But what are the prospects of the packaged variant of Panchamrit, a food offering for the gods traditionally prepared by the devotees themselves?
Amul just added a food item for the gods in its product portfolio. A little over a week back, the dairy brand launched Panchamrit, a food traditionally served as ‘prasad’ after puja at temples. While the ingredients of Panchamrit vary across geographies in India, the most popular blend is of honey, sugar, curd, cow milk, and ghee.
A brand film shared by RS Sodhi, MD, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), on Twitter suggests that the product will be sold in single-serve packs (like Amul’s 10 gram butter packs). Generally, the ‘prasad’ served at temples changes multiple hands. Panchamrit has been launched keeping in mind hygiene, social distancing, and to check the spread of COVID-19.
Traditionally, the mix is either prepared at home, or in the temple, with the ingredients bought from the vicinity. It is first offered to the deity, and later served as ‘prasad’ to the devotees.
With the launch, Amul has effectively entered the domain of ‘devotional’ products, a space dominated by ‘agarbatti’ and ‘dhoop’ brands. The brand’s film is also reminiscent of ‘agarbatti’ ads from brands like Mangaldeep, Cycle, and Moksh. It is also a very relevant extension since Amul already sells three of the key ingredients – ghee, milk and curd.
Before Amul, Ananda, a regional competitor, had also launched Panchamrit as a branded product. While Ananda’s product was targeted at consumers, Amul decided to place itself within the temple premises.
But, what are the prospects of the packaged alternative to something that has traditionally been prepared by the devotees themselves?
Putting forth his opinion, Prabhakar Mundkur, former adman and now a brand strategy consultant, says, “The opportunity, I am sure, is huge, considering the wealth accumulated by temples all over India. I stay next to the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai, and have seen it grown from a small temple to a VIP temple, with huge barricades and police security. So, temples will keep growing, given the religiosity among Indians.”
From a devotee’s point of view, Sridhar Ramanathan, an innovation consultant and a brand coach at IDEAS-RS, thinks of it as a bad idea. “If it (Amul) did it in the temple premises hygienically, it would be different. The sanctity of a ‘prasad’ is not there if it is made outside. But, Amul is an authentic Indian brand. So, it may carry it off.”
Ronita Mitra, founder and chief strategist, Brand Eagle Consulting, maintains that launching a product like Panchamrit makes smart and opportunistic business sense due to the high need, relevance, and religious importance to the large base of Hindu population. It's also very relevant during the current environment, where hygiene and safety are extremely important.
“However, strong, enduring brands are built not only on the basis of the size of the business, but importantly, their point of view towards society. Difficult times are the litmus test for brands to display their sense of unbiased commitment towards society. Amul will clear that litmus test with flying colours if it can transcend religious lines to launch a range of products that are relevant across religions. If that were to happen, Amul will continue to strengthen its unequivocal trust and equity it enjoys among consumers, regardless of religion and faith,” says Mitra.
But, can its appeal actually go beyond the devotional audience?
Mundkur says that Amul Panchamrit could easily become a consumer product, even if it was positioned as a B2B item. “On those special occasions that one has Panchamrit, one really savours the taste and always wishes there was more. But since it is a ‘prasad’, it is embarrassing to gorge on it. But if it were freely available, why not? In other words, it is a need that has been denied. So tasty, but you can’t have enough of it.”
However, Ramanathan disagrees, saying, “Why would it appeal beyond the devotional audience? Unless, it is positioned as some desirable snack, or food. As a devotee, I won’t buy it. The more they advertise, the less authentic I might find it.”
Panchamrit is is also one of Amul's Covid-era innovations. The brand recently launched flavoured milk variants like Haldi Milk, Ginger Milk and Tulsi Milk with the proposition of boosting immunity.