The Marketing Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Mr. Tarang Gupta, speaks extensively about the iconic Peak Milk brand, the market conditions and economy, among others in a media chat in Lagos. Abimbola Akosile captures his views

How will you assess the milk market in Nigeria, given that many have said that it is largely untapped, do you share this sentiment?

There’s a huge opportunity for dairy in Nigeria. And I also agree it’s largely untapped. According to FAO, basis milk equivalent (ME), average per capita global milk consumption amounts to about 100 kg of milk/year; with significant variances between markets/ countries. For example, quoting FAO, per capita consumption in Europe is in excess of 300kg of milk/ year in comparison to some African and Asian countries with less than 30kg.

In Nigeria, whilst market information is not readily available, data suggests that per capita consumption of milk is 8kg/year. Milk consumption in Nigeria is low; as such, it is expected that as the Nigerian population grows followed by increased Nigerians’ awareness and relevance on the goodness of dairy and the overall market competitiveness of dairy manufacturers, dairy category will become more relevant. Lastly, as the economy improves, population pyramid experiences more dynamism – the middle class is projected to increase; as such the demand for milk is further stimulated.

What is your take on the current state of the Nigerian economy in view of the steep decline in global oil prices and the economic challenges it has triggered in the country?

Since Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges came to the fore, there have been many opinions on how government and private sector on the one hand and Nigerian consumers on the other should address it and likely tap the opportunities that it brings.

Nigerians have become more enlightened and as such are braced for tough times; unfortunately, the economic recession being experienced will take a while before the country bounces back. Nigerians have become pragmatic in their way of living and are ‘protecting themselves’, by making clear priorities which is happening across categories. However, Nigerian consumers are still demanding for same product quality, they don’t want to be taken for granted and ready to go with any brand that meets their needs and thus this is the time when manufacturers should value their consumers and give them the value they deserve.

Though the cost of business operations are being challenged, organisations need to be creative in terms of their business models, so as to maintain their costs and continue to provide value to consumers.

So, what marketing strategies have your company developed to survive the economic crunch?

To be honest, the current challenges in Nigeria affect everyone – institutions and society. And in most if not all companies we have Harvard-trained marketers, economists who have come up with several business plans to help achieve sustainable competitive edge. However, it’s less about the marketing strategies but more about their relevance to the consumers at this point in time and how they are seamlessly executed.

Peak is an iconic brand that is truly Nigerian. With over 60 years in the market, the brand has shared the passion, happiness, successes, aspirations and fears of Nigerians. Peak will continue to increase its relevance amongst its consumers and provide the value our beloved consumers deserve.

At a time like this, consumers usually feel somehow neglected by their brands. Because it is recession, consumers feel embarrassed and it’s as if they are looked down on by brands as all what consumers are offered are promotions and discounts. In our own case, however, we are here for consumers; helping you in these difficult times. Peak has been here with them for the last 60 years and will continue to support them emotionally and functionally.

What is the general brand strategy for the Peak milk brand and in what ways have you been able to communicate this to the consumers?

It’s our responsibility and passion to stick with our consumers and continue to provide value for them. We will continue to engage our consumers by emotionally connecting and rationally assuring with our diverse portfolio to meet different needs of our consumers. We will leverage different and relevant touch points to engage our consumers especially at the point of purchase.

Peak as a brand has a strong sense of purpose of providing quality dairy nutrition to help our consumers realise their full potential and ‘Reach their Peak’. We will stay consistent with our purpose.

In one word how would you describe the Peak Milk brand?

Goodness (in every drop).

In the last two years we have seen a lot of repositioning in the milk segment especially from competitors. Does that put a bit of pressure on you?

Increasing competition in any category only benefits our consumers, because it removes arrogance and starts to keep consumers as the epicenter; which is why we at Friesland Campina welcome this and also realise the end benefit to our consumers and category in general.

To us, it’s a great source of motivation. Knowing that our competitors are making efforts to win the mind and heart of our consumers is what gets us out of bed every morning to go out there and maintain our leadership position. It helps to generate new innovative ideas.

Last year Peak Milk turned 60 in Nigeria. What has been your staying power here, especially with regards to marketing?

We are proud to have been building strong families for generations. Peak 60th Anniversary campaign was used to take people back to where it all began. We celebrated the brand’s birthday through the power and beauty of our product. Everyone has a direct relationship with the brand; there’s always a Peak story. Hence, we developed a 360-degree all year round campaign that reminded consumers about Peak’s heritage, and made them smile as they reminisced about the good old days.

Looking into the future, we see one that’s bright. Regarding our marketing activities, it’s about telling the truth always. Several consumer researches suggest that consumers trust Peak. It’s number one in nutrition and taste. For an iconic brand, integrity is very important. We’ll continue to protect this trust.

Over the years, you have sustained a brand strategy that positions Peak Milk as a family brand… was that the inspiration for your recent Mother’s Day campaign and how well has the campaign resonated with your consumers?

While Peak is a family brand, the role of the mother in ‘unselfishly’ helping other members of the family reach for their Peak cannot be denied. So our mothers’ day campaign was to celebrate she who in different ways supports the members of her family (no matter the age) to realise their dreams. And because she is so special, Nigerians aligned with the campaign to celebrate their mums.

Given the rise of the youth market in Nigeria, have you been under any pressure to tweak the message to reflect trends therein?

To be honest, youths are an important consumer segment – demographically speaking – as any other target group Peak is reaching out to. Teenagers as we know them today are an important and distinct part of the population. Young Nigerians like their counterparts around the world have suddenly become very conscious of their own identity. Peak does not have to be under any pressure. Young consumers are part of the brand’s target market. And you’ll agree to that.

Young people make valuable consumers because they influence the purchasing decisions of their friends and families. In addition to being consumers themselves, teens can affect what the rest of the family is/will do. If a product or brand is popular with young people, it gains an image of being “cool.” So, Peak is committed to reinforcing its values with these audiences and building affinity and sustainable relationship with them.

What are your marketing projections for the next five years?

Nigeria and Nigerians are leap frogging and thus the marketing fraternity would need to continuously stay ahead of the curve. I would say that marketing in the next five years would revolve around the 3 Ds. These include Digital: moving from monologue to conversation, and being with the consumer where ever he/she is; Decision: Marketing decisions would become more real time and thus agility would become the name of the game.

We also have Diverse: Diversity would be the name of the game. Consumers are demanding more options and thus diversity in portfolio and consumption. The consumer segments between the millennial and the rest will also become more diverse and thus marketing activities of ‘one size fits all’, will not work.

In your own assessment how big is the milk market in Nigeria, and what percentage of that market belongs to Peak Milk?

Market estimate of total dairy market which includes Infant and Toddler (IFT), Dairy Based Beverages (DBB) and Ready to Drink as at 2015 was about N470bn. FrieslandCampina WAMCO – Peak has very strong presence in IFT and DBB. In the categories we exist, we are clearly number 1 in volume and value terms.