Saumya TewariPublished: 27 Nov 2014, 12:00 AM

Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk

The recently launched herb-flavoured Maska Rusk will be promoted through two ad films that will hit TV screens on December 5. The marketing objective is two-fold: provide rusk-eaters with a new variant, and remind the rest that the rusk makes for a great tea-time snack option, after all.

In a chai-guzzling nation like India, there can never be enough tea-time snack options. Rusk, is one of them. Derived from the word 'rosca', which is Portuguese for 'a twisted, coiled roll of bread', a rusk is a rectangular, hard, dry biscuit prepared by double-baking bread.

Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Britannia has introduced a new herb-flavoured rusk variant called Maska Rusk. The objective is to tap into the growing business opportunity that the rusk segment currently offers. The rusk category, estimated to be at around Rs. 1,200-1,600 crore, is growing at the rate of 15-16 per cent, annually. It is a hugely fragmented market, dominated by local bakeries and other un-branded players. Only 40 per cent of the rusk category in India is organised and is led by brands like Britannia and Parle.
Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Maska Rusk is rusk that's flavoured with butter and savory herbs. The product was launched in the market in August this year. Grey India has created a two-film ad campaign that is scheduled to hit TV screens on December 5, across all popular GECs, including regional channels, we learn. Apart from TV, the campaign will include on-ground and point of sale (POS) branding. The product is already being promoted online.

The TVCs feature actors Konkana Sen Sharma and Neena Gupta, who play new-age saas and bahu, respectively. The message is - 'Healthy mein lao masti.'

Highlighting the prevailing "lack of innovation" in the rusk category, Manjunath Desai, Vice President, Strategy & Business Development, Britannia Industries, tells afaqs! that consumers are constantly looking for something new and different to make their tea-time routine exciting.

"Our research showed us that Maska Rusk provides a significantly superior tea experience. The variant is faring very well with existing consumers (of rusk) and is also generating interest amongst consumers who typically do not eat rusk," he asserts.

The core TG for the product comprises women in the 25-45 years age bracket.

Desai tells us that "branded rusk consumption" is on the rise nowadays, because it is a "balanced snack." Those who have recently warmed up to the category, he says, "tend to like it because it is baked, filling, wheat-rich and devoid of any excesses."

Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Britannia's largest markets for this product segment include the states of Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. It is priced at Rs. 30 (for 200 gram) and Rs. 10 (for 58 grams).

Speaking about category codes and the done-to-death saas-bahu theme in Indian ads - especially when the product being advertised is in some way kitchen-related - Malvika Mehra, national creative director and executive vice president, Grey Group India, defends, "Most tea-time sessions are about catching up and gup-shup. And where there is banter, there is a big possibility of a mom-in-law and daughter-in-law to feature in the script. It fit in very naturally."

She adds about her campaign, "There is a modern twist in their relationship, much like the product itself."

One can't ignore the fact that in India, rusk competes with more popular tea-time favourites like biscuits and plain bread. In some parts of the country, people even dip chapatti into their tea cups. For Britannia, therefore, the challenge lies not only in conveying to the loyalists of regular rusk that a tastier variant of the same has been launched, but also in reminding the rest that an option called rusk even exists. The mass media campaign, therefore, is the brand's way of driving conversions and getting non-consumers to sample the product.

Says Hari Krishnan, senior vice president and business head, Grey South, "Rusk has been around for generations and it has always been the humble snack that is loved by users and forgotten by non-users. So, there was a need to re-frame rusk and remind people that it's a healthy evening snack option."

Untapped Opportunity

Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Britannia Spices Up The Humble Rusk
Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll, a brand marketing consultancy, feels the ads are not clutter-breaking and that the overused saas-bahu angle is one that could be called upon for just about any confectionery product.

"If you replace the rusk pack with a biscuit packet in this campaign, nothing changes," he says.

In his opinion, rusk is a delightful, widely consumed product. Given the right branding and marketing push, consumers will pay a premium price to buy it, Halve is confident.

"Branded rusk needs to be positioned as a desirable product; then a 25-30 per cent premium can be charged on it. I'm sure consumers will pay for a quality product," he says, citing Amul's branding for its shrikhand, by way of example.

For Halve, the line 'Healthy mein lao masti' is all too generic, and the execution, a touch dated.

The company, he suggests, ought to understand the psyche of the Indian consumer and position its products accordingly. Consumers today are very "picky and sharp" and it takes more than just a "regular advertising technique" to lure them into buying something new, he sighs.

In the words of Rajesh Sharma, vice president, strategic planning, DDB Mudra (South and East), the campaign "re-interprets a dated narrative in a progressive and lighthearted way."

"Who wouldn’t like to see similar stories play out in an average Indian home?" he asks.

To Sharma, the line ‘Thodi masti har rishtey ke liye healthy hai’, stated by the voice-over towards the end of the film, is a "fertile space that can lead to interesting executions.The activation value of the space is also high."

However, he feels the new ingredients in the product could have been highlighted more aggressively in the films.