Urban India is getting more health conscious by the day. To cater to this lot, consider how both Nestlé and HUL have, in the recent past, made their intentions clear on serving up healthier breakfast options. HUL’s ready-to-cook range is available on shelves whereas Nestlé has rolled out its Nesplus range of breakfast cereals with a combination of wheat, rice, oats, Indian millets and jowar. The trend of using ingredients such as millets or quinoa is fairly new in the country, but with high consumer interest, it is a segment waiting to be tapped fully.
As per Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), between June, 2013 and May, 2014 as well as between June, 2017 and May, 2018, 10% of all breakfast cereal launches had millets as an ingredient; 1% had quinoa while less than 1% had chia. This is likely to go up as more and more players launch attractive offerings on the breakfast table.
Take for example Yoga Bars from Sproutlite Foods, which boasts of providing healthy and convenient food options. A Yoga Bar is priced at Rs 50, which Suhasini Sampat, co-founder, Yoga Bars, says is roughly the amount that people are willing to pay for any kind of breakfast. The brand targets people within 25-40 years of age. A good chunk of discovery and sales are coming in from the online channel — accounting for 25% of sales — as a considerable section of the captive audience seeks such products online.
Largely, the modern ‘healthy’ breakfast food option makes use of everything from flax seeds to sesame seeds, jowar, bajra, ragi, or even oats. While oats may have become a common item on the breakfast table, if only in urban areas, Bagrry’s has tried to marry oats to ethnic breakfast ingredients to get more consumers on board. With its Oats for India range, it is looking to have a staples play in the oats category.
Aditya Bagri, director, Bagrry’s India, shares, “A lot of ethnic breakfast items are still prepared at home because people are very particular about how they want their poha or upma to taste. So we haven’t pre-blended the oils or the masalas into it.” The brand’s Organic range uses quinoa and chia that was launched last year. As of now it contributes under 5% to the overall revenue but in addition to the expected demand from urban areas from the affluent consumer set, the brand is also witnessing sales from tier I parts of Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Availability and challenges
What hinders a wave of adoption of these products is a combination of a habit change and the cost factor (owing to ingredient availability). Ranjana Sunderasan, senior research analyst, Mintel, points out that India is one of the largest producers of millets but has to largely depend on imports especially for quinoa and chia. She adds, “Parts of the country have started to cultivate quinoa and this will make the grain more affordable in the coming years.” Monsoon Harvest’s (Green Light Foods) breakfast muesli is priced at Rs 230 for 250 gm while its breakfast cereal is available at Rs 260 for 350 gm. It is also looking to bring more contemporary flavours to the Indian palate with combinations of cranberry and almonds, cocoa beans and raisins, dark chocolate with orange peel, etc. Umeshwari Machani, in charge of new product development at Green Light Foods, provides that the conversation is about the quality of these ingredients rather than the price. “Consumers in urban areas who are well-travelled and are looking for a certain quality do not mind spending an extra Rs 40 or Rs 60,” she says. To also gain ground in the healthy snacking space, the brand recently launched buttermilk and millet crackers.
Prashant Parameswaran, MD and CEO, Soulfull says that the biggest challenge in the category is learning how to customise products for the Indian palate. To that end, the brand has launched Desi Muesli, which allows the use of curd instead of milk and offers a spicy/savoury version. Soulfull is looking to up its presence from 6,000 stores to 50,000 stores in the next two to three years. The brand sees 8-10% of sales coming in from the online channel. From within its portfolio, Ragi Bites leads the way by contributing to 35-40% revenue closely followed by its muesli offerings and then, Ragi Flakes. Soulfull is looking to roll out its first nationwide campaign later this year.