Monday, May 19, 2008

Act II : Creating a Category

Brand : Act II
Company : Agrotech Foods ( ConAgra)
Brand Analysis Count : 327

Act II is an interesting brand story. The brand is from the global agro-foods major ConAgra Foods. Act II was launched in India in 1999. Since the launch the brand has succeeded in creating the branded popcorn category in India.

Act II is the world's first and largest selling popcorn brand . The brand came into existence as Act( I) which was a microwave popcorn which had to be stored in a refrigerator. In 1984, Act II was launched which was a revolutionary shelf storage product which did not need refrigeration.
The most common consumption of this product was in movie theaters and outdooors like parks and beaches. Act II when launched also tried to tap these markets. This segment is set to grow with the emergence of numerous multiplexes across the country.

Then the brand launched the instant popcorn variant where the consumers can make the popcorn in their homes. But the problem was that the popcorn could be made only using a microwave oven. Thus the product was restricted to upper class urban households. But later the brand launched Act II which could be prepared using a pressure cooker or even a frying pan. This pressure-cooker friendly popcorn was indigenously developed and paved the way for a new category of snack foods in the Indian households. Through this innovation, the company hopes to penetrate the large middleclass market.

To appeal to the Indian consumers, Act II launched many India-centric tastes for the popcorns. Now the brand is available in four flavors : Classic Salted, Butter pepper, Golden Sizzle & Chilly Surprise. The brand is also testing other Indian flavors .

Besides these product centric developments, the brand is also into aggressive promotion. The brand is now running a campaign to highlight the "ease of preparation" of this product. The campaign is around the theme of ' Even Papa can Cook " which gives the message that Act II can be made in just three minutes.

Recently Act II also relaunched the Microwave Oven Popcorns since the company felt that microwave ovens have penetrated many urban middleclass households.

Typically like any new category , Act II is also facing the challenge of popularising the Popcorns as a regular snack. The brand has its tasks cut out since Popcorns are popular but the challenge is to make it a regular snack like potato chips. The brand must increase the usage occasion of Popcorns which is now restricted to outdoors. The current campaign of ' ease of preparation' is relevant but the brand should also have other campaigns aimed at increasing the consumption.

The current state of brand has striking similarity with Maggi Noodles . When Maggi was first launched it also harped on the ease of preparation but later had to change tacts. Act II should be spending money focusing on two factors :

a. Promoting Popcorns as a regular snack. This is more challenging since the brand will be competing with the likes of Lays, Bingo etc. The brand could seek the help of a celebrity to popularize this category. The brand also faces the challenge from private labels and the unorganized sector.
b.For this the brand has to find a compelling reason for consumers to buy Act II . It can highlight the taste, nutrition etc . According to a website popcorn .org , Popcorns are one of healthiest snacks available. If its correct, then the healthy snacks positioning will be the most effective for this brand. The brand could emulate the strategy of Bingo and launch many new flavors which can increase the trial of this product.

In 2007 , Act II was a Rs 30 crore brand. The brand has also extended itself into other categories of snack foods like Corn Chips etc.