Abid Hussain Barlaskar

A cracker sans its ‘diabetic friendly’ tag; INBISCO’s plans to find ground in Parle-Britannia dominated market

The brand’s ad for its newly launched Malkist makes the humble cracker an object of desire.

“While the Indian biscuit market is very large and attractive, it is also fiercely competitive,” says Achyut Kasireddy, MD, INBISCO India, in an interview with afaqs!. The scenario makes it a particularly tough job to introduce new brands and find firm footing.

INBISCO India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indonesian food and beverage conglomerate Mayora. Like most other global FMCG companies that import brands from their international portfolio, INBISCO recently introduced Malkist, one of its leading cracker (biscuit) brands, in India.

The brand had a soft launch in the Rs 37,000 crore Indian biscuit market a little over a year back. After tasting success during test marketing in certain metro markets, Malkist is now hitting retailers across the country.

The distribution is backed by a nationwide brand campaign, featuring actors Amitabh Bachchan and Anikha Surendran. The ad encourages trials while also reinforcing the brand tagline 'Malkist can's resist!'.

But what gives Malkist the confidence to take on giants, like Parle and Britannia, the duo that together commands close to 70 per cent of the Indian biscuit market? They are followed by players like Sunfeast (ITC), Anmol, Priyagold, etc.

Kasireddy says that the aim is to find a gap and plug it with a tangibly different offering. With a higher price tag, upwards of Rs 50, Malkist sits in the premium segment (estimated to be Rs 5,500 crore) of the biscuit market.

Achyut Kasireddy
Achyut Kasireddy

The Indian biscuit market is fairly well penetrated - right from the basic glucose biscuits (like Parle-G) to the premium choco-filled cookies (like Dark Fantasy Choco).

Brands have been trying to grab each other’s share with alternative products, or similar offerings. Like, Britannia Milk Bikis went after Parle-G, Parle Fabio replicated Cadbury Oreo, Amul Butter Cookies attacked Britannia Good Day, etc.

INBISCO’s Malkist remarkets the age-old cracker with significant product tweaks. “The crackers space came up as an opportunity, since the existing offerings were simple, targeted at the elderly, and mainly perceived as a product for diabetics, or people recovering (from an illness, etc.),” Kasireddy says.

Also, most offerings in the segment are on the salty side.

Malkist’s cracker deletes the segment identifiers. It is sweet and calibrated for indulgence. It comes come with a cream topping in lesser known biscuit flavours like caramel, cheese and cappuccino.

A cracker sans its ‘diabetic friendly’ tag; INBISCO’s plans to find ground in Parle-Britannia dominated market

“We certainly saw a gap in the market, where we could fit in nicely and offer something which is a unique experience for the Indian consumers. That’s how we shortlisted Malkist.”

Folks at INBISCO went about test marketing the brand in certain metro markets, before initiating national distribution. “While the brand is still nascent, the response has been very encouraging. The brand campaign would further help build awareness around the brand. We intend to go much broader.”

However, Malkist’s closest competitor in the Indian market, Gery (similar cracker cream topping format), also has its roots in Indonesia. Gery is owned by Garuda Food, which competes with Mayora, and has been present in India for a few years now.

Speaking on the approach of selecting a brand for India from the larger global portfolio, Kasireddy highlights the ‘market gap’ and need for ‘unique differentiation’.

He shares the example of Coffee Joy, another Mayora brand that was launched in India some time back. The coffee-flavoured biscuit is extremely thin, like a wafer, and is relatively new to the Indian palate.

"We are not playing in the mainstream categories, like glucose, marie, etc."

“We are not playing in the mainstream categories, like glucose, marie, etc. Instead, we are looking at brands that are new to the Indian market. We bring them in, test them out in a smaller geography to read the pulse, and then go wider,” Kasireddy says.

Apart from the innovation part, the product’s TG stands out too. Unlike the cream biscuit segment, which has traditionally targeted kids, Malkist’s debut campaign targets adults and young adults.

"While 18-25 is the core TG, we found that a lot of family consumption is happening too."

“While 18-25 is the core TG, we found that a lot of family consumption is happening too. The consumption has been cutting across all age groups, and even children are buying into the brand. However, we had to make a choice about where to focus. The ad shows that it is not just limited to one age group.”

Speaking on the premium pricing, Kasireddy says that it is influenced by manufacturing and related costs. The requirement in India is currently fulfilled by imports from Indonesia. The brand has plans for local manufacturing in future.

Kasireddy says that the consumers voluntarily priced it at the current price point during tests.

“That gave us the confidence that the consumers are seeing value at this price point,” he signs off.