Frying up innovation
It’s no secret that Indians are fond of fried snacks. With nifty innovations that put a hygienic and handy twist to traditional fries and street food, TTK Foods has a flavourful and firm hold on both market and taste bud.
Making traditional snacks like ‘papads’ by hand is laborious and time consuming. A eureka moment happened when TTK Group Chairman TT Jagannathan realised that he could mechanise the process by adding an extruder to the regular Italian pasta machine. This reengineering led to the birth of ready-to-fry ‘Fryums’ and the setting up of a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Hosakote, on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
Fryums took the market by storm when it was launched in 1985. Since then, it has become a generic name for snacks of its ilk, and competitors in both organised and the larger unorganised sectors have followed with imitations. The market for ready-to-fry snack pellet is a mind boggling Rs. 2000 crore, comprising mostly of manufacturers in the unorganised sector with a few in the organised sector. Fryums has set the benchmark and sits pretty at upper end of the price spectrum, supplying to wholesalers who retail it under different labels.
While traditional papads don’t lend themselves to many shape variations, Fryums are available in 30 different shapes ranging from 2D (two dimensional) wheels, sticks, stars, checks, ribbed chip to 3D (three dimensional) triangles, hearts, pillows. They are in a blast of flavours – onion, garlic, coriander and mint, and the base goes from good ol’ potato, cereal, rice, pulses, corn to specialty bases such as lentil, hummus and new-age superfood quinoa.
Cut to 2012 when Jagannathan’s son Lakshman Thattai launched a hygienic alternative to the pan-Indian street favourite ‘panipuri’. Typically sold by street hawkers, panipuris used to be manufactured in unhygienic surroundings. TTK’s compressed panipuri pellet just needs to be dropped into hot oil and it becomes a puri, and is known as the Fryum 3D. These perfectly shaped panipuri papads brought in hygiene and convenience. TTK Foods is now the biggest manufacturer of panipuri papads in India, with a one third share of the Rs. 70 crore market.
Continual innovation has enabled it to reach out beyond its primary customers of wholesalers and repackagers and develop customised products for companies like PepsiCo in India and other countries. It is the only company in the industry to have an R&D centre, a product team and a pilot plant, which are all located in Bengaluru. And it’s here that all the new flavours and shapes are tested.
Its products are exported to 18 countries, directly and indirectly, and the company is moving from a mostly B2B focus to B2C, to sell its brands directly to customers. With considerable investments in this business by TT Raghunathan, Executive Chairman of TTK Healthcare, ( TTK Foods is a strategic business unit of TTK Healthcare), new production lines in the Hosakote factory have been established to churn out 800 tonnes of papads, and a new factory in Jaipur can produce an equal number.