Ashee Sharma

"We want to tell consumers how, and when, to use our product": Vikran Sabherwal, MTR Foods

In its new ad campaign, MTR Foods is seen trying to transform itself from an instant daily breakfast solution to a 'wholesome Sunday special meal'.

Movies, travel, books or just a good long sleep is what most people crave to do on weekends. Bengaluru-based MTR Foods gives consumers another proposition to look forward to on weekends - a delightful and lavish breakfast, that's not just tasty or healthy, but also 'fun'.

MTR Foods, best known for its easy-to-cook South Indian delicacies, has unveiled a new ad for its wide range of breakfast mixes. The objective of this campaign, executed by Ogilvy and Mather, is to bring alive the joy of weekend family breakfast in every Indian household. Like the brand's previous ads, the '6-arm device' concept is used in the new one too. But, while the earlier ads used it to depict a traditional housewife fulfilling the 'demands' of her husband and children, this one shows the entire family participating in the cooking, thus making it fun and easy for her. A routine meal becoming a festivity is an added advantage.

"We want to tell consumers how, and when, to use our product": Vikran Sabherwal, MTR Foods
This evolution finds relevance in the fact that the brand now wants to address its new TG - the modern Indian woman - who does not necessarily have to be a working professional. She could also be a homemaker. "We wanted to position the weekend breakfast as a fun-filled family event, rather than just showing the homemaker in the kitchen. Hence the '6-arm device' was used to show a contemporary close-knit family helping the mother out," says Shamik Sen Gupta, group creative director, Ogilvy and Mather -Bengaluru.

Given the new reality, particularly that of the urban Indian household, the feminist stance taken by MTR and other brands is no surprise today. What's intriguing about the campaign is that the brand is being positioned as a 'Sunday Special'. The product seems to be limiting its usage window as it moves from 'har subah ban jaaye special' to 'Sunday ho toh aisa'.

"We want to tell consumers how, and when, to use our product": Vikran Sabherwal, MTR Foods
What inspires this change? Giving us a perspective on how the breakfast mix category evolved, Vikran Sabherwal, vice president - marketing, MTR Foods, says that in the year 2010, the company took a bunch of its instant mixes and re-branded them as 'breakfast mix' for the first time. This change came from the fact that with consumers' lives becoming increasingly busy; they were looking for solutions for breakfast as a 'meal occasion'. At that time, the only options available were western in nature.

The new campaign, informs Sabherwal, is based on another consumer research which takes the same thought forward, while revealing that homemakers are rushed for time on weekday mornings and hence breakfast is all about feeding people and sending them to work. But weekends are different.

"Weekends give an opportunity to indulge in a leisurely and lavish morning meal. With sixteen different varieties of breakfast mixes, it was important for us to position the product sharply, so that the consumer can understand how and when to use it. We are telling women that when they want to bond with the family and create a delightful meal occasion for everyone, MTR is the right partner," he states.

The TVC will be seen on television, across national and regional channels, while the digital medium will be used to amplify the message. Apart from this, the brand also has a microsite called 'MTR Dishcovery', as part of an ongoing effort to promote its products. Launched a couple of months back, the site features authentic Indian recipes from different parts of the country. On the utility of the portal, Sabherwal notes, "Consumers' lives are bigger than any brand. India has a rich food culture, and we want to make it easily available to people through the medium they are most comfortable with."

This strategy also works well for the company as it looks at diversifying its portfolio in all categories, including breakfast mixes. In a bid to transcend its image of a predominantly South Indian food brand, it has added popular recipes like Poha and Dhokla to the basket. Sharing the reason behind this move, Sabherwal tells us that while MTR has been "traditionally strong down South - particularly in Karnataka - North and West (represented by the new recipes) are the fastest growing markets."

However, in a country that loves to indulge in food, over freshly cooked meals, selling packaged foods could be challenging, as some people may perceive it as unhealthy. Dismissing the view, Sabherwal says, "South Indian breakfast is an ideal way to start the day and it was for the health conscious that we introduced our multi-grain product range. The Indian consumer is maturing. Today, people understand the technology behind this category and they see us in positive light."

Established in 1924, MTR Foods is a subsidiary of Norwegian conglomerate Orkla. With a diverse portfolio including breakfast mixes, ready-to-eat lunches and dinner solutions, spices, drinks, snacks and desserts, it offers Indian food in an easy-to-use packaged format.


"We want to tell consumers how, and when, to use our product": Vikran Sabherwal, MTR Foods
"We want to tell consumers how, and when, to use our product": Vikran Sabherwal, MTR Foods
"We want to tell consumers how, and when, to use our product": Vikran Sabherwal, MTR Foods
Kiran Khalap, cofounder and MD, Chlorophyll, a brand and communication consultancy, thinks that the campaign meets one part of the objective - that is to make weekend breakfast lavish and yet easy to make - but he is uncertain about it appealing to the modern women. In his opinion, women have redefined their role well beyond the provider of tasty meals, and are not confined to the "hothouse called kitchen," as shown in this or any other ad.

"The housewife is no more the cook; she is the 'curator' of what will appear on the dining table. Neither is the type of food restricted to 'ma-ke-haath-ka-khaana'; there is joyous experimentation with many tastes. So, the MTR woman has an opportunity to evolve into a person beyond the dining table, and the kitchen," opines Khalap.

On the detectable shift from daily to weekend breakfast solutions, he says that the concept is only "theoretically limiting" and the 'weekend special' will differ from family to family, which is what the brand is banking on.

Louello Rebello, senior executive creative director, Grey Mumbai, is impressed with the track and the execution which, in her opinion, depicts the range without being tedious. What she likes most about the campaign though is that it comes a long way from the previous one, where the husband is seen stretching and ordering the servile wife in bed!

Rebello strongly feels that in an age where brands like Ariel are asking consumers to share the load, others ought to wake up too. "Any brand that does not acknowledge the modern woman for being the multi-faceted person she is, risks alienating her," she cautions.

According to Mahuya Chaturvedi, managing partner, Cogito Consulting (independent consulting division of the FCB Ulka Group), women, today, do not want to do cooking as a chore. They are looking at "innovating and adding their special touch" to make the process, as well as the food, more gratifying. "This makes them feel appreciated as they transform from being the basic home cook to an artiste, a chef," she says, adding that, therefore, with such execution, the advertising will be able to connect with women.

However, Chaturvedi thinks that by restricting itself to the weekends, the brand is definitely limiting its potential, given the range it offers. "Today, the homemaker likes to put variety on the table every day. Kids like it, and the family has become more experimentative," she observes.