NEW DELHI: Social media and digital are playing an increasingly important role in marketing food and beverage brands in India, a leading industry figure has said.

Nadia Chauhan, joint managing director and chief marketing officer at Parle Agro, told Campaign India that the company's beverage brands had been "quite aggressive on the digital front" and, within that, their maximum focus had been on social networking sites.

But she added that digital still accounted for only small proportion – "in the single digits" – of total spending.

She explained that the amount allocated to digital varied depending on the campaign and its objective, and further noted that digital was "always on", unlike the defined period of a TV campaign, and so required a different approach.

"We have been driving things a lot more through social networking sites as compared to just traditional advertising on digital and that has resulted in a lot more consumer engagement for us and a lot more excitement," she said.

This development had been made easier by the fact that many of Parle Agro's brands were youth-oriented – Frooti, Hippo, Appy Fizz, Café Cuba – and so were already more digitally inclined.

With the last of these, Café Cuba, a recently launched, coffee-flavoured carbonated drink, the company claimed to have carved out a new category. Consequently, Chauhan was unconcerned about having to compete with the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi and felt that getting exclusive tie-ups with restaurants and stores would not be a problem.

On the issue of competition generally she welcomed the presence of larger rivals, which indicated there was growth in the category. She also suggested their much greater marketing budgets forced smaller businesses like Parle Agro to "invest in extremely innovative approaches" in order to stand out.

Data sourced from Campaign India; additional content by Warc staff