In 2001, Parle Agro embarked on the food section of India with confectioneries. In 2009, it expanded into the Indian food snack category by inaugurating 'Hippo'. During that time, the trend of healthy baked snacks had made its way in India, and Parle jumped at the opportunity to introduce theirs.
Hippo chips were different from other snacks; they were a wheat-based snack and were baked, not fried, had a superb marketing strategy and were everywhere in the market soon after being introduced in 2009 in a variety of six flavours. So if they were so great, then why were they discontinued?
Many theories around the internet say that Hippo toasties could not survive the competition and thus, the product died down. However, it is hard to believe so and also, Parle kept quiet on the issue and never disclosed why they had to discontinue their product.
Many Hippo loyalists believe that it stopped manufacturing because the company couldn't handle its production due to the massive demand, and the success destroyed Hippo.
About Hippo Chips
Hippo's packaging was larger than the average snack packet, with a giant hippo logo on the front, bright colours intended to stand out from the crowd, and distinct flavours. The word HIPPO was spelt out in big, bold letters to match the personality of the creature on the front of the packet, a hefty fat hippo.
Chinese Manchurian, Indian Chatpatta, Hot-n-Sweet Tomato, Italian Pizza, Yoghurt Mint Chutney, and Thai Chilli were among the six flavours introduced. Cream and Afghani Tikka Masala, as well as Greek Yoghurt, were later added to the menu.
The brand sought to be a guilt-free snack during hunger moments; hence the tagline "Hippo Fights Hunger" was chosen. Hippo was promoted with 'Hunger is the root of all evil. So, don't go hungry.'
Campaigns by Hippo Chips
The Plan-T Campaign
Following its demand and supply issues, Hippo recognised the problem it was encountering and did not want the consumers to take the empty retail shelves as a manifestation of the brand's failure in a short period.
They did not want to spend huge amounts of money outsourcing the distribution and supply tasks to withstand the demand-supply problem, so they directly communicated with their customers. This led to the beginning of the Plan-T campaign. To solve their difficulty, they urged their Twitter followers to submit a tweet with the hashtag @HelloMeHippoabout.
The goal of this campaign was to include customers in every step of Hippo's supply chain across multiple locations, and it was successful since it drew a large number of enthusiastic participants.
Using Twitter, Hippo recruited 400 new workers to help with sales and distribution at no expense. Its sales increased by 76% in the preliminary phase of its takeoff. Before the campaign launch, Hippo had 800 followers on Twitter which soon increased by 300% to 4000 followers, which were equal to 50% of its sales and distribution network.
Hippo gathered data from Twitter, analysed it, and forwarded it to regional distributors in the affected locations, who then refilled the shop shelves, ensuring that customers were satisfied within hours.
Hippo was qualified to evaluate markets and observe potential markets for its business development with the help of this campaign. The good thing about Hippo was that it recognised its shortcomings and modified them into strengths by leveraging social media. Hippo used social media to connect with consumers and procure real-time outcomes to availability problems.
Indian Food League
In 2012, Hippo inaugurated an online campaign named IFL (Indian Food League) to attract cricket fans during the IPL (Indian Premier League) session.
Indian Food League was modelled to fascinate all the cricket fans and apprehend the emotional rivalry amongst Indian cities during the IPL. The IFL rode on the already existing rivalry among T20 teams by pitting these regions' popular flavours and dishes against each other and getting people to comment in support of their favourite flavour on the IFL microsite.
The dishes chosen were the speciality of that particular city, like Papdi Chat from Delhi, Kanda Poha from Pune, Dum Biryani from Hyderabad, Paratha from Punjab, Idli Sambhar from Chennai, Pav Bhaji from Mumbai, Dal Bati from Rajasthan, Masala Dosa from Banglore and Rosgolla from Kolkatta.
The front of the pack would inform Hippo munchers to join the IFL. The back of the pack bore a QR Code that would direct Hippo munchers directly to the IFL microsite. They had to be as funny as possible to win that contest. Winners were declared daily and awarded with Hippo bean bags. IFL earned a stupendous acknowledgement, with Hippos sales going up during the IPL season.
Why Hippo Chips Failed?
Advertising and Branding Problem
Hippo Chips didn't include any MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), had no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), zero cholesterol, and zero trans-fat, Parle claimed the product was healthier than many others available at the time. The manufacturers claimed that they were baked rather than fried.
On the other hand, Parle never advertised it for its purported health benefits, so people never had a practical reason to switch to Hippo. The snack was not marketed as a healthier option because no one knows whether a speciality positioning such as health food as a snack option would be successful.
Hippo also had its branding problems, like putting a huge fat hippo on the front of the packet while promoting it as a healthier alternative to other snacks.
Within a few months of its takeoff, demand was becoming more and more, and it was becoming problematic to meet the heightening demand.
After its launch, Hippo earned a tremendous response from customers all over India. The retail racks at several stores were becoming empty quicker than anticipated, directing to a demand-supply situation for the company leaving the racks across 200,000 stores empty.
Hippo had to deal with a lot of competition, which was one of their main challenges. Other well-known businesses, including Lays, Monaco, and Bingo, followed suit after its inception. It had to stand out in a crowded snack industry and build strong brand importance in consumers' thoughts.
It needed to come up with something unique that would set it apart from the competition. But other than its flavours and packaging, it failed to come up with else something that would help it conquer all the other brands.
Everything appeared to be in order, but the product still died. In the late 2000s, the brand managed to overwhelm other brands for a period. Perhaps because the production costs were too high, consumers were too fixated on traditional chips, and because Hippo was not advertised or branded properly, the excitement fizzled out. It was discontinued, much to their loyalists' displeasure. Their Twitter account was disabled in 2014. Only old tweets and a petition online demanding the brand's relaunch exist today.
Why were Hippo chips discontinued?
Hippo Chips was not marketed correctly and faced a lot of competition which led to its failure.
Which company made Hippo Chips?
Parle Agro manufactured and launched Hippo Chips in 2009.