INDIA – Reliance Retail, the retail arm of Indian multinational conglomerate, Reliance Industries (RIL), has plans to elevate more than 50 traditional, regional sweets (mithai) to have a competitive advantage over modern chocolate brands.

The Indian chocolate market is among the world’s fastest-growing markets for chocolates, research firm IMARC Group reports.

The market research firm forecast the Indian chocolate market valued at US$2.2 billion in 2021, to reach US$3.8 billion by 2027.

Cadbury and 5-Star maker Mondelez leads the category, with other significant players being Nestle, which makes KitKat and Munch, and Mars Wrigley, which makes Galaxy, Snickers, Twix, and Ferrero.

Although India’s chocolate market is poised for growth, the traditional sweets market remains largely unorganized even as it houses hundreds of specialized local players.

With the outlook, the retail arm has entered into a distribution deal with the makers of mithai from across India to distribute, mass produce, modernize packaging and develop traditional Indian sweets with extended shelf life.

These packaged mithais such as laddos, barfis, and pedas, which are being positioned to compete with chocolate brands such as Cadbury and KitKat, are already being placed at all Reliance grocery stores such as Smart Bazaar, Smart, and other grocery formats, besides Reliance Retail’s e-commerce platform JioMart.

Reliance Retail is also planning to take the partnerships with traditional sweets makers further with the development of single-serve packs of these mithais which will be placed at Kirana stores as the business scales up.

At its grocery stores, Reliance Retail has already created multiple bays and free-standing units for traditional sweets, similar to what modern trade stores do for chocolates and confectionery brands.

 So far, the partnerships have led to over 500 packs and hundred varieties of traditional sweets being accommodated in the stores, and the company is looking to partner with more local players.

Damodar Mall, chief executive of grocery retail at Reliance Retail, stated: “We want to democratize traditional sweets and not relegate a particular variety to a region.”

We are offering them access to the distribution network, technical know-how, modern packaging, and developing their products for extended shelf-life.”

The scaling up coincides with the peak festive season in India followed by the wedding season, with discretionary product makers including those selling gourmet foods, reporting a double-digit surge in sales.

Mall noted that the company wants to take consumption of traditional sweets beyond seasonal opportunities.

Proofing to be benefiting from these partnerships, Reliance Retail has set internal projections for sales to surpass that of chocolates by 10 times, according to an executive directly aware of the developments.

However, analysts view the competitive nature of traditional sweets as challenging, considering that packaged chocolate makers are backed by heavy marketing budgets and retail clout.

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