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From humble loaf to slice of multi-grain joy

Sunday March 13, 2011 12:38:08 PM, Manpreet Kaur, IANS

New Delhi: Time was when bread came in white or brown, and anything more sophisticated would entail a drive to a special bakery. But just walk down to your friendly neighbourhood store today and a profusion of bread varieties greets you - multi-grain, whole wheat, garlic, dalia, fenugreek and more. Thanks to growing awareness about health and also more adventurous eating habits, the demand for new health-based or flavoured breads has gone up in Indian metros. And manufacturers have been more than happy to oblige.

Ramesh Mago, president of the All India Bread Manufacturers Association (AIBMA), says, "At least 30-40 varieties of bread are easily available in the market."

"Consumers have become health-conscious and to keep up with their demand, manufacturers have come up with a variety of breads," said Gurbachan Singh, the owner of a grocery store in New Friends Colony.

"New variety is a big hit. Consumers have understood that eating maida is not good for health; so wheat, daliya and multi-grain breads have become part of their daily meal," Singh added.

Consuming fibrous food is part of healthy diet. Whole grain bread, which is made with whole grains and seeds such as atta, barley, gram, soya flour, oats, sesame, and other seasonal fruit and vegetable seeds is the most sought after.

Then there are fruits and dry fruit-based breads such as olive, walnut and fruit bread. Other varieties available in the market are corn bread, mushroom and foccacia.

What's more, it doesn't pinch your pocket. An 800 gm loaf of white bread costs Rs.20, while 400 gm of multi-grain bread is priced at Rs.35; 350 gm brown bread Rs.17; and 480 gm dalia bread comes for Rs.25.

Harvest Gold is one of the first companies that took the bread variety to the common man's doorstep.

"In 2007, we brought the American concept to India. We were the first to bring the variety to local markets. There are about 27 to 28 different varieties, including pizza bases, that we produce," Darab Khan, marketing head of Harvest Gold, told IANS.

"The graph has definitely shown an increase in demand, specially brown (wheat) bread, which fetches us 100 percent sales. The section of health-conscious people has increased drastically in the past five years and it is the sole reason why the concept of taking a variety of breads to local market came into being," he added.

Sales of dalia and multi-grain breads are also picking up.

"We receive 50 percent rejection in products like dalia and multi-grain breads due to various reasons. The concept is a hit in posh colonies. It hasn't reached the remote areas yet, but it will be a big hit in the next few years," Khan added.

Another company selling a variety is Gopala; and there is Hindustan Unilever Ltd which makes modern atta bread.

Has this affected sales in bakeries?

"No point denying that it has definitely dipped our sales," Manoj, an attendant at Maxim's bakery in south Delhi, told IANS.

"Now people pick up their choice of breads from local markets when they go for their daily grocery shopping. But there are customers who emphasise on the product being fresh; also, for some, loyalty is also a force that brings them to bakery shops."

Neha Gupta, a professional, said: "Multi-grain is a healthy option and it is available locally. When I am getting something at Rs.35, why should I shell out Rs.50 just because it is from an elite bakery?"

According to Mago of AIBMA, the per capita consumption of bread is 2.3 kg per year and the growth rate is around three percent annually.

It is still not an organised sector. A recent data analysis by Omega Analytics reveals that the organised sector production of bread comes up to 1,500,000 mt (megatonne).

And the white bread still rules.

Rajesh of Britannia, which manufactures only white bread, says its reach is greater in the interiors and it doesn't face any competition.

"White bread still rules the market and covers most of the localities. Middle-class and lower middle-class families, specially in small towns and villages, still opt for white bread."

But, he concedes, "Yes, in the posh colonies and localities of metros, variety has tried to make a place for itself."

(Manpreet Kaur can be contacted at






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