How Vadilal aims to target millennials with its experiential café outlets

Legacy ice cream company Vadilal launched its first Now For Ever café outlet in Ahmedabad to connect with millennials between 18-35 ages. With an ice-cream-themed décor, the café serves over 60 innovative dishes on its menu.
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We have all grown up enjoying Vadilal ice creams with our friends and families. 

But, did you know this made in India brand is older than independent India? 

Vadilal was started in 1907 by Ranchodlal Gandhi when ice creams were hand-made. “His vision was to give the city something that had not been experienced before,” says Aakanksha Gandhi, Brand Director, Vadilal, who joined the business four years ago. 

In 1926, the company decided to import ice cream-making machines, and there has been no looking back for Vadilal. Over the years, the legacy company has expanded to sundaes, dollies, and also exports frozen vegetables. 

At present, Vadilal is on track to venture into the cafe-experience space, with its first outlet in Ahmedabad, called Now For Ever.

In an interview with SMBStory, Aakanksha, a fourth-generation entrepreneur, shares the intention behind exploring this category and the company’s future plans. 

An experience for millennials 

Since 2019, Vadilal’s café-experience project — targeting customers between 18 and 35 years of age — was under progress, Aakanksha says. However, it got shelved amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

Right after the second wave in May 2021, Vadilal decided to start the project again and launched the first outlet in Ahmedabad in February 2022.

Aakanksha says, “This target group is not brand-loyal. They are always on the hunt for something new, something unique. A cafe or an experiential format is what clicks with this segment. Whenever you eat ice cream, you get lost in the moment. We want it to be an opportunity to forget all the worries and concerns.” 

And, the Now For Ever café chain endeavours to achieve the same. 

While the ice creams available are as same as the ones in retail outlets, the company has tried to provide an immersive ambience as a twist. “We want everyone to feel like they have entered an ice cream land,” she says.

The ice cream-themed café has a menu that boasts over 60 dishes, including ice creams, waffles, pancakes, sandwiches, pasta, etc. 

Vadilal is also catching up with the natural-flavoured ice cream trend. Aligning with this thought, it has launched a Gourmet Natural category, which has ice creams like strawberry, mango, Gulab Jamun, Malai Kulfi, etc.

Aakanksha says the company is also bringing innovation to its café menus too. For instance, its pizzas are not the traditional ones. Instead, they are made in-house from kulchas. All the items on the menu are made in-house by the company. 

Offline is here to stay

According to IMARC Group, in 2021, the Indian ice cream market was valued at Rs 165.2 billion, expected to reach Rs 436.2 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 17.69 percent. 

According to industry experts, this market took a hit amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, shrinking between 30-40 percent. However, with the Indian economy functioning with bare minimum restrictions today, these companies are slowly recovering to pre-pandemic numbers. 

Confidently, Aakanksha believes the offline business, severely hit during the pandemic, will grow in the times to come. “People are craving to go out,” she says, adding that indulging in retail therapy is bringing offline businesses back on track.

Going forward, Vadilal’s Now For Ever stores will venture into Surat, Jaipur, and Delhi regions.

The ice cream industry has evolved drastically in recent years. While big brands like Vadilal, Creambell, Kwality Wall's, Mother Dairy, and Havmor rule the market, the sector also sees new-age boutique and gourmet ice cream companies emerging every year. 

Aakanksha says, being a big player, operating in an expansive category is an advantage for Vadilal. “We have a certain quality assurance to adhere to, which I feel, the newer boutique brands find difficult to keep up,” she says.

However, she agrees it is a “competitive space”, and one needs to keep on innovating to stay relevant in the market. 

Ice creams are enjoyed widely in the summer season, and Aakanksha could not be more excited. “This is going to be a summer with hopefully less COVID-19 impact as compared to the last two years,” she hopes.

Vadilal is now focused on developing a brand strategy for its Now For Ever outlets, and aims to expand to three more outlets by the end of next year.

Edited by Suman Singh

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