Desi Snacks Ready to Conquer the World
Mumbai | New Delhi: Aloo papad at a local store in Mumbai’s western suburb of Borivali — just stacked, no packaging, or any particular concern for hygiene. A branded, hygienically packed option, from Mother’s Recipe, is double the price and comes in many flavours. But the branded aloo papad still doesn’t command the price of packaged, branded potato wafers.
For example, Lay’s potato wafers from PepsiCo, the market leader in India in ‘Western’ snacks, is priced roughly 10% higher than a packet of aloo papad of similar size. Marketers say this can change, that micro innovation can make desi snacks command price comparable to ‘Western’ varieties.
To be sure, desi varieties are making big inroads. Dosa masala burgers, jaljeera and aam panna drinks, masala oats — these are just a few products in portfolios of snack-makers, even the multinational ones.
“The potential for desi snacks is limitless… companies are gradually converting products that are traditionally eaten at home to something that are consumed on the go,” said B Krishna Rao, deputy marketing manager at Parle Products. Parle expects Indian snacks to overtake ‘Western’ ones in the next 2-3 years. Marketers also say consumers are correlating healthy food with something inherently Indian and are starting to favour munchies that use ingredients common in Indian kitchens. “We began our company by selling desi farsan nearly three decades ago, but consumers gradually moved to products such as wafers. Now, they still want chips but with Indian masala,” said Chandu Virani, promoter of Balaji Wafers, a ₹ 1,440-crore company. “Consumers are rewarding brands that innovate in flavours, form or delivery,” said Devendra Chawla, CEO at Future Consumer.
Sanjana Desai, head of business development at Mother’s Recipe’s agreed. Consumers “understand” the premium they have to pay since innovated products require an additional effort, she said.
Future Consumer is launching traditional aloo bhujia in peri peri, wasabi and schezwan flavours and pricing it 30% higher than rival products. Same is the case with Kettle Studio Chips, a product that isn’t processed at conveyor belts but is made in a desi style by frying them in a pot and which costs double the price of potato wafers.
The Future Group also plans to launch mayonnaise with desi flavours such as coriander and pudina, smoky tikka and mustard. Chawla said that the desi snacks market has the potential of being twice the size of ‘Western’ one that is worth ₹ 15,000 crore.
Paper Boat led the revival of packaged ethnic drinks, a move that forced category leaders
such as Dabur’s Real and PepsiCo’s Tropicana to also launch flavours such as coconut water, jaljeera and mosambi. Now, Paper Boat will enter the traditional snacks category. “The focus will be on ethnic snacks. We believe there is a latent demand for hygienically packaged, branded ethnic snacks,” said co-founder Neeraj Kakkar of Hector Beverages, which owns the Paper Boat brand. These and other munchies makeover will come on top of earlier experiments, many of them successful — Nestle’s Maggi, Pepsi’s Lehar and ITC’s Kurkure have a combined business of a billion dollar in Indian snacks. But there’s plenty of room to grow in the $35-billion food market.
Sagar Malviya & Ratna Bhushan