Doritos' quest to become the third super brand in PepsiCo Foods' portfolio; launches Doritos Sizzlin' Hot

Doritos' quest to become the third super brand in PepsiCo Foods' portfolio; launches Doritos Sizzlin' Hot

A robust 360-degree surround campaign is planned across multiple platforms for the same.


Mumbai: What better way to start the winter season than with a dash of heat—the heat of spice? Doritos, one of the prominent names in the nacho chip market, has launched Doritos Sizzlin’ Hot, an intense snacking experience that will make one say "Yeh Chips Nahi, Fire Hai."

As a part of PepsiCo Foods, Doritos, as a brand, is strategically important to the company. In a conversation with, PepsiCo India associate director of brand marketing Ankit Agarwal noted, "It's quite a premium and an aspirational brand. And it's something that's growing really well and has a lot of headroom ahead of it. So we definitely see it as a strategically important pillar for PepsiCo Foods. And it's why the idea is to grow it absolutely the right way. And in the future, make it the third super brand for us."

In terms of the industry, for nacho chips, Doritos is definitely a big brand, if not one of the biggest brands that nacho chips have. "But having said that, nacho chips are still a niche, an upcoming category, and there is so much that we are looking forward to. And while we have done a fantastic job over the last five years, we have grown to a stature that is quite befitting of a brand like Doritos. But I feel that there's a huge headroom to grow these huge opportunities in this market for us," he says.

Doritos is targeted at the Indian consumer between 20 and 35 years of age; it is still predominantly strong in the urban markets—specifically tier I and tier II cities.

Talking about the communication of Doritos as a whole, Agarwal states, "I mean, one of the most important things that's worked for Doritos globally has been the attitudinal characteristics of the brand. So it's not just a brand that's rich on product—it definitely is a superior product—but it's also something that is globally associated with boldness; it's almost synonymous with boldness. It's associated a lot with igniting goals and self-expression in the consumer. It's basically associated with you being who you are, rather than pretending to be someone else."

He goes on, "And so from that perspective, I think attitudinally we want to make this a really bold brand—we want to stand for being bold, and I mean, every single touch point, every single thing that we do, has to be married to that. So, we make sure that all our communications are targeted at the consumer, speaking to them, it's relevant to them. All our communications, every single piece of communication that we do, builds up this whole boldness aspect for Doritos."

The journey of Doritos – globally and in India

Doritos was first introduced in the United States in 1966 and are enjoyed today in more than 55 nations across the world. India is a key market for the brand. Apart from this, some of the biggest markets for it include the United States and Mexico.

PepsiCo India debuted its worldwide nacho chip brand Doritos in the country in mid-2017 with two flavors: nacho cheese and sweet chilli.

The third variant, Masala Mayhem, was launched a year ago, towards the beginning of the last year. Doritos Sizzlin’ Hot would be the fourth variant, which is inspired by PepsiCo’s platform Flamin’ Hot.

Agarwal mentioned that there were three significant reasons for the launch of the new variant. "The first one is that our research tells us that the chilli-consuming audience in India is increasing. And it's become quite a big flavour bucket now. So, there's a need for a really hot product on the market that's currently unmet. And that's where we thought that we could come in."

Secondly, he sheds light on the global platform of PepsiCo—Flamin’ Hot—that straddles brands. So all PepsiCo Food brands have a Flamin’ Hot version of it. There are Cheetos Flamin’ Hot, Lay’s Flamin’ Hot, and Doritos Flamin’ Hot, and out of all three, Doritos Flamin’ Hot does really well because it is known in any which way for bold flavours and a bold demeanour. And this Flamin' Hot platform fits right in with that philosophy. So it's a platform that does really well for Doritos globally," Agarwal reveals.

"And thirdly, we tested this platform in India. We launched Lay’s Sizzlin’ Hot earlier this year, and it's been doing well. The campaign where Ranbir Kapoor is crying about his marriage while munching on Lay’s Sizzlin’ Hot? It’s done really well for us. And that also gave us confidence that this platform will do great with Doritos. So with all three of those factors combined, we thought that this was absolutely the right time to launch a really spicy flavour," Agarwal elucidated.

PepsiCo’s plan of getting its snack brands on one platform – spice

Chilli as a bucket, globally, seems to be getting a lot of traction. "That’s because the youth today, believes in challenging themselves in everything that they do, even in their snacking occasions. Because there's such a big need for a really, really spicy product in their lives," points out Agarwal.

Similarly, across the globe, this trend is evident. Another feature of this trend is that it transcends genres. He adds, "I mean, it doesn't matter whether it's a potato chip, it doesn't matter where it's a concept, it doesn't matter whether it's a soft bite or a hard bite. It doesn't matter what the product is; I mean, if it's a chip, if it's a noodle, if it’s whatever - people want this whole spiciness in it. And that's when we would have experimented with claiming it as a platform, as we do realise that this platform works brilliantly across the different brands."

Globally, PepsiCo also does an interesting thing where it actually pitches its various brands against each other. They have these polls saying, which one are you? Lay’s Flamin’ Hot, Doritos Flamin’ Hot, or Cheetos Flamin’ Hot? "It's also a way of getting the consumer their favorite flavours across. So that they try different brands; it's a strategy to drive trials as well, within the same consumer for your network," Agarwal clarifies.

In India, Lay’s has done a fantastic job of disrupting the market. He explains, "The advantage is that people already know that Sizzlin’ Hot is a blend of spices. Now that's already been established because they've seen the Lay’s Sizzlin’ Hot commercial and they know what this property means. Now, when you put it in the context of Doritos, the base is clear. I mean, they will understand that some part of the work is already done. Because they understand that it's really spicy. It's because of the work we've done on this."

Agarwal says, "Now, how spicy is it? How bold is it? That's something that lies on our campaign's agenda to deliver. And we've got a brilliant campaign on this one that actually brings out the proposition of Sizzlin’ Hot. The proposition is that it's not a chip; it’s fire—Chips Nahi, Fire. And that's what it is, and that's what we want to communicate to the consumer. So that then relies on our campaign, but the base job is done. People understand that it's a spicy chip."

A sizzlin’ stunt of a campaign

The campaign for the new Doritos Sizzlin’ Hot features the brand’s ambassador, Karthik Aryan. "He's done a fantastic job for the brand. He's also somebody who's really, really passionate about the brand. And that's always an added plus four for the brand. He truly likes Doritos. He believes in the products. So obviously, he continues to be our face. And we also have Rohit Shetty. And the idea is that this chip is so hot that it's almost like a stunt. And Shetty is the guy who directs stunts, so that answer was obvious. I think he's a face who's known for directing action stunts, and we felt that would be a wonderful fit for our campaign and will help us deliver the message seamlessly to the consumer. And once you see the campaign, you realise that both of them have done a brilliant job of communicating what he intended to," Agarwal calls out.

Not limited to a TVC, the latest campaign will continue with a robust 360-degree surround spanning multiple platforms.

PepsiCo’s strategy of launching platforms

It’s been a good year for Doritos in India and it's one of the fastest growing brands for the last couple of years for the company. Agarwal says, "Like I said there's so much headroom to grow that at no point of time would we feel that where is the next phase of growth coming from because we are very clear with what are the areas that we still need to tap into, to get growth in from."

"Just as an example, we had three flavours until now, and we were aware that adding flavours can bring us growth. But what we wanted to be sure of was that we didn't just bring in a flavor; we wanted to bring in a flavour that was really differentiated. So, one of the strategies we followed at PepsiCo this year is that we are not just launching flavours or products. We are launching platforms," he further adds.

He mentions the examples of Lay's Gourmet, Lay’s Wafer Style, Quaker Muesli, and Kurkure Chatpata Cheese. "Similarly, on Doritos, now we're bringing out Flamin’ Hot, which is, again, a differentiated platform, not just a flavour. And we are going to continue with that approach in 2023, where we'll make sure that we bring out differentiated products that have a right to succeed in the market. And then make sure that we communicate the advantages to the consumer and then build awareness through trials, and hopefully the consumer likes it. And that's, that's what stems the next phase of growth," brings out Agarwal.

Learnings for the year

Agarwal specifies that the digital-first and people-positive initiatives that PepsiCo has announced have gained a lot in terms of every single parameter that they have measured, whether it's trial awareness, whether it’s distinction, whether it's preference; all of them have seen tremendous gains.

"And I wouldn't call out any lessons; I think the learning has been—and you see us implementing it—that if you want to succeed in this cluttered market, with so many brands, so many offerings, such a paucity of space at the retailer and on the racks, and everything else, you need to ensure that whatever you bring out from your stable needs to be differentiated and better than anything else. If you are taking out run-of-the-mill products, they don't have a right to succeed in the market; there is no reason why the consumer will buy a product from you, from anybody else, or from the retailer. The only time you will gain incremental revenue without cannibalising your existing portfolio is when you launch differentiated propositions that cater to the needs of an audience that you have not yet tapped into. So I think that is something that is just a starting point, and we'll continue with that journey into the new season," he concludes.