Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Marketing

Pandemic era surge in biryani recipe searches brings good news for ingredient brands

Brands like Kohinoor and Fortune are having a moment, as foodies and home chefs experiment with biryani at home.

India loves Biryani, and its recipe changes depending on where one is located in the country. Data suggests that Indians have been tripping on Biryani over the last several months. While Biryani figured in the list of the most ordered dishes on food delivery apps, like Swiggy and Zomato (during the COVID-induced lockdown/Indian Premier League), it also found place among the top Twitter trends.

Apart from the spike in searches for ‘Biryani recipes’, search topics like ‘Donne Biryani’, ‘Hyderabadi Dum Biryani recipe’, ‘Egg Biryani’ and ‘Dum Biryani’ are also seeing a good amount of interest on Google Search. According to global digital marketing and SEO platform SEMrush, ‘Chicken Biryani’ was also the most searched Indian food globally last year (2019).

Considering the high amount of interest around Biryani recipes and the fact that consumers were stuck at home during lockdown, we set out to assess the impact on Biryani ingredient brands. Apart from chicken/meat/eggs, among the other key ingredients are the long grain Basmati rice and the aromatic spice mix. Also, DIY Biryani kits that cater specifically to at-home Biryani consumers are a thing.

Ajay Motwani, head of marketing, Adani Wilmar (which sells Fortune Basmati Rice), confirms that there has been a spike in at-home consumption of packaged Basmati rice over the last several months. While Motwani wouldn’t reveal the exact growth numbers, he says that it has grown in “high double digits” versus the same period (April to October) last year.

Ajay Motwani
Ajay Motwani

He mentions that the traction in in-home consumption of Basmati rice is being driven by two key factors – interest around cooking recipes (like Biryani) at home and the trend of choosing packaged rice over the loose alternatives.

“People are moving to packed Basmati rice against buying loose (alternatives), and they are at home with their children. The at-home consumption has gone up. We have heightened promotion of our brands since our products are of high quality and untouched by hand,” Motwani says.

Fortune sells two variants of Basmati rice – Premium Classic (aged rice) and Biryani Special. The former has a premium price. Like most other Basmati players, it offers 1 kg and 5 kg packs for individual/home consumption; and 25 kg packs for institutional consumption. While traditional kiranas mostly move the 1 kg pack, modern trade channels (like e-commerce and institutional retail) drive 5 kg sales.

Fortune's rice range
Fortune's rice range

Due to its premium nature, Basmati rice consumption has for long been concentrated in larger towns. But, Motwani says, that there has been healthy growth now in small towns as well.

Unlike Fortune, which only caters to the ‘rice’ part of Biryani, other Basmati brands like Kohinoor also cater to the demand for spices. In a major differentiator, Kohinoor offers DIY Biryani kits. The kit includes a pack of rice, a sachet of whole spices (for boiling the rice) and a spice paste to prepare the chicken/meat.

Pandemic era surge in biryani recipe searches brings good news for ingredient brands

Apart from its other Basmati variants, Kohinoor is also seeing a spike in the adoption of Brown Basmati rice.

Kohinoor Biryani Kits
Kohinoor Biryani Kits

Apart from the ‘kit’, Kohinoor also offers Hyderabadi Biryani spice mix in sachets. The small sachets (a mix of 30-plus spices), unlike the larger box packs from MDH, etc., ensure that it doesn’t lose aroma on opening and storing for long periods.

Kohinoor Masala
Kohinoor Masala

An at-home Biryani consumer can be divided into three basic categories. The one who orders in, the one who devotes many hours to prepare the spices, etc., and enjoys the process. And third, the one who takes a few shortcuts in terms of preparing the spices, etc., but still savours accomplishment.

The ‘kits’ and spice sachets cater to the third kind. A company source aware of the sales of Kohinoor’s Biryani kits says that online sales have doubled over the last several months. Kohinoor currently offers the kits in three Biryani variants – Hyderabadi, Sindhi and Lucknowi. Each kit makes about a kilo of Biryani and is priced at around Rs 100. The source suggests that the company is trying hard to match pace with the high demand, especially on e-commerce channels. While it used to be limited to larger cities since its launch a couple of years back, adoption recently has grown in smaller cities (especially due to e-commerce).

Apart from the high demand for its Basmati rice, Kohinoor is also seeing consumer demand for new flavours (both its Biryani kits and the spice mix). As the source suggests, new additions like Kolkata, Malabari and Chettinad (Biryani) may already be in the making. Kohinoor has also been actively promoting the kits in partnership with celebrity chef Ranveer Brar.

Both Fortune and Kohinoor have DIY videos created in partnership with popular chefs.

Speaking on the impact of the festive season, Fortune’s Motwani says that at-home Basmati consumption also has a direct correlation with the festive season, and sees a spike around this time of the year. “Certain offerings gain more traction as people indulge during celebrations. And, Biryani is strongly correlated with the festive season.”

However, Biryani (due to the hassle of preparation) is mostly consumed in restaurants and Biryani-specific eateries across India. That way, the severe impact of the lockdown and COVID on the HoReCa (hotel-restaurant-cafeteria) businesses could also pass on to the ingredient brands.

Motwani agrees and says that the bulk sales in the catering segment, that manages occasions like weddings along with HoReCa consumption, has seen a sharp decline, and is in the ‘negative territory’. “In-home consumption has not been able to offset that decline. We are seeing improvement month-on-month,” Motwani signs off.