Breaking into a segment like spices is always a big challenge given it is heavily dominated by legacy brands like Everest, Badshah, Spices, etc. which are giants in the game. Not to mention, these legacy brands have a loyal consumer base who would not want to experiment with their kitchen essentials. However, despite the strong competition, some brands are relying on an effective strategy to make their own space in the industry.
Founded in 2019, spices company Artisanal Gourmet Spices (Masala Tokri) has been clocking 25-30 percent growth through the challenging recent years. The company has now almost covered entire Maharashtra and plans to expand to other metro cities and explore international markets. Much of the company’s growth relies on the uniqueness of its products.
“One of the most important unique points is the product itself. When you open your product, you will get a difference in the aroma. It is because we make our spices freshly pounded. We will not be giving the spices that were created 3-4 months ago and making freshly-packed spices,” said Aarti Samant, Co-founder, Masala Tokri.
In fact, the company's operations are heavily labor-oriented and 60 percent of processes happen manually like cleaning, segregation, and hand pounding.
The other distinguishing factor of the brand is that the spices are not generic or mass-produced but rather carefully built to give specific indigenous flavors from various Indian cities like Awadh, etc.
The brain behind such products is the other co-founder, Aarti’s mother, Urmila Samant, who has studied spices from across India and brought her experience to their products.
Aarti shared, “We have been in the business of spices for the last 10-15 years in B2B when we had Masala Chakkis back in Dongriveli in Bombay where brands used to come and we used to do the hand pounding (this was part of their family business). My mother is a culinary expert, extremely passionate about food, and took an interest about four years ago in learning the art of blending spices. And, she learned to make her own blend."
"In a matter of 4-5 months, she made her own 20-25 blend everything by herself, created her own branding, " Aarti further added. Back then it was called Urmila’s Masale.
Then, the mother-daughter duo started distributing to their friends and family to get first-hand feedback. That's when they realized they were onto something.
Aarti shared, “I am in the business of creating brands (worked as a head-planner for many brands), I thought it would be a massive disservice if I don’t make something out of what she has created. Then we started creating the process 4 years ago."
The duo realized that there is a space to create a premium luxury brand for quality that does not stand for mass production but stands for certain taste and sensibility. In other words, according to the brand, what Kama Ayurveda has done in the skincare category, is what they want to stand for in the spices category.
The D2C focused digital brand is available at Swiggy Instamart, Foodhall, and in a few retail outlets.
Strong Social Media Strategy
Given the unique offerings the company has, in order to make its audience aware of the same, it has to rely on a strong social media strategy.
“Our Instagram is definitely a super-active community. We know the pulse of them and we get immediate feedback from them. We constantly show them behind-the-scenes,” Aarti said.
In fact, for the creation of their spices, they regularly rely on its Instagram community, get feedback and build on them. "We are working on launching four more variants,” the company added.
Mitigating Challenges and Future Plans
One of the biggest challenges the company faced, much like other spices brands, is a lot of frauds happening, and the sector is mostly unorganized.
"I spoke to other brands, there is a big surge in fraud. We raised a police complaint, luckily everything got sorted," Aarti said.
The major challenge faced is the brand being bootstrapped, it has to rely a lot on 'Jugaad' to get through the troubled times. The company is now keen on raising funds and talking with investors who got interested.
However, with the third wave on the rise, the challenges certainly are not over. Most of India is now facing some sort of curfew situation, which only makes the matter challenging.
Aarti stated, "I have decided to embrace the wave. When the market opens up, we will focus a lot on offline penetration. And, when there is a wave, we focus on online penetration."
Right now the brand, which is chiefly focused on Maharashtra and is close to capturing all of it, wants to tap into other cities like Bangalore, and Delhi. This year's target is to clock 40 percent growth.
Also, they want to take risks from an export point of view and launch interesting products for customers, the company stated.