Home/ Industry / Retail/  Food firms add regional, ethnic flavours to offerings in bid to taste growth

NEW DELHI : India’s biggest food and beverage companies are increasingly adding ethnic flavours and indigenous ingredients to their packaged snacks and beverages, as consumers seek local tastes and regional palates.

On Wednesday, the local arm of chocolates and confectionery company Mars Inc. launched a paan-flavoured mint under its Doublemint brand to please the modern Indian consumer who wants to experience western formats in local flavours and at accessible price points. Andrew Leakey, general manager, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, India, said: “They are getting more discerning. They want to see global brands, but they are equally very comfortable with a local twist." Paan is the company’s first local flavour innovation for India, said Leakey.

Earlier this year, cereal maker Kellogg’s launched its first range of India-inspired cereals to include flavours, such as rose, thandai and kesar badam, after studying region-specific flavour preferences for over a year.

“Consumers in India and the world over are going back to their roots," said Sumit Mathur, director, marketing, Kellogg South Asia, underscoring the ongoing demand among Indian consumers for ingredients and flavours closer to their palates. “They want traditional goods infused with convenience," Mathur added.

While ethnic flavours found their way to packaged food products some years ago, more companies are now actively infusing regional ingredients, and experimenting with local formats as Indian consumers find comfort in tastes that are familiar to them. This is a shift from the days when cola-flavoured beverages and potato chips dominated shop shelves.

It also helps that the success of companies, such as Haldiram, Balaji Wafers and Nameek, and Bengaluru-based Hector Beverages of Paper Boat fame, have prompted others to revisit flavours commonly consumed at home such as jamun, raw mango, regional spices, chilly guava, bitter gourd and bael, and offer them in a packaged format.

“It is definitely something which is catching on—consumers now pivot between a India state of mind and Bharat state of mind—it is like consumers aspire for a chewing gum, which is a western format, but they still want the chatpata flavour," said Rajesh Ramakrishnan, managing director, Perfetti Van Melle India. Earlier this year, the confectionery company launched Center Fruit Chatpata Sparkiez, a tangy gum and a raw-mango flavoured Alpenliebe candy.

To be sure, while the core flavours still draw in the big numbers for consumer companies, Indian shoppers now also ask for flavours specific to their region or state.

The local arm of food and beverage maker PepsiCo said that regionalization is a strong trend the company is riding on over the last few years, especially with its Kurkure brand. PepsiCo has dialled up the fusion of local flavours, spices and regional assortments to its portfolio over the years to expand its share in the salty snacks category, especially to take on brands such as Haldiram and Balaji Wafers.

Last month, PepsiCo launched Lay’s Wafer Style (in salt with pepper and sundried chilli flavours) chips in south India as its take on “papad" that is often consumed along with meals. Earlier this year, it also put out a Kurkure Masala Munch with Gingelly or sesame oil for south. “We recognise that there is an opportunity to dial up relevance in snacks," said Dilen Gandhi, senior director, marketing, foods, PepsiCo India.

Kolkata-based ITC Ltd said it is drawing inspiration from region-specific fruits and spices for its juices and snacking brands B Natural and Bingo. “We have crafted regional offerings in the Bingo snacks portfolio like Kolkata Kasundi," said Hemant Malik, divisional chief executive, foods division, ITC. Its juices portfolio now has flavours such as kinnow in Punjab and bael in Bengal to regional tastes.

Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Updated: 19 Jun 2019, 11:31 PM IST
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