From creating a bond between kids and their grandmothers to being an essential meal accompaniment at home or even in restaurants, the humble spoonful of pickle has always been an integral part of one’s plate in India. In a country where one makes their own batch of favourite pickles year after year, Pune-based Desai Brothers, founded in 1901, plunged into the world of branded pickles as it diversified into the Indian ethnic food business in 2001 with the Mother’s Recipe brand.“Making pickles is a dying art. Our grandmothers used to make pickles, and we used to relish the taste of home-made pickles. Today’s generation doesn’t have the time or patience to make pickles at home,” points out Sanjana Desai, head of business development, Desai Brothers. According to Euromonitor, the market size of pickled products stood at Rs 1,442.44 crore in 2016. In the pickles category, Mother’s Recipe enjoys a 24.1% market share and a share of 18% in the sauces, dressing and condiments category. The brand has now forayed into a range of street-styled chutneys. Recalls Desai, “In one of our consumer interactions, we realised that while chutneys can add spice to multiple snacks, preparing it is a tedious task for today’s busy woman. Therefore, we came up with our chutney range.” The company acknowledges that while the range might not contribute in a major way to its toplines, it is required in order to have a well-rounded portfolio.
The company, in its early years, saw a stronghold in the Western region (Maharashtra and Gujarat) with limited presence in Delhi and Bengaluru. Exports were restricted to markets like Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. But things changed in 2003, as Desai Brothers aggressively expanded the Mother’s Recipe brand through its distribution network in 20 Indian states and started exporting it globally.Since then, there has been no turning back. Apart from launching new varieties of pickles, it has also invested in new distribution channels as well as introduced new tools for engaging consumers. For example, it conducts pickle festivals within stores so that consumers are exposed to pickles from other regions. However, the brand had to suffer a minor setback in its journey as well. In 2004, when Mother’s Recipe started selling blended spices in zipper storage bags, the product failed to grab the consumer’s attention.
The reason was simple — the market had already saturated. Lessons were learnt that having a great idea simply isn’t enough, and when the brand decided to further its product portfolio to pastes, ready-to-eat, ready-to-cook, instant mixes, papads and chutneys, it made sure to create the right product at the right time.
Dhanraj Bhagat, partner, Grant Thornton India LLP, says, “For a home-grown brand to expand exponentially, it needs to make sure that it scales up its operations with the consumer’s growth. Putting in too much money when the market isn’t ready will not help anyone.” The company believes that demands of the FMCG segment are evolving everyday and consumers are seeking authentic, convenient and better packaged products. As a result, a brand should continuously innovate in line with growing consumer expectations while providing the finest quality. “For any new product development, our R&D team carries out an in-depth and extensive research on ingredients and recipes to bring in the best from Indian kitchens to our consumers,” says Desai while elaborating that the brand has recently launched Southern RTC variants like Malabar Chicken Curry. Eyeing a 50% market share in the ginger garlic paste category, the brand introduced it in a tub format to increase the convenience of usage — a first in the category.
Catering to a variety of consumers — 30-50 year-olds for pickles, young mothers and working professionals for RTC, and bachelors and professionals for instant mixes, the brand spends most of its budget on regional media. It uses a varied range of media like dailies, magazines and regional TV channels. With changing times, it is also now active on social media. Therefore, apart from being available in mom-and-pop stores, modern trade outlets and multi-functional outlets, Mother’s Recipe is selling its products through online platforms like BigBasket, Grofers, Amazon, etc apart from its own exclusive e-store. “The category depends heavily on repeat customers and it comes with great taste. Packaging, marketing, etc are secondary,” highlights Bhagat.
The brand, which exports to more than 45 countries across the world, had acquired Kolkata-based Elmac Agro Manufacturing in 2015, for `30 crore, thus expanding its portfolio to sauces as well as increasing its distribution network in the Eastern region from 150 to 350 outlets. And with the acquisition of Spreadon in 2016, it entered the spreads and dips segment as well. After conquering the world of pickles and dips, the company now has plans to focus on expanding its presence in hotels, restaurants and cafés (HORECA).