Hindustan Lever Ltd has decided to re-enter the cooking aids segment.
Last year, it wanted to foray into the cooking pastes market under brand name Kissan, but test market results did not appear promising and the company abandoned the plan. However, since food in general and cooking aids in particular is something the company considers a future growth driver, it has now decided to re-enter this market.
But it has taken a different route the second time around. HLL has introduced an entirely new category in the cooking aids segment by launching a flavour enhancer called Aromax.
And while it is making subtle attempts to enter the cooking aids market, HLL has also made its presence felt in the ready-to-eat segment through Indus Valley rice meals in seven flavours. The Indus Valley range of products is being introduced through its direct marketing arm HLL Network, a company spokesperson told Business Line.
"We think food, particularly the ready-to-eat category and cooking aids are areas where the market holds a large, untapped potential," he said, adding that more products will be launched in the ready-to-eat category through HLL Network in the months to come.
The spokesperson said Aromax is a taste enhancer, containing natural ingredients but no mono sodium glutamate, onion or garlic. He declined to comment on whether more products were in the pipeline as far as taste enhancers is concerned. Also, no confirmation was available on whether HLL wanted to re-enter the cooking paste market.
HLL has mega brands Knorr Annapurna and Kissan in the food portfolio as of now. Under Kissan, it offers jams, ketchups, squashes and Greedy Bistix while Knorr Annapurna is for atta, readymade chapattis, Soupy Snax and salt. These two brands are among six mega brands of Hindustan Lever raking in over $100 million worth of sales each per year.
According to latest available data, the `power brands' in the food category registered nine per cent growth in 2003 against a decline in the previous year.
The company's second attempt at introducing chapattis in the domestic market late last year followed a debacle the first time around. A few years earlier the company had introduced them, but the chapattis had to be cooked and puffed before serving. The product did not take off and the company withdrew it from the market. HLL's challenge was to develop a fully cooked and puffed chapatti with the taste, aroma and softness of a home made one at an affordable cost.
However, even as HLL creates a new segment within the ready-to-eat business, a number of other players have already jumped on the bandwagon. MTR Foods last year launched a whole range of rice meals as well as other curries, while Satnam Overseas has also entered this growing market with its Kohinoor brand of curries and rice meals.