points of sale and an active digital presence drive sales and brand visibility.

On the CSR front, Parle Agro has set up the Frooti Foundation, with activities like the ‘Aam Baatne Se Badhta Hai’ and ‘Alms for Aams’. The former is an initiative in collaboration with Radio One, where sharing memorable mango moments over the air results in donations to orphanages; and the latter involves Crystal Mango collection boxes placed at vantage locations to receive donations, the whole of which would then be matched with an equal amount of Frooti cartons and sent to orphanages. Parle Agro’s Aanganwadi Development Project was launched recently and focusses on early childhood care.

Parle Agro won the Beverage Industry award for the ‘Best Managed Supply Chain’ (2002) and the ‘Highest Retail Availability’ (2002).

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