New Delhi, July 12: ITC, the venerable Calcutta-based tobacco major, wants to shed its smoky image and be known more as a food giant.
To get into the popular mindset as a food manufacturer, ITC now plans to enter the lower and obviously larger end of the ready-to-eat food market estimated to be worth about Rs 40,000 crore, with a range of ‘heat and eat’ meals under the ‘Aashirwad ready meals’ brand.
Aashirwad is a brand name ITC has already been able to make popular with its packed milled products like atta and salt. Other milled products on the anvil include maida, suji and dalia.
“Everybody needs to eat, no matter whether they smoke or not. That’s why this will be the new mantra for us,” said a company spokesperson. ITC had earlier made a foray into the up-market ready-to-eat food under the brand name ‘Kitchens of India’. However, the high prices of the product restricted the brand to an extremely narrow market and did not really bring much mileage either in terms of revenues or publicity to Virginia House.
Priced between Rs 35 and 40 for 285 gram packs, the Aashirwad range of eat and heat products include Rajma Masala, Dal Makhni, Aloo Mutter and Palak Paneer. In contrast, ‘Kitchens of India’ which was the product of an interface between the hotel business and packaged food business, since it packages the favourites it sells in its five-star hotels like ‘Dal Bukhara’, ‘Chicken Chettinad’, ‘Mirch baingan ka salaan’ and ‘Khubani ka meetha’.
The foods business is the most recent diversification of ITC group. “ITC’s decision to enter the foods business is part of a strategic decision to develop new product lines by synergising its core competencies in building brands,” the spokesperson said.
ITC officials said, “The company has taken to heart the advice given by consultancy firm McKinsey, to diversify into food and retailing of clothes.”
ITC Foods also markets Minto brand of confectioneries and Candyman brand of hard-boiled toffees.