Guwahati, Aug. 23: A local beverage company has forayed into the aerated drinks market for the first time in the Northeast.
Sakshi Agro Beverage, a sister concern of Silver Drop Foods & Beverages Pvt Ltd, has started production of carbonated soft drinks from its Amingaon plant, near here.
“We have recently started operations in the non-cola segment and launched three varieties under our Ohlay brand — Jeera Masala, Clear Lemon and Orange — in the Northeast market. That’s apart from Healing Mood, our club soda brand,” K.K. Bajaj, managing director of Sakshi Agro Beverage, told The Telegraph.
Given the decades-long domination of the cola majors, Coca Cola and PepsiCo, which have a combined market share of over 95 per cent in the Northeast, Sakshi’s entry into the carbonated industry may be considered a baby step, albeit bold and calculated.
“We know the brand strength of Coke and Pepsi, but we want to carve a niche for ourselves by working on our strengths and in the limited space we have. Jeera masala and fresh lime is what we Indians prefer, especially during summer. Our non-carbonated brand, Fruitlo, launched in 2011, is doing well in the market, primarily because we do not use synthetic ingredients. Instead, we procure fruit pulp from southern India and Bihar,” Bajaj said.
The group has installed two state-of-the-art plants for its carbonated and non-carbonated drinks with a production capacity of 2,000 litres per hour.
“The homogenisers and pasteurisers have been imported from Italy, the labelling unit from Taiwan and the PET blowing machine from Germany. The investment in the machinery would be about Rs 13 crore,” Bajaj said.
The company has set up its own laboratory and absorbed a team of food technologists, microbiologists and chemists to ensure that the prescribed norms and standards of the industry are met.
With an annual turnover of Rs 6 crore, Sakshi is eyeing a growth of almost 50 per cent in the non-carbonated drinks segment, comprising fruit juice and club soda.
“The ratio of non-carbonated and carbonated drinks production would be about 80:20. That’s because we had posted 50 per cent growth in the non-carbonated drinks segment last year, thanks to consumers becoming health conscious. We plan to add apple and orange to our mango and litchi varieties next year,” Bajaj said.
The company is on a trial mode on production and sale of carbonated soft drinks.
“We have released only about 36 lakh bottles in Assam, and recently in Bengal, and will distribute another 24 lakh bottles this year. However, the scale of production will be larger from next year as we plan to foray into the cola segment,” the managing director said.
The beverage group also plans to augment production of its packaged mineral water brand, Silver Drop, by installing two more plants next year. “Silver Drop, launched in 2000, is our flagship product, with a 40 per cent year-on-year growth. Of late, the demand for the brand has outgrown supply following which we have decided to set up two plants, one at Amingaon and another in Jorhat, next year,” he added.