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Always experimenting new flavour : Naturals Ice cream

Always experimenting new flavour : Naturals Ice cream

New Delhi, Oct 22 : What sprouted as an idea of serving handmade fruit ice cream with a stand alone store in Mumbais famous Juhu is now a brand with pan India presence which envisions Rs 500 crore turnover by 2025. Naturals Ice Cream was started by Raghunandan Kamath in 1984 after he realised the scope for making fruit and dry fruit-based ice cream, inspired by kulfi. And over the years, the brand became synonymous with interesting fruit ice cream flavours like sitaphal, lychee, coconut, etc., and may soon introduce low fat vegan ice creams.

Over the years, word of mouth has been the biggest marketing tool for Naturals as its current factory is running at full capacity supplying to 126 outlets and is planning to expand by 10 more stores by the end of 2020. Siddhant Kamath, second generation entrepreneur and Director of Kamath Ourtimes Pvt Ltd, in a conversation with IANSlife shares more about the journey of the brand, the competition in the industry and their expansion plans. Excerpts

Q) How has Naturals grown over the years?

Naturals has grown substantially due to the USP of its ice-cream flavours, mainly because of the fruit based ice-creams such as sitaphal, tender coconut, lychee, etc. The seasonal flavours are not available all the time and this makes them stand out from the rest of the competition. The Pan India expansion of outlets like the new markets in Kolkata, Gurugram and tier 2 cities such as Indore, Raipur, Nagpur has made Naturals not only grow in terms of sales numbers, but also helped our brand to build its identity in newer territories.

Q) How has the brand's journey been?

Our journey and its philosophy has been perpetually slow like how milk is boiled for a long time as the creaminess of the milk is generated through the perfect timing and the art of boiling required. It's been consciously slow because the products are artisanal, which is made with love and manwork, with scalability that matches the pace of the product.

We started in 1984 with one store and then franchise in 1994 which is 10 years after the first store. We moved out of Mumbai in 2000 and we moved outside Maharashtra in 2007 so we took a very conscious approach in expanding and our first target was to be a well known brand in Mumbai and be recognised locally first and then pan India. We took more than 33 years to reach the national capital where it was opened in 2015. So the journey has been purposefully slow, but great and we have learned so much and this is helping us in future planning.

Q) Tell us more about the expansion plans?

With regards to expansion, the main focus is to double our production as our factory is currently running at full capacity supplying to 126 outlets. The plan is to shift our production facility from Charkop in Kandivali (Mumbai) to a larger space, like the Panvel MIDC area where we can double the capacity as well. It is a work in progress, but something we are on track to fulfill.

On the topic of outlets we are experimenting with a franchisee owned and company operated (Foco) model for now and testing results based on it. Major expansions would be in the North, Central and Eastern markets.

Q) How has the brand developed taste wise?

Yes, we have relied on our fruit-based flavours, but that does not mean we are resting on our laurels. We are always experimenting on the next best new Natural flavour, it's ever evolving. Our Friday Funday and Blockbuster concept prove that our goal is to have our guest come back at our outlets, excitedly waiting to gorge on the new flavour of Friday. Flavours like Royal Dry Fruit, Chunky Banana, Jalebi, Gajar Halwa are a few options that made our guests yearn for more every time we announce a new flavour.

Recently there's a big demand for low fat vegan ice creams and soon we might introduce few low fat options or vegan friendly ice creams. We usually work as per our customer expectations, they are the best judge of which flavours and which not.

Q) How have you seen the market evolve over the years?

The market was completely evolved when my father started in 1984, the volume of business used to come through scoops. The current volume is 50-50, it means 50 per cent scoops and 50 per cent is 500 gm tubs. It means that there is proper refrigeration at home so today refrigeration is a common thing and not a luxury and that has created a good space for us as ice creams can be enjoyed in your home as well and you can enjoy at our store as well, so that's a big jump.

Though if you compare it with international markets, India is a growing market in ice-cream. Based on the growing population, the consumption of ice cream is very low and this means that there is a big opportunity for everyone to expand their business. The game changer is also online delivery so you might have noticed that our stores are now designed in a way that caters walk ins and deliveries simultaneously. Delivery has been a big boost to our business so it is involving through online delivery and probably we might see more innovations in this field.

Q) With so many international brands making their way to India, how do you think home-made brands can carve a niche for themselves?

There is a certain nostalgia which will never go away with regards to home-made brands. Naturals does enjoy the emotional connect formed with our brand loyalists due to its humble beginnings in Juhu (Mumbai). The process can help home-made brands to understand their customers more in depth rather than any international brand would. This would be helpful in designing new products or evolve in services being offered.

Q) Do you have any special or memorable incident related to the brand?

One of the most memorable incidents for me was when West Indies cricketer Viv Richards on Sunil Gavaskar's show "Sunny Days are back again" mentioned sitaphal ice cream by Naturals as his favorite ice cream. And he visited our store every time he was in Mumbai --was his answer to the question on what was his favourite thing to do in Mumbai.

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