labels: foods / beverages, mtr foods, advertising/branding
Ready to eatnews
23 November 2002
Mumbai: MTR Foods is happy that the percentage of Indian working women is rising at a brisk pace. Why? As a result of which the demand for instant or ready-to-eat foods has increased.

The MTR brand has a great presence in the markets of northern and western India, where the number of women going to office is more. And MTR Foods, the owner of the MTR brand of food products, is launching a number of new products aimed at the northern markets, backed by a national advertising campaign.

The company also plans to widen its distribution network. It expects to increase its total sales to Rs 500 crore annually by 2006 from the projected Rs 120 crore this, year with the share of non-south region targeted to increase to 50 per cent from 15 per cent this year, says MTR Foods CEO J Suresh.

In just eight months of making a foray into north India, MTR Foods is already supplying its products to 12,000 outlets in the region. Suresh says in that period MTR Foods has penetrated all towns with over 5-lakh population, and in Punjab its reach is in all towns with a population of more than 1 lakh.

To back up the launch of its north Indian menu offerings like dal, rajma and bhindi, the company has released a new advertising campaign created by Ogilvy & Mather, which aims to familiarise consumers in the north and western parts of the country with the brand.

Brand width
Hence the campaign, mainly aimed at image building, will focus on MTR (originally Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) as a name that stands for ''pure and perfect'' food instead of talking of the various product offerings from MTR. That will come later when the brand becomes more established.

Along with the positioning, the company has decided to launch a new-look logo and a contemporary packaging. The new logo will include the ''pure and perfect'' positioning, with the tagline, ''Since 1924,'' which the company feels will influence perceptions that it is a trustworthy brand, say officials.

For the western and northern markets, the company intends to focus on its range of 20 ready-to-eat products, which, incidentally, celebrity chef Jiggs Kalra has helped develop. The company feels that there is bound to be intense competition in ordinary spices like chilli powder and turmeric from established north Indian players like MDH Masalas and Badshah Masalas, and it would not be prudent to fight them.

Senior company officials say MTR's competitive advantage is in its ready-to-eat snacks and sweet mixes. Some time ago, MTR Foods had entered the vegetarian frozen foods category with the launch of a range of frozen food products under the flagship brand MTR.

Launched with an investment of Rs 2 crore, MTR's frozen foods range comprise 17 products, including samosas, spring rolls, dosas, parathas and even curries, priced at Rs 5 onwards. Besides advertising, the brand will rely on house-to-house interactions with consumers, demos and participation in exhibitions.

Exclusive retail outlets
Other plans of the company include opening a chain of exclusive retail outlets in major metros in the next fiscal. Some months ago, the company made a beginning in Bangalore with the launch of Namma MTR (namma in Kannada means 'our'). The 2,000-sq ft store is unique in its design in that apart from retailing MTR's wide product range, it also has a model kitchen where the entire MTR fare is cooked and sampled by customers.

Suresh says the contribution of non-south markets to MTR's total turnover has been steadily increasing. While non-south markets contributed 10 per cent of the revenues last year, in the current financial year it will go up to 15 per cent.

In the next two-three years, the contribution of north and south markets to the total turnover should be 50:50, he believes. MTR is also looking at export markets and is planning to enter into a joint venture with a Singapore-based food company, though the company doesn't want to reveal the name now.

With this joint venture, MTR Foods will get into marketing value-added snack foods, which will go a long way into making MTR a total meal solutions provider, say company sources. Also the company hopes that the proposed joint venture will contribute significantly towards MTR's long-term objective of achieving a turnover of Rs 500 crore by 2005.

The company expects to clock a turnover of Rs 120 crore this fiscal compared to Rs 87 crore last year. MTR's closest competitor is the ready-to-serve food brand Tasty Bite. Promoted by the Maiya family, MTR Foods was set up in 1924 with the setting up of a food outlet in Bangalore known by the name of Mavalli Tiffin Rooms. The outlet soon became well known for its wholesome, clean and tasty snacks and meals.

In the late 70s, MTR Foods first launched packaged processed food products. The first products launched were Rava Idly Mix and Khara Bhaath Mix, sold through the MTR department stores counter in Bangalore.

After this, MTR Foods launched Sambar and Rasam Powders as well as Vanghibath, Chutney Powder, Sagoo Mix and Pakoda Mix. This was the beginning of MTR's efforts to market packaged instant food mixes.

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