CMO50 2022 #6: Yash Gandhi

  • Name Yash Gandhi
  • Title Head of marketing
  • Company Baiada
  • Commenced role November 2015
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 9 staff
  • Industry Sector FMCG
  • 2021 ranking 12
  • Related

    Brand Post

    It’s not often you come across a long-established poultry business investing in a plant-based protein alternative. But that’s exactly what Yash Gandhi got Baiada to do over the last two years. So it’s no wonder seeing the Green & Goodness plant-based food range on supermarket shelves was a golden marketing moment for this marketing chief.

    “I took a consumer-first approach to develop new products and a disruptor brand in an emerging category – from scratch,” Gandhi tells CMO. “A rare opportunity for any marketer to not only launch a new brand, but influence all 4Ps and start a new revenue stream for the business.”

    Innovative marketing

    A key insight informing the launch of Baiada’s plant-based range was that 70 per cent of Australian households vary their sources of protein for each meal. One-in-four households now include at least one vegetarian, vegan or meat reducer, representing nearly $26 billion in household consumer spending.

    However, despite a crowded market, inferior taste of plant-based meat alternatives is a barrier for 58 per cent of ‘meat-reducers’ and 45 per cent of flexitarians. “Existing plant-based protein offering, focus on wellness, while consumers are looking for greater convenience and improved taste and texture,” Gandhi says.

    Responding to this unmet need, Baiada debuted its own Greens & Goodness line, becoming a disruptor brand in this emerging category. Its solution is based on an exclusive pea-based protein, which provides unique taste and texture, Gandhi says.

    “After months of research and development and working collaboratively with product team, operations, finance and various aspects of the supply chain, we found success in producing a commercially viable plant-based offer that you’d be proud to eat and serve,” he says.

    The next step was to secure distribution. After successfully pitching Greens & Goodness to major retailers and QSRs, the brand is now on supermarket shelves with ambitious growth plans.

    “What’s more, we’re currently trialling with a major QSR to bring our products and brand mainstream,” Gandhi says. “We launched Greens & Goodness using a startup mindset. I led this core team with diverse but specialist skillsets to resolve the various challenges we faced to bring this to life, from operational issues to packaging ones. We employed brave, inventive and iterative strategies to scale the brand at speed.

    “The startup mindset allowed us to develop a disruptive brand that delivers a unique positioning, genuine point of difference and flavour profiles that challenge current perceptions of meat-free alternatives for flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans thanks to a humble pea. And all this from one of Australia’s oldest poultry businesses.”

    Business smarts

    Convincing a traditional, privately owned business to look beyond its core competency to develop an alternative protein offer was not going to be an easy feat.

    “We are a ‘poultry’ business. To explore opportunities, like plant-based food, we had to reframe ourselves to be a ‘protein’ business,” Gandhi says. “That’s exactly what we set out to do.

    “Armed with a thorough understanding of the consumer, category and the cultural landscape, along with a comprehensive business plan that demonstrated the growth potential of plant-based protein, I was able to convince key stakeholders to not just dip our toe but take the plunge and launch a new brand.”

    The key was taking them on the journey, one step at a time. That meant building excitement about the opportunity first, attaining a scoping budget to get the ball rolling, then working with R&D team to develop product.

    “Once we had a minimum viable product that ticked the three boxes of taste, flavour and texture – it was enough for my stakeholders to see the potential and give the green light – and much needed capital – to bring this idea to life. That was just the start,” Gandhi says.

    “I built momentum by keeping the core team energised and excited throughout the process. We celebrated our wins, learnt from each failure but most importantly, we made progress. All this, while trying to navigate our way through the various Covid disruptions.

    “In parallel, we were working closely with our external partners to have our brand identity, positioning, packaging and all other things that go with a new brand ready to go live at the same time for launch. Plant-based protein is an additional revenue stream for the business in a category, which normally we would be competing with. It’s opened up new opportunities for us in markets we didn’t previously play in like New Zealand and Asia-Pacific.

    “Driving growth and finding additional revenue streams is something you’d expect from a good marketer. However, from concept to shelf in under three years required collaboration, alignment and stakeholder management at a whole new level.”  

    The launch was achieved while still driving year-on-year growth on the poultry side of the business. Baiada’s branded sales percentage grew in FY22 compared to the previous year despite a myriad logistics and supply issues. The portfolio includes brands such as Steggles and Lilydale.

    In fact, amid the challenge of Covid lockdowns, and where other brands were pursuing purpose-driven marketing and the temptation for many was to cut marketing and advertising costs, Gandhi says his team simply went along doing what it does best: Selling.

    “We decided it’d be best not only to stick to our overarching marketing strategy but double down on it,” he comments. “We balanced our short-term sales activations with more emphasis on long -term brand building to drive growth, thereby defending our SOV and growing our market share. A year on, we continue to reap the benefits with both brands enjoying healthy brand metrics and sales growth.”

    Data-driven maturity

    One innovative way Gandhi’s team has invested in marketing this year is a ground-breaking identity-based solution in partnership with Havas. Knowing cookies are on their way out, and having significant media dollars invested in digital and social challenges, the big question was how could Baiada continue to target consumers effectively?

    “We recognised valuable users for our brand by transacting on people-based identifiers – the first ever identity activation in Australia - trialled on our Lilydale brand,” Gandhi explains.

    “Being the first comes with its risks. But having understood the potential of this solution, it was clear the risk was far greater if we sat on the sidelines. I invested a portion of our budget to trial this knowing this could give us a real edge over our competitors if we were able to implement this solution before the cookie crumbles - pun intended.”

    Thankfully, the end-to-end solution exceeded expectations by overcoming two market challenges. Firstly, it created a cost-efficient advantage for Lilydale with ‘identity’ used at the heart of end-to-end programmatic buying. Secondly, the business leveraged a first-mover advantage across all browsers, managing to successfully capture competitor market share and drive increased engagement, Gandhi says.

    Across the campaign duration, identity-based bids delivered premium inventory access, cost-efficient CPMs and a 15 per cent improvement in user engagement of identity compared to cookie users. It also allowed Baiada to serve ads across premium websites such as and News Corp at 5-8 per cent cost-effective pricing. Browser results included 19x uplift across Safari compared to a traditional cookie-based prospecting strategy.

    “I took a calculated risk to help drive business growth through data and tech that enables more effective and efficient marketing,” Gandhi says. “Not to mention, we were able to capture data in new ways and find out more about our audiences through a digital lens and reach our target audience where they are, cost effectively. While there is lot of talk around a cookie-less world, there seems to be very little action. It took a humble poultry brand to find a solution, be brave enough to be the first, invest in a trial and use it to really create a competitive edge.”

    Customer-led thinking

    Problem solving, however, was front and centre for Gandhi at the start of 2022 in the face of what many dubbed the Covid hangover. “We were faced with major supply chain woes as we faced a déjà vu moment we experienced at the peak of the pandemic,” he says.

    “From a business perspective, we were impacted by labour shortages, rising cost of goods and navigating the various Covid guidelines state by state. On the consumer front, the impact was lack of products on shelf, consumers not being able to buy their favourites and brand loyalty being tested based purely on availability.

    “As one of the country’s largest poultry producers, the decisions we made directly impacted whether there were enough products available on supermarket shelves and ultimately enough food for consumers to put on their dinner table. We had to rethink our product strategy – entirely – by overcoming the constraints.”

    Gandhi formed a cross-functional team of marketing, sales, R&D and operations with two objectives: “Don’t strain the already fragile supply chain; and maintain supply to the best of the company’s abilities”.

    “We had to be brutal with our product development by re-engineering, considering and in some instances delaying our product launches,” Gandhi continues. “Marketing support for our planned new product launches was reconsidered in its entirety. It would’ve been counterintuitive with limited products on the shelf. The sales team was tasked to manage the changes to our range and the disruptions caused by various product range changes with key customers.

    “Together, we were able to leverage our agility to our advantage. Most importantly, we were able to ensure consumers had enough food on their tables and we were able to maintain our brand presence on shelf to minimise brand switching.”

    Leadership impact

    It’s this ability to break down the silos and align sales, innovation and marketing that’s clearly proven a significant leadership asset for Gandhi. He recognises it’s changed the operating design of the organisation.

    “Of course, it hasn’t happened over night, but over time I’ve broken down the traditional approaches and built strong relationships, which we’re reaping the benefits of now,” he says.

    So what’s the recipe? Setting clear business objectives first, then linking those to sales, innovation and marketing objectives to work towards a common goal. “I believe it’s also what gives us the ability to make quick decisions, focus our energies on initiatives that yield the best return on investment, and invest in capabilities to allow our teams to deliver the best outcome,” Gandhi says.

    “It’s most rewarding to see everyone celebrate the wins, key milestones and growth plans being met – as a team.”

    Another aspect bringing the whole business together is the Steggles Charity Nest. Gandhi notes the passion and enthusiasm of its ‘charity champions’ has helped raise nearly $12m for Aussie children’s charities.

    “I believe we have helped shape and evolve a highly successful traditional business into an even more successful progressive one, by breaking down silos, driving capability, building growth opportunities and creating a team culture with a heart,” Gandhi concludes.

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