For over 90 years, MTR Foods Pvt. Ltd has been known for its powdered masalas (spices) and batter for making South Indian staples like idli and dosa. The Bengaluru-based firm is shifting its focus now to ready-to-eat breakfast foods after launching its new 3-minute range.

MTR’s internal research, conducted before it launched the new range about two months ago, showed that acceptance of packaged food is increasing among consumers and knowledge of cooking is declining.

It also found that customers buying idli and dosa mixes need to spend time making accompaniments—and time is something people living in metros are usually short of. For instance, one consumer who participated in MTR’s research said she ate her breakfast over three traffic signals. The findings of the research prompted MTR, owned by Norwegian food maker Orkla ASA, to create a ready-to-eat breakfast range. All the products under the range—two types of poha and upma, masala oats and kesari halwa—can be cooked in three minutes. The company, which was acquired by Orkla in 2007, has invested Rs40 crore in developing the new line.

Breakfast as a category including the new range is expected to account for 25% of MTR’s business in five years from around 10% currently, according to the company.

“Early indicators are extremely positive for us. I think this product is going to redefine what we as a company are going to stand for in the future," chief executive Sanjay Sharma said, adding that sales of the new breakfast products are starting to show traction.

“It is an attractive proposition but the product quality is extremely critical. Poha doesn’t require huge effort so it has to be very good in terms of taste to make the consumer opt for it over a freshly made version," said Abneesh Roy, senior vice-president at Edelweiss Securities.

MTR is not alone in identifying packaged breakfast foods as an opportunity. Biscuit maker Britannia Industries Ltd’s research and development and quality vice-president Sudhir Nema told Mint in January that creating ready-to-eat breakfasts that are as close to home-cooked fare in taste as possible, was key to becoming a multi-billion dollar breakfast company.

Bengaluru-based Britannia is looking at entering the breakfast segment as part of its efforts to evolve into a total foods company.

MTR has some way to go in popularizing the new range. The manager at a supermarket in south Bengaluru said the new range was doing “okay" but cannot yet be classified as fast-moving products. He didn’t want to be named.

“The opportunity is definitely there and they are positioned very well. The brand name is familiar and distribution is also definitely a strength. But success will depend a lot on taste, the point-of-sale, visibility and sampling. They have to do a lot there to make it succeed," said Harminder Sahni, managing director at consulting firm Wazir Advisors.

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