Shreyas Kulkarni

Why is Parle-G selling mugs and tote bags?

The glucose biscuit giant has launched a Genius merchandise line on Redwolf a few weeks after a limited-edition gift collaboration with the Bombay Sweet Shop.

Brands which enjoy cult status have a common streak running through them — They are expressed in forms far removed from their original offerings.

Heavy metal rock band Metallica and Tennessee whiskey giant Jack Daniel’s are famous for their T-shirts while a Harley Davidson key-chain is a common go-to choice for a diverse set of vehicle owners.

Yesterday, Parle-G, a brand of glucose biscuit, more common in Indian households than tap water, announced its Genius (G in Parle-G) merchandise line. “We are giving an opportunity to consumers who love the brand to own it in more than one way,” says Mayank Shah, category head, Parle Products.

The omnipresence of Parle-G is not mere flattery. A December 2021 Economic Times report said the five-rupee-a-pack Parle-G became the second Indian fast-moving consumer goods brand to cross the $1 billion mark in retail sales in a year, after Haldiram, a sweets and snacks company.

However, Shah sees the glucose biscuit brand more from a nostalgia lens. He speaks of the biscuit being passed down generations from mothers to their children who then go on to do the same with their kids.

“If we are thinking this product belongs to Parle Products, we are grossly mistaken. This brand has transcended the boundaries of ownership and now belongs to the consumers,” Shah told his company's folks.

So why choose merchandise? “… It is not just about consuming the brand, the small things in your life like a cup or a mug... they remind you of your childhood, make you feel nostalgic, it’s about that,” answers the category head and states the merchandise is a “prized possession.”

The Genius merchandise line consists of a dipping mug, a genius diary, a genius phone grip, a Chai-Love coaster and a Tote Bag. It is available solely on Redwolf, an independent direct-to-consumer (D2C) speciality brand that focuses on licensed pop culture-inspired apparel and accessories.

In an age where brands regardless of the category they belong to are launching their own D2C offerings or choosing e-commerce giants like Amazon or Flipkart for reach, Parle-G’s choice of online marketplace piqued a few eyebrows.

Redwolf makes great merchandise and I don’t want to massify a product says Shah. “It was a careful selection because this is not a commercial activity. It is for the die-hard fans of Parle-G.”

Parle-G’s brand team worked in tandem with design agency Please See and once they had zeroed in on the merchandise idea, the two approached Redwolf.

Shah, however, is not keen on doing a full media blast for the Genius merchandise line. While the brand will be spending on media from its "digital assets to some digital media, we wouldn’t be looking at commercialising it.” He says it will be done tastefully and “should not be an item available in the mass market, it is not what we want.”

On Raksha Bandhan this year, Parle-G unveiled a limited edition gift collection of fudge and choco barks in partnership with the Bombay Sweet Shop. Adding to this in July, the glucose giant diversified into Oats & Berries and Kismi Cinnamon.

When asked if more such diversifications or offerings were in order this year, Shah was quick to respond that while “we would be open to similar things, but as we speak, we’ve not thought about it.”

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