Mumbai: Nearly 80 years after it was introduced in India, Parle-G continues to dominate the country’s biscuit market even as the industry moves toward more premium products.

Parle-G, with its iconic yellow striped pack showing the ‘Parle girl’, continues to hold 20% share of the Rs25,000 crore biscuit market by value, Mayank Shah, category head at Parle Products Pvt. Ltd said in an interview.

It is now worth Rs5,000 crore, according to market research firm Nielsen, in a market dominated by Britannia Industries Ltd that largely sells premium cream biscuits like Treat and cookies like Good Day.

The secret to Parle G’s success? Sticking to its position as a glucose biscuit meant for the masses. In the decades since Parle-G’s launch in 1939, Parle Products has kept the brand’s prices at the entry level, introduced only one premium variation, and even kept the vintage Parle girl affixed on packets.

“The way we look at Parle-G today is very different," Shah said. “Parle-G for us is not a biscuit, and not just for us but for our consumers. For them, it’s more like a staple, because of the way it is consumed. It’s a habit. Parle-G with chai, or with milk for kids, or with a coffee," he said, comparing its salience in an Indian home to that of atta, dal and other staples.

So, Parle-G continues to hold its own in the biscuit market dominated by Britannia and the higher-end biscuits offered by ITC Ltd’s Sunfeast and Australian premium entrant Unibic. Since 1990, Parle-G has managed to retain 75-80% of the glucose biscuits market, while premium biscuits are worth only Rs5,000 crore in the total biscuits market, according to heads of several top biscuit makers in India. 

Britannia has already introduced several upgrades to its Parle-G competitor, Tiger biscuits.

There are 7 variants to Tiger glucose biscuits compared to Parle’s single variant—Parle Gold—along with a special kids edition branded as Chota Bheem, and most are cream biscuits—a category sold at a significant premium to glucose ones.

“This is unlike other biscuits where you talk about (in marketing and branding strategy discussions) the way you eat it, and why you eat it," Shah said. The company had introduced the Parle girl initially to appeal to children—primary consumers of biscuits even today—even as adults now turn to specialized biscuits such as digestive cookies, Shah said.

This is why Parle-G is consistently ranked among the most enduring brands in India. In a yearly report titled Brand Footprint Report 2016, market research firm Kantar Worldpanel has ranked Parle as the most chosen fast moving consumer goods or FMCG brand since 2014, ahead of rival Britannia, last ranked number 4.

The importance of the brand reflects in Parle Products’ financials. Parle-G remains its flagship and number 1 brand, Shah said, although its share of revenues has fallen from 66% in its heyday to nearly 33% today. But this reflects a long tail of new categories the company is now making money from—chocolates and confectionaries, chips and savoury snacks, and even packaged dry staples like pulses that the company launched around two months ago.

Despite drawing a chunk of revenue from the mass market brand, Parle Products’ top line and margins have grown steadily in the last few fiscals, data from company filings shows.

As per the latest filings, Parle Products earned Rs9,331.42 crore in revenue from operations in FY16, up 2.57% year-on-year while its profit after tax was nearly Rs500 crore, up 15.17% year-on-year. The company declined to share the latest financials.

In 2013, market research firm Nielsen certified Parle-G as the world’s largest biscuit brand with Rs5,000 crore sales, ahead of international giants such as Mondelez International Inc. (that sells Oreo in India) and United Biscuits, among the top brands in the UK, which is one of the world’s largest markets for biscuits.

“Parle-G is growing slower than other categories at about 4-5% annually," Shah said. Even though the company’s Hide & Seek brand is among the top 5 in the cookie market as per Euromonitor, Parle-G still commands a quarter of total sales volumes of the biscuit market in India, he added.

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