Bakery Industry in India Remained Same for Long

Rajat K. Baisya

remained-bakeryBakery Industry has many regional players and only two (Parle and Britannia) are all India players. This situation has not changed for many years. Modern Food Industry which was a government of India enterprise had ventured into Modern Bread and had set up multiple production units with all India distribution net work. But post liberalization this got acquired by Hindustan Lever and those bread manufacturing units were closed down.

ITC has been in this game for sometime now and their first launch of Sunfest biscuits which is said to have acquired about 13 per cent market share in its own category. But we still cannot compare ITC with other two big players. ITC’s bakery business is still small and distributed all over India but the product range and the size of the business is still not that big although holds big promise. Priya Gold brand of biscuits in UP definitely created a regional success story and have given good competition to both Parle and Britannia. The large part of the biscuit volume comes from the cheaper low margin glucose category which absorbs bulk of the overheads. After many years, Britannia was able to create Tiger brand glucose biscuits. Britannia is a leading player in the organized biscuit market with nearlyy 30 percent value share with annual sales over Rs 16 billion. The Nusli Wadia group, one of the oldest business houses in India and Groupe Danone, a French multi products food company equally share 48.5 per cent promoter holding in Britannia. There was long tussle between these two groups over the registration of Tiger brand by Danone in some overseas countries. Of late, we hear that this issue has been sorted out. Danone, of late is trying to get out of bakery business altogether by selling their stake in Britannia to General Foods.

While Britannia has the strong hold in north and east, Parle has the dominance in south and west. Britannia manufactures biscuits, cakes, breads as well as rusk while Parle is predominantly in biscuit business. Parle G is said to be the number one in terms of volume of biscuit sold in the world. Earlier we had Kwality Biscuits in south which was acquired by Britannia. In the east K.D Paul had set up a modern biscuit plant in Kolkata which is doing reasonably well and was able to establish a few brands which have local presence.

No biscuit company can thrive in business unless it has good volume in the low margin glucose and Marie category. The volume of specialty biscuits is low and that will not give any viability. Nestle and Dabur tried that in joint venture with Israeli company producing specialty biscuits and subsequently withdrawn. Smith Kline Beechem (manufacturer of Horlickes) has been selling Horlicks biscuits for many years. This is manufactured through the third party and volume is small and therefore, distribution is also limited. Cadbury also sells Cadbury chocolate biscuits and again volume is low. Sara Lee introduced biscuits brands and after couple of years withdrawn. Even Kellogg also ventured into specialty biscuits and withdrawn. Experience is so bad that any new players will think twice before getting into specialty biscuits again.

There are many regional biscuit brands and businesses closed down. Notably amongst those are Dalima in north belonging to the one of the Dalmia factions. Bakeman was another company which introduced many biscuit brands in India. They still exist but it is low key existence. Some of the manufacturing units are thriving only by producing for these two large players. The cake and cookies are for the small players sold through the local network of distribution. There is no big player in the cake category excepting Britannia.

Entry barrier into this category is quite high. Post liberalization we have many overseas biscuit brands sold here through the trading route. You can get brands of United Biscuits, UK in most of the leading outlets. Some of the south east Asian countries products are also sold here through local distributors.

Because of the low shelf life of bread, it is always a regional brand. In north, we have Harvest Gold doing well. For all India launch one has to set up manufacturing locations in other regions. Here again margins are low. And therefore, creating success story will not be that easy.

Bakery equipments are available locally. Also bakery ingredients manufacturing business is flourishing primarily for the reason that there are many small scale operators require technical support and these ingredients manufacturers offer total solutions to them to improve their quality. In bakery industry therefore, we have a few big and many small businesses. This was there earlier and is also there now. I don’t see any change in that scenario. Let us now take a look at the wheat production which is the primary ingredient for the bakery industry.

Wheat Production

is the second largest producer of wheat in the world. As per the figures of Agriculture Ministry, Govt. of India in 2003-04 India produced about 72 million tonnes of wheat which is 12 per cent of the world production. Most of the wheat produced in the country is suitable for production of bread and bakery products which is soft to medium hard with medium protein content. The major wheat production states are Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Durhum or hard wheat with high protein content and high gluten content is typically grown in central and western India. The quantity of Durhum wheat is small and is estimated to be about 2.5 million tonnes. Although acreage under wheat cultivation is steadily increasing, the productivity has been more or less stagnating at around 2.4 to 2.7 tonnes per hectre. In 2003-04, 72 million tonnes of wheat was produced from 26.62 million hectres of the farm land giving an yield of 2.7 tonnes per hectre. In India there are about 900 Roller flour mills milling about 12.5 million tonnes of wheat utilizing less than 50 per cent of their installed capacity. As per the Ministry of Food Processing Industry estimate there are about 400000 Chakkis milling 42.5 million tonnes of wheat. The Chakki milled wheat flour normally goes for direct household consumption and the atta (wheat flour) and maida produced in organized roller flour mills normally supply to the industry. Roller flour mill also produces other products including semolina (suji) and other bye products. With low capacity utilization the roller flour mills are not really doing well. Government through Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) distributes and sells wheat all over and Food Corporation of India (FCI) provides the major storage and infrastructure facilities for this purpose. FCI storage system is age old and inadequate and many studies indicated that there a significant loss and pilferage takes place from FCI run storage godowns. The selling price of wheat by Govt. through PDS is quite low to cover Above Poverty Line (APL), Below Poverty Line (BPL) and poorest –of- the poor (POP) consumers. These prices are now fixed at INR 6100 per tonnes for APL, INR 4150 for BPL and INR 2000 per tonne for the POP consumers. Needless to say that significant quantity of the wheat grains distributed through PDS comes back to Chakkis and roller flour mills through parallel market linkages established traditionally by the middlemen. The reason being the market price is much higher. Even the cost of procurement of wheat including the holding is reported to be around INR 9250 per tonne. It is clear therefore, that large part of the subsidy is wasted through this parallel channel as well through the wastage and inefficiency of the system arising out of sub-optimal post harvest handling and storage.

Bakery Products

According to the industry estimates the market size of bread, biscuit and other wheat based products are as given in Table 1.

Table 1: Market size for various sub-segments
Value       Volume

(INR        (million

billion)       tones)

Bread                         38.9           3.75

Biscuits                      68.6           1.95


Based Snacks           29.0           0.29

Branded Atta             13.5           0.90

Pasta Products           8.4            0.14

Total                          158.4          7.03

According to the estimates over 65 per cent of the total wheat produced in the country is utilized for atta production which in turn is consumed for the preparation of Chapatis.

Regionwise consumption of branded atta is said to be as given in Table 2.

Table 2 : Regionwise consumption of branded atta

Region                           Percentage


North                                     47East                                       13
West                                      21

South                                     19


The total bread production in the country is estimated to be 3.75 million tonnes annually growing at a rate of about 6 per cent although the organized sector is said to be growing a little higher rate of 8 per cent. In 1977 government had reserved bread industry for the small scale. However, Britannia Industries Ltd ( BIL) in private sector as well as Modern Food Industries Ltd., a Public Sector Undertaking were permitted to produce bread as per the installed capacity existed at that point of time.

Bakery industry is registering a growth rate of about 10- 12 per cent in volume terms for many years. But the industry structure has not changed in these years. The challenges, competition, technology, market environment have remained almost same all these years with the result that there are no new products in the market, no big innovation. Cost of production has gone up which has forced the players particularly Parle and Britannia to close down some plants and move to low cost production centres where tax relief is also available. The only thing that has changed is packaging quality and availability of many global and overseas brands of bakery products. To that extent we have many choices. Otherwise, the industry appears to me as same as old.

-- This article was first published in "Processed Food Industry" monthly magazine.




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