Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“I didn’t want a Michelin star chef to endorse Rasna”: Piruz Khambatta

Rasna gives top celebs a miss; banks on the charms of regional influencers as it advertises Rasna as cake/cookie flavouring ingredient.

Traditionally consumed as a summer beverage, Rasna’s instant fruit-based concentrates can now also be used as flavouring agents in cakes, cookies, jellies and other home-made recipes.

It’s, in fact, the core message of the leading beverage brand’s ongoing influencer marketing campaign #LoveURasnaRecipes. Rasna is educating consumers about how its flagship product can be used in ways other than the usual fruit beverage.

Rasna traditionally has demanded its consumers’ involvement. The iconic Rasna beverage mixes aren’t the usual cut-pour-stir type. Instead, they need a fair amount of careful mixing and measuring of ingredients like concentrates, water, sugar and other flavouring agents.

With the campaign, the brand is looking for a solid spot in the list of ingredients used in home recipes. This need is usually addressed by smaller flavouring and essence brands like Harvey’s, Auris, Bake King, among others.

In conversation with afaqs!, Piruz Khambatta, chairman, Rasna, says that the opportunity came up as a result of people, who were locked in their homes due to COVID, experimenting with food. With extra time on their hands, they decided to give baking, etc., a shot.

Piruz Khambatta
Piruz Khambatta

Khambatta mentions that Rasna concentrates don’t come with added sugar. That way, they fit perfectly well as a flavouring agent. The new Rasna packs also come with added immunity boosting nutrients like vitamin E, zinc, etc.

"With the immunity building nutrients, it meets both the flavour and health requirement."

“A person can have less or more sugar, as needed, and use it as a flavouring agent. With the immunity building nutrients, it meets both the flavour and health requirement.”

He mentions that the consumers have used Rasna for flavouring items like milkshakes, ice lollies, ice creams and even falooda for many years without any brand-led initiative. The campaign further drives the usage towards cakes, cookies, puddings and jellies.

“It happens in my own house. My father likes cookies and my daughter has been making them (cookies) with Rasna Kesar Elaichi.”

Rasna’s choice of influencers is interesting too. Instead of going for star ‘chefs’, the brand partnered with lesser-known influencers like Bharatz Kitchen, Kanak Khathuria and MeghnasFoodMagic. The brand has also collaborated with popular regional influencers in the food category space like Veg Village Food, Simply Swadisht, Tastee with Kiruthiga and Cooking with Benazir.

Veg Village Food is actually presented by a Haryanvi grandmother. Despite lack of fancy editing and high production value in her channel’s content, it (the channel) is followed by 4.61 million people.

The brand has also associated with Mellow D, a popular rapper, for a music video invoking nostalgia around the iconic brand tagline ‘I Love You Rasna’. The campaign has been crafted by Grapes Digital.

"I didn’t want a Michelin star chef to endorse Rasna."

“I didn’t want a Michelin star chef to endorse Rasna. That was the clear brief. They don’t cut ice with the brand. I told it (Grapes Digital) to only select people who are down-to-earth, ‘massy’ and do only Indian recipes.”

The branding is subtle too. “I am also new to this. The consumers understand that it is a company-sponsored video if they see too much branding.”

Khambatta recalls watching a chicken tikka with oyster sauce recipe video. “The person cooking only mentioned the sauce brand once as the secret behind the taste. The video was probably shot with a regular handheld camera. I was tempted to try the sauce and I did.”

However, since Rasna is an iconic brand and enjoys 100 per cent recall, the brand could have launched a new product to address the flavour need.

Khambatta mentions that launching a specific flavouring product under the Rasna name could drive the massy brand into a niche space.

"In India, we need massy products, something that every retail outlet will carry."

“In India, we need massy products, something that every retail outlet will carry. The niche product will have limited distribution.”

He shares the example of Mondelez’s flagship cream cookie brand Oreo. Mondelez advertises the various use cases of Oreo as an ingredient - like Oreo cookie crumbs for dessert toppings, etc. The chocolate company could make Oreo cookie crumbs too, but it would cater to a limited niche consumer segment, unlike the massy Oreo cookie.

With the early onset of the summer season this year, Rasna was off to a good start. However, with the current COVID situation, the distribution has taken a hit again, like last year (2020). “It was very good till last month (April 2021),” Khambatta signs off.

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