Rice-loving south sees rise in atta sales

Changing habits among consumers can be a challenging task for marketers, especially if they are traditionally ingrained.
For instance, selling packaged wheat to a rice-eating southern household is no mean task. However, since the pandemic, habits have changed in a small way, which is prompting branded and packaged atta makers to leverage this trend. South now accounts for 18% of grounded atta, up 3 percentage points from 15% in 2020, according to industry sources.
Marketers said the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), which distributed atta as one of the staples to households to ease the pain of the pandemic, is a key factor in creating higher occasions for consumption of wheat in southern households. Although these are still early days of the trend, marketers believe the habit was set to form sooner rather than later.

ITC divisional chief executive (foods) Hemant Malik said, “Changing food habits is not an easy task and encouraging consumers in southern India to add atta to their repertoire of food products was a challenge. The distribution of free atta/wheat under PMGKY has allowed this category to enter a larger number of southern India households, which are primarily rice consumers. We are witnessing a slight habit change in terms of atta consumption in these households, which augurs well towards increasing category penetration. As a market leader in the branded atta category, we will leverage this shift in consumer behaviour to increase the franchise of our portfolio of Aashirvaad branded and packaged products in these markets.”
In its 20th year since launch, Aashirvaad’s household share among any ground atta is around 58%. In the southern market of packaged and branded atta, Aashirvaad has a close to 90% share.
Parle Products, which is present in the northern and western atta market, is now considering a phased launch in the south and east. “Because wheat is not typically a staple in the south, the acceptance for packaged atta is higher there as compared to other regions which are still getting atta milled. In the north, west and east, consumers graduate from chakki atta to packaged atta and that’s the advantage branded and packaged atta companies have in the south,” said Parle Products senior category head Mayank Shah.
Parle Products, which had first entered the atta market two decades ago as a backward integration for its biscuit manufacturing, re-entered the category a couple of years ago. South’s contribution in the branded and packaged atta market is higher at 27%, said industry sources.
If a 10kg packaged atta costs around Rs 380, a branded atta’s price would be Rs 400-410. While the price difference is one of the reasons why consumers still get their wheat grains milled, another is the psychological surety of freshness in a newly milled atta. The latter is a hurdle that marketers are now trying to overcome innovatively. ITC has started customising and selling the atta through its ITC e-store directly to the consumer, based on the order.
“We are not only customising the grinding/choice of wheat/choice of mix but are also personalising the packaging by printing the consumer’s name on it. Currently, ‘Meri Chakki’ pilot is in the beta test stage and has been rolled out in the NCR region. We do plan to take ‘Meri Chakki’ to other metros as well. The atta from ‘Meri Chakki’ is at a slight premium compared to the Aashirvaad packaged atta sold through other channels,” said Malik.
High inflation has impacted the consumption of a whole lot of other food products. But Malik said the impact of inflation on the consumption of atta is likely to be lower given that atta is a staple commodity, which is more of a necessity as it provides the basic calories. “High inflation can impact consumption/downtrading of impulse categories or of non-essentials. Also, despite inflation, wheat/atta is one of the cheapest staple items per kg that any household consumes,” said Malik.

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