Thou salt sell more

Mumbai: Common salt is going through an uncommon period. Like never before, competition is intensifying in the branded salt market with Tata Salt, the blockbuster brand of Tata Chemicals Ltd, emerging as the market leader.

Tata Salt has got a market share of around 37 per cent while its closest competitor, Annapurna from Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL), is breathing down its neck with a market share of around 35 per cent, a recent ORG-MARG retail audit has revealed.

 The audit shows the 15-lakh-tonne domestic branded salt market will witness a stiff competition in the coming days as brands such as Dandi, Surya and Nature Fresh are trying to grab a comfortable share with intensive marketing strategies and advertisement campaigns.

ORG -MARG figures suggest that during the financial year ended 31 March 2002, on an average basis, Tata Salt grabbed a market share of 36.58 per cent while Annapurna's share touched 34.46 per cent. DCW Home Products Ltd's Captain Cook (now with HLL) had 7.78 per cent market share and other brands such as Dandi, Nirma Shudh and Natural Fresh had market shares of 0.97 per cent, 1.37 per cent and 0.14 per cent, respectively. In March 2002, the market share of Tata Salt touched 39 per cent while Annapurna's share during the same period was around 30 per cent.

The recent entrant in the branded salt category is Dandi Salt. Analysts tracking the industry say the brand is being advertised heavily on regional channels and it managed to gain around 0.97 share of the branded salt market. "But the unbranded sector continues to control a sizeable share of the overall salt market in the country." ORG-MARG figures show that the unbranded sector has a market share of 130.64 per cent.

Sources say Tata Chemicals has already initiated new efforts to involve and engage its business associates in marketing and strategy processes to enhance the brand muscle of Tata Salt. The company has awarded Bates India with the creative duties for Tata Salt, its flagship brand. The account, which was previously with Publicis India, is valued at Rs 8 crore in billing terms.

Tata Chemicals recently conducted customised training programmes for its channel partners, distributors and their field force, in order to make Tata Salt's position in the Indian market stronger still. These programmes are part of a long-term process by the company to build and improve partnerships with its marketing and distribution partners, better the teamwork between manufacturers, marketers and channel partners and leverage resources in a focused manner.

Nikhil Thacker, a senior analyst with Sushil Finance Consultants Ltd, says: "Currently, salt manufactures are pushing their brands through their strong marketing networks. While Captain Cook is positioned on the unique selling point of the free-flowing nature of its salt, Tata Salt is harping on the purity platform and Annapurna is relying on the health benefit impact of the iodine content in its salt."

Tata Salt, the first branded salt in the country, was launched in 1983. DCW launched Captain Cook in 1991, and HLL's Annapurna was launched in 1996.

Other fast-moving consumer goods companies such as Dabur India and Marico Industries also have, though insignificant, a presence in the salt market with their brands Nutra Salt (Dabur), a low-sodium salt, and Saffola Salt (Marico), a mineral-enriched low-sodium salt. Both the brands are positioned on the health platform, and are priced at a significant premium to normal salt brands.