FMCG companies in India are increasingly eyeing the ready-to-cook (RTC) segment, but what is noteworthy is their newfound interest in traditional breakfast items such as poha and upma.
Consider Nestle, which in December expanded its offerings under Maggi and introduced ready-to-cook poha and upma variants, whereas Marico had earlier last year introduced two different ranges – Saffola Fittify
Gourmet Power Breakfast and Saffola Perfect Nashta range, which includes poha, upma, dosa and idli. Gits Food, too, introduced ready-to-cook poha in cups and pouches in August 2019 and plans to further expand its range.
Then there’s MTR, among the first entrants in this category in 2017, which claims that within a year of its product launches, these products generated revenues of more than Rs 25 crore in FY18. While MTR already had traditional breakfast products in the market, its 3-minute range, which only needed hot water brought down the preparation time considerably. Now other players, too, want in to tap this growing segment and are launching similar products.
“We started with the launch of poha, upma and halwa and followed it up with seviyan upma in 2019, after research revealed that hectic lifestyles and time constraints have led to the trend of skipping breakfast,” says Sunay Bhasin, chief marketing office, MTR Foods.
According to Pakhi Saxena, head, retail and consumer packaged goods, RedSeer Consulting, the RTC market in India stood at Rs2,100 crore in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18% to reach Rs4,800 crore by 2024. Within the RTC universe, breakfast has 57% share, currently, with Marico, MTR Foods, Gits Food, Mother’s Recipe and Kellogg’s as some of the top players.
Thus far, the focus for most companies was either on non-traditional fares such as oats, or on instant breakfast mixes. “The urban and time-starved consumer is looking for convenient options for healthy and tasty foods, even in their main meals, especially breakfast. The current convenient options are seen as a compromise, either on taste, variety, nutrition or satiety,” says Koshy George, chief marketing
officer, Marico. “Even the traditional breakfast mixes category is seen as a compromise and is used only occasionally. Marico had reported a value market share of 75% (June, 2019) in the flavoured oats category in the first quarter of the financial year 2020, but as per experts, most other players have seen limited success here.
“The companies operating in the breakfast space have misread the market for years now and have imported their perspective from the West. While convenience is important, it has to fit with the Indian cuisine and palate,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer, Third Eyesight.
According to Abheek Singhi, senior partner and managing director, Boston Consulting Group, while packaged food products including cereals have not been very successful in the breakfast category, the attempt to make traditional foods more convenient can yield better results.
However, with the entry of multiple players in this segment, competition is likely to be fierce, especially since most companies have products placed in a similar price bracket. Nestle’s Maggi Masala Onion Poha Express (65g) is priced at Rs20, while Marico, Gits and MTR’s small poha pouches of 60g are also available at Rs20, each.
Besides this, related sectors like food delivery apps and quick service restaurants (QSR) also pose a threat as they look to tap the same target consumer. “Competition is coming in from fresh foods, whether it is a Rs50 worth idli or poha delivered by food aggregators, or even a Rs50 burger offered by QSR players,” says Anurag Mathur, leader, retail and consumer goods, PwC India.
“Also in many of the target households, breakfast is cooked by the house help. This presents a structural problem for these players as there is fresh food available at reasonable prices both at home and out of home,” said Mathur.