Shreyas Kulkarni

ITC Bingo takes on namkeen brands and Kurkure…

… As it introduces four new namkeen flavours under its 'Tedhe Medhe' sub-brand.

“Chai ke saath thodi namkeen” is a line that is uttered in most Indian households. It’s a deadly combination that juices up family conversations and makes way for some great bonding time.

In India, popular packaged namkeen brands include the likes of Haldiram’s, Bikanervala, Bikaji along with a multitude of local and hyper-local brands.

So, we (afaqs!) were surprised to see Indian multinational conglomerate ITC’s chips brand Bingo enter the ‘namkeen’ segment through its 'Tedhe Medhe' sub-brand. It has introduced four new flavours: Pulse Mix, Cocktail Mix, Aloo Bhujiya, and Nut Crackers.

In the 30-second Bingo ad by Ogilvy, we’re not only introduced to the new flavours but are once again reminded of the battle between Bingo and PepsiCo India’s finger-snack brand Kurkure.

ITC Bingo takes on namkeen brands and Kurkure…

ITC had launched Bingo in 2007 to coincide with the cricket World Cup in the West Indies. It, in a press statement, had then said, “The initial offerings from Bingo include an array of products in both potato chips & finger snacks segment.”

Snacking/beverages account for 30% of FMCG sales in India said market research firm Nielsen in a November 2020 report. While the snacks sector is divided into traditional (bhujiya, chanachur) and western (chips), “More than 95 per cent of India’s snack market is the unorganized sector,” remarked Lloyd Mathias, Angel Investor and former executive VP marketing, beverages, PepsiCo South Asia.

Lloyd Mathias
Lloyd Mathias

He went on to say that the likes of PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay (Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Kurkure), ITC’s Bingo, Balaji, Haldiram’s, Bikanervala – all play in the much smaller organized space.

For Mathias, Bingo’s entry into the namkeen segment is a good move but not a surprising one because this helps it “broaden its market presence leveraging existing distribution and other supply chain synergies” and for consumers, there is a “quality guarantee” from a mainstream branded player: purity and hygiene, reliable cooking medium, declared weight, ingredients and calorific count.

He remarked that when you offer snacks catering to the local palate - like aloo bhujia, murukku, kachori etc, - the stuff you find at the neighbourhood halwai, you begin to cater to a much larger audience segment.

Revealed Mathias, “When Lay’s entered India, for the first few years, it concentrated on the potato and corn chips from their global portfolio. It was only when Frito-Lay launched the Kurkure range the market exploded.”

Please note PepsiCo India did compete with Indian namkeen brands though its Lehar brand (remember Lehar Aloo Bhujia?) that it launched in 1996 but was phased out in 2016.

We believe Bingo's swerve towards Indian flavours not only pits it against namkeen brands for the rule of evening tea snacks but against rival Kurkure that comes in flavours such as Masala Munch and Green Chutney.

Bingo vs Kurkure

To understand the rivalry between these two snack brands, one has to go back to 07-08 when Kurkure introduced the ‘Tedha hai par Mera hai’ tagline. Coined by advertising agency JWT (now Wunderman Thompson), the line was all about embracing the eccentricities of the Indian family.

ITC Bingo’s ‘Tedhe Medhe’ range of chips and now namkeen sounds similar to Kurkure’s tagline, doesn’t it?

Vani Gupta Dandia
Vani Gupta Dandia

“The ITC Bingo ad is reminiscent of the old Kurkure ads that set the tone for family bonding over namkeen…” said Vani Gupta Dandia, founder CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners, a marketing driven management consultancy and former marketing director, PepsiCo, Indian Foods.

She went on to say that PepsiCo had to give up its iconic line because ITC leveraged Kurkure’s ‘Tedha hai par Mera hai’ to their advantage... ITC was rapidly gaining market share on the back of a clever guerrilla move.

“Unaware consumers would pick up Tedhe Medhe packs thinking it belonged to the same lineage as the iconic line ‘Tedha hai par Mera hai.’ Shopkeepers lured by the heavier trade margins from ITC also cajoled consumers into believing it's all the same... We lost market share even while we advertised because it was Tedhe Medhe that sold,” revealed Dandia.

She remarked that while Kurkure is focused on building back its taste credentials, ITC, on the other hand, is expanding rapidly and spending money on the namkeens range – It will drive equity for the overall brands and it has the same quirky tonality that is so typical of Bingo.

“But, namkeens is not a high margin game. ITC is merely participating in this category to steal share from a large fast-growing ever-expanding market,” asserted Dandia.

We spotted the new Bingo Tedhe Medhe namkeen flavours on e-commerce website Amazon. While the ‘Aloo Bhujiya’ and ‘Nut Crackers’ flavours retailed at Rs 45 for 200g packs, the ‘Pulse Mix’ 180g pack was priced at Rs 50. We could not find the ‘Cocktail Mix’. (These are original MRPs and not the discounted prices.)