Agri Business

ITC enters crowded branded rice market with Sona Masoori

Abhishek Law Vishwanath Kulkarni Kolkata/Bengaluru | Updated on December 21, 2018

FMCG major ITC Ltd has made a quiet entry into the packaged rice segment, mainly the non-basmati variety. Market sources say the company is piloting with the ‘sona masoori’ variety in Bengaluru.

‘Sona masoori’ is one of the fine variety of non-basmati rice and is largely grown in the Tungabhadra belt of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It is largely consumed in South India, mainly in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Under the present pilot, that began a couple of weeks ago, ITC is selling in 25-kg packs offering ‘free home delivery’ at an special offer price of ₹1,400 per bag.

Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive, Foods Business, ITC Ltd, said “Leveraging the company’s agri-sourcing expertise, we have initiated a pilot in Bengaluru to sell Sona Masoori rice under the Aashirvaad brand. The approach in the initial phase of this pilot is like that of a start-up and the focus is on enabling consumer feedback and insights.”

Tough competition

The entry of large players like ITC, which have a wide distribution network, into marketing of staples will result in increased competition, say traders and rice millers. There are hundreds of non-basmati rice brands which are sold in 5-, 10- and 25-kg packs.

Already, Patanjali and Adani Wilmar (Fortune brand) have launched sona masoori variants in select markets. Other major branded packaged rice companies include the likes of KRBL (that owns India Gate brand), LT Foods (Dawaat), Kohinoor, Patanjali and so on. However, most of these are basmati rice offerings

The ‘Aashirvaad’ brand was set up in 2002 to sell atta and later expanded into other categories such as spices, salt, ghee, milk, and instant mix offerings. The brand has a consumer spend of over ₹4,000 crore.

It is not known by when ITC plans a formal foray or a pan-India presence into the packaged rice segment. Nor is it still clear if the company will look at regional variants.

Market sources said, ITC already exports both basmati and non-basmati rice to some African and West Asian markets. And naturally then it has its own procurement and logistics network.

Published on December 20, 2018

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