When consumers opt for the chota packet, bada dhamaka

There is a surge of localised manufacturers who cater to a particular suburb or zilla. Due to health consciousness and rising cost of time, oil and ingredients, consumers opt for these inexpensive pocket-sized packets. Disha Chakraborty travels on the Thane-Kalyan central line to understand more.

05 Jul 2023 | By Disha Chakraborty

You can not find Uncle Chips in retail outlets. Why so? It is only online. Charles Chip can be found in Kalyan but not in Ulhasnagar. Same is the case with Wheels chips or Lunch Box jeera papad.

I spoke to a homemaker in Kalyan. She told me, “Earlier papad was made at home, eaten as an accompaniment to a meal or with chai. Recently people have started purchasing from the shop. With rising prices of dals plus GST, the cost has increased. So, this is substituted with Rs 5 or Rs 10 packs of papad packets.” Lunch Box is one such brand. And a popular one at that.

Many families (especially joint families) made potato chips at home. This meant, cleaning, soaking potatoes overnight, then making and drying them. Basically a lot of work. Plus it needed practice, dedication and dexterity. Our grannies were the master chefs of the 20th century- and we loved what they made.

These Rs 5 packets are the new grannies. They offer the amount you would consume (or should consume!). Or offer the guests on a guest plate, no leftovers for the kids to nibble. As two students, who I spoke to on the train said, “One serve is enough, unlike Lay's, it has a good enough quantity inside the pack.”

I noticed new brands and variants at a few stores at the railway stations.

I have seen Haldiram's and Chedda's snack variants at these stores on the railway station. These snacks can't be found at local stores. Do you get a sense of the pattern?

As part of my packaging research, I purchased a packet.

Again, these are not healthy. Spoke to a few young travellers in the train compartment. They said they are looking to munch some "kachra" while  travelling. And so, these seem to be nice bait.

The trends I picked up.

Peppy was their favourite brand. Also, the Balaji salted variant is consumed during fast days. Tuesday is a popular fast day among Hindus. The point is, one does not need to buy a huge packet, small packets suffice.

I find these packets interesting. Unlike the MNC brands or national brands, these smaller brands present options to consumers and they are “loving it”.

Later when I was scrutinising the small print on the small packet, what I found most amazing is the location of their manufacturing units. Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and one in the outskirts of Bengaluru.

A disconnect from ground reality

I have attended six to seven conferences in the past month, during which I interacted with more than 50 MNCs. After my short research study, and after discovering these not-so-famous brands, I wondered what kind of factories these places would have? And what kind of automation and processes were the star speakers at these seminars were speaking about?

To paraphrase Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Industries!

The process of democratisation 

Take an example of bakarwadi or chips. Rs 5 or Rs 10 chips were sold in trains and yes in the neighbourhood kirana store. Today, even a pan and chai tapri-wala stocks a few packets of these, besides biscuits. So, you have a choice of biscuits or these snacks within the constraints of a middle-class budget.

Now, if you are a working professional who travels in Mumbai for work, these ready-to-munch snacks are handy. Also very handy to feed children, especially during exams. As the homemaker told me, “Children have shorter school hours during exam days, sports days or two days in a week when they have fewer classes.”

But you still need to give the children something to eat. 

So, a young mother Alisha buys these varieties of packets, and puts them in tiffin boxes during those days.

I learnt while talking to young mothers that in many schools they discourage packaged food or snacks in the canteen. Also many parents don't give any pocket money to their children. So this strategy really helps. Especially during exams. Indian parents act in extraordinarily unusual ways during their children's exam.

I was talking to a young 33 year old. She said she didn't like Lays much. The salted flavour was the one she preferred. Because salsa or tangy tomato is not for everybody's taste buds.

These are brands which may not feature in the Top Ten lists but they certainly do cater to the rising consumer expectations. And they offer an equally (if not more) rewarding gastronomic experience.

Haldiram, Chedda, Balaji offer the consumer potato or banana or soya wafers or nachni wafers or moong dal or bakar wadi.

Naturally the small but nimble brands can't be Haldiram or Balaji Wafers so they offer a unique, novel or innovative food experience for their customers.

Consider the Shanta brand which I found in a Kalyan store. 

Twelve flavours of khakhra. The company is headquartered in Surat. Information printed in German and Arabic. Plus cool pencil sketching on packaging. Something novel for Rs 20. Plus no need for extra dabba for storage and or to carry to the office.

In this age of disruption, it’s all about street-smart consumers and brands that adapt non traditional strategies.

Tags : Disha's Diary
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The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

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