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A Sweet Bargain

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Indian consumers are beginning to trade cost for quality.

Synonymous with the Indian household, sugar and spices are an integral part of one’s kitchen. With technology and modern retail making the average consumer more educated and health conscious, packaged goods are becoming a favourite among consumers who are ready to shell out an extra buck.

The great Indian consumer understands the value of savings. This is reflected in the way a large number of consumers design their kitchen in India; keeping enough space for storage of goods. During the peak season of harvesting, Indian households generally purchase and store groceries for the entire year. Be it rice, wheat, pulses or spices, the logic has always been to buy when the price is low. These values still rule the consumer mindset.

Modern India and urbanisation, though, are witnessing a change in the consumer habit patterns due to the following factors:

• Better income leading to higher spending

• Education leading to awareness of quality products

• Brands leading to a variety of choices and options

• Technology leading to better and innovative products

Healthy living leading to spending more on heath products

And all these factors have led to the business of packaging and branding gaining popularity among consumers.

Of all household grocery products, sugar leads the way. There are certainly more reasons for a consumer to buy packaged, branded sugar in comparison to unpackaged sugar. Some of these are as follows:

• A consumer can never trust the quality of the sugar they are purchasing

• Loose sugar usually contains impurities such as dust, metals and insects; which are usually transmitted during transportation and storage

weighing machines are used to weigh the product, leading to a mismatch in the quantity and the price

• It is practically impossible to clean loose sugar, unlike other loose products such as rice, pulses or spices

The Market

Sugar, much like any other commodity, is generally sold loose in the Indian market, where quality and hygiene are predominantly overlooked and not considered while making a purchase. In the current market scenario, 98 percent of the sugar sold to consumers in the retail market (general trade and modern retail format), is sold loose. A little over two per cent of sugar sales are sold in branded consumer packs (both company and private label). The outlook for this category is very healthy as the branded sugar segment is growing at more than 10-12 percent.

Shift to Packaged Sugar

Mawana Sugars was the first Indian sugar brand to launch packaged sugar in one and five kg packs. It has been more than 18 years now that Mawana Sugars came up with this concept and today there are many branded players in the packaged sugar segment. The foremost reason behind introducing packaged sugar is the hygiene factor as the sugar manufacturing process by itself is considered muddled, which is followed by the procedures of storage and distribution, thereby, overlooking the health of consumers completely.

Although stringent quality and hygiene standards are already in place (certification form HACCP and ISO) for the manufacturing of packaged sugar, the advantage of packaged sugar is that it is free from all kinds of foreign particles including dust, which is otherwise a usual constituent of the unpackaged sugar. The investments made by Mawana Sugars towards hygiene have paid off. Today living a healthy lifestyle has led people to buy only branded, packaged sugar and consumers do not feel the pinch of paying a little premium for getting a quality product – safe and free of impurities. Although packaged sugar commands a premium of Rs 3-4 over loose sugar, the hygienic and quality benefits far outweigh the cost for most consumers. Therefore, a shift in purchasing habits of today’s consumers has become quite apparent, which is also a reflection of their awareness.

Speciality Sugar

One of the growing segments in sugar consumption is the speciality segment. These are speciality sugars used for specific purposes such as bakery, coffee, cold beverages, sweet savory, etc. This sugar has always been sold in packets for preservation and hygiene purposes. Today one can see a variety of sugar in the market in the branded category – castor sugar, icing sugar, demerara, muscovado, golden syrup, etc. And the properties of these sugars are best preserved in packages.

Benefits Outweigh Expense

The hygienic and convenient benefits of packaged sugar outweigh the few rupees saved in consumption of loose sugar. As consumers become more market savvy and retailers observe consumer behaviour, the trend towards packaged products will continue to rise. However, along with this evolution of hygiene will come the need for evolution in packaging, as plastic and the environment aren’t the best of friends. So, for now packaged sugar is worth its price in gold, as for any family the longterm cost of consuming impurities (ash, black particles, metal) turns out to be higher than consuming pure sugar. Hence, penny saved, pound foolish!!