Lessons of the Non-Tech Acquiring Tech Deal Of The Month

June 2022: Marico agrees to acquire True Elements

Oat snack

On 23rd May 2022, Marico, one of India’s largest consumer goods firms, agreed to acquire True Elements, a digital-first brand of healthy breakfast & snacks. The deal is another step in accelerating Marico’s digital transformation journey, especially in the D2C segment.

Tech – True Elements: True Elements is a producer of organic wellness products intended to offer high-protein plant-based snacking food. The company's products include healthy seed mix, berries, muesli, oats, and other related food products, enabling consumers to consume healthy breakfast and snacks without affecting their health. The company has presence across 13 categories, 70+ products, and 200+ SKUs. The company generates ca. 75% revenue via online channels and is available on 90 online platforms.

Non-Tech – Marico:
Marico is an Indian beauty and wellness products company. The company is present in emerging markets across Asia and Africa. Marico has over 25 trusted brands in the categories of hair care, skin care, edible oils, healthy foods, male grooming, and fabric care.

ACCELERATING THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION JOURNEY

On 23 May 2022, Marico announced the acquisition of HW Wellness Solutions trading as “True Elements” for an undisclosed amount, a deal that highlights the need for healthier breakfast and snack options in today’s calorie-conscious world.

In the country's snacking market, especially breakfast options, Indians still prefer traditional or savoury ready-to-eat corn flakes and muesli alternatives. Over the past few years, companies including MTR, ID Fresh, PepsiCo and Marico have driven the market as consumers switch to healthier options such as oats and whole-grain meals.

True Elements is India's only food brand to be certified as both 'Clean Label' & '100% wholegrain' by leading US-based non-profit organizations. It promises 0% preservatives, 0% chemicals & 0% added sugar in its offerings.

The company offers a wide range of 70+ products spanning across categories of Western breakfast (oats, quinoa, muesli, granola, flakes), Indian breakfast (poha, upma, dosa), snacks (roasted seeds, seed mixes, raw seeds) amongst others.

The deal demonstrates Marico’s ability to adapt to cultural shifts and to serve consumer’s needs.

“True Elements is another step towards expanding our total addressable market in the healthy foods segment. We believe the ethos of the brand complements the purpose that drives Marico.”

- Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO, Marico Limited

The deal rationale revolves around Marico’s goal to accelerate its digital transformation strategy (especially its D2C strategy) and commitment to helping their consumers get healthier. Marico said the company is moving towards building an INR 4.5 to 5.0 billion ($58 to 64 million) portfolio of digital-first brands by FY’2024. True Elements fits right into this strategy with 75% of its revenue generated from online sources.

“In addition to value systems, we see strong synergies with Marico in terms of our aspirations for the brand and are confident that this partnership will only make our promise of providing clean, healthy & no-nonsense food much stronger.”

- Sreejith Moolayil, COO and Co-founder, True Elements

INDUSTRY DISRUPTION

The global healthy snacks market size was valued at $85.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% from 2022 to 2030 to $152.2 billion.

The healthy snack market has soared in recent years, especially since the global pandemic. As customers become more health-conscious, the need for nutritional yet delicious products has been booming. Furthermore, the increasing development in the supply chain of products is driving market growth. Major supermarket chains are now collaborating with third-party online delivery companies to expand their operations to include e-commerce channels.

The rise in disposable income, along with a corporate culture of long work hours and stressful lifestyles, has led to a shift in eating patterns.

Snacks have historically been seen as unhealthy due to their high oil and sugar content, and hence are a major contributor to health problems such as obesity, high blood sugar, and hypertension.

However, due to a recent shift in consumer behaviour, the demand is fast shifting away from oily-spicy products and toward healthier, sugar-free, and low-calorie snacks packaged in small portions. This is a significant trend driving industry growth.

New-age customers want nutritious, on-the-go, and economical snacking options that suit their nutritional needs while also satisfying their taste buds.

According to a 2020 study by Mondelēz International, nearly 59% of adults throughout the world prefer to consume multiple short meals throughout the day rather than a few larger ones. Snacks that meet stated health and nutrition criteria as well as address age-specific requirements or concerns, such as immunity, digestion, memory, weight loss, or energy, are being developed by healthy snacks manufacturers, thereby propelling the market growth.

In the coming years, the healthy snacks industry is expected to be dominated by snacks with intriguing, new flavours, and textures, created using sustainable technologies, packed with recyclable materials, and with clean labels.

Vegan snacks, zero fats, high/added proteins, whole grains, reduced/zero sugar, zero oil/baked snacks, zero gluten content, and snacks with environmentally friendly packaging are just a few examples of emerging trends in this sector. The number of innovations in the market is continually expanding.

Personalized healthy snacks are another trend that is gaining momentum in the global industry. Snacks that match consumer lifestyle, dietary, and health needs are in high demand. As a result, personalized nutrition is now on the rise.

Snacks that are keto-friendly and low in cholesterol, as well as those that are mood-boosting, gut-friendly, and help achieve better sleep, are becoming increasingly popular.

For instance, in March 2022, PepsiCo and Beyond Meat launched their first plant-based product, meatless jerky. The companies had entered into a joint venture to develop plant-based healthy snacks and beverages under their PLANeT Partnership.

The demand for healthy snacks in the U.S. has risen exponentially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. was already a large consumer of snacks, but the consumer focus has now shifted to the consumption of healthy and nutritious snacks to prevent all kinds of health-related risks posed due to excessive snacking habits.

Furthermore, the high proliferation rates of supermarkets and hypermarkets, along with convenience stores are another major factor that has driven the sales of the market in the region.

These convenience stores are partnering with delivery platforms to strengthen their presence in e-commerce. For instance, in September 2020, Instacart, a grocery delivery and, pick-up service operator in the U.S. and Canada entered the convenience store market through its partnership with 7-Eleven, Inc.

However, Asia Pacific is anticipated to become the fastest-growing region in the global market. In Asia, there is also a growing awareness of goods that are beneficial for the stomach and associated with immunity, such as prebiotics and probiotics.

Adding functional ingredients to snacks, such as macronutrients and antioxidants, has become a common approach for many producers to create nutritious snacks in recent years.

Furthermore, as a tactic to attract customers, more companies are emphasizing on clean labels and product flavour. This is expected to drive the market during the forecast period.

“In India, new categories that were earlier fragmented such as dried fruits and nuts, are being targeted by D2C companies. The health-oriented food space has seen traction with the rise of D2C brands. Traditional brands do have an opportunity to tap into this vast space. Companies like Marico and ITC are adopting industry trends by increasing their product baskets. With a growing health-conscious population, the nutrition health space is here to stay.”

- Analyst, HDFC Securities

CLEAR TRANSFORMATIONAL OPPORTUNITY

Marico’s techquisition of True Elements, India's only food brand to be certified as both 'Clean Label' & '100% wholegrain' by leading US-based non-profit organizations, is expected to offer consumers with clean and healthy snacks.

Currently, True Elements is present across 12,000+ retail locations and expects to increase its presence to 20,000+ retail locations by the end of this year.

Marico is attempting to increase its penetration across the online D2C segment. The deal follows Marico’s 2021 investment in Apcos Naturals Pvt. Ltd, which sells skin and hair care products under the Just Herbs brand.

In 2020, Marico fully acquired Beardo, a men’s grooming brand that sells beard oils, beard waxes, soaps, and other grooming products. Both Just Herbs and Beardo are popular D2C brands in India.

The strategic logic of the deal is clear: Marico will expand its presence across the D2C healthy snacks category with plant-based organic offerings.

With the help of its wide distribution network and True Elements’ significant online presence, Marico will be able to offer its healthy snacks to a vast majority of Indian consumers.

THE QUOTE

“The exciting range of products bring to life the rare and virtuous blend of quality, taste, and health at the right price. This adds another digital-first brand in our portfolio, which not only has a distinct proposition but also exhibits strong fundamentals along with a growing digital and offline presence.”

- Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO, Marico Limited

Marico’s techquisitions are a fitting example of how a traditional business belonging to the consumer products industry is actively engaged in the journey of transforming itself to deliver greater value to its stakeholders – particularly its shareholders and customers – by properly positioning itself for the future, ready to tackle any disruptions, especially in a pandemic.

The essence of such a transformation unfolding is embedded in a strategy execution approach we have trademarked and call Techquisition, which my firm, Aquaa Partners, has designed and delivers to its clients every day as an experienced and trusted expert partner.

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