Spices have been an integral part of India’s external trade for centuries, linking the ancient Indian civilisation to the civilisations of Babylon, Carthage, Alexandria, and Rome. Buying spices is so inexpensive now that it seems hard to believe that once they were valued as highly as gold and silver, having driven a seafaring Vasco da Gama to cross mighty oceans to establish spice trade with India in 1498.
At present, India is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices. The country produces about 75 of the 109 varieties listed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and accounts for half of the global trading in spices. As per studies conducted by various market research organisations, the Indian spices market is worth Rs. 40,000 crore annually. Key spices produced in the country include pepper, cardamom, chili, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, celery, fennel, fenugreek, ajwaini, dill seed, garlic, tamarind, clove and nutmeg among others. The market is largely unorganised and the branded organised segment makes up about 15% of the total market share.
Though enjoying a small portion of the total market, the organised spice market is well-placed to grow based on changing consumer preferences, innovative branding, safe packing procedures and planned diversifications. Speaking to BE, Vinod Jain, Director, JK Spices and Food Products, informed, “With the advent of internet, consumers are aware of quality standards and require solutions to add ease in daily cooking. JK Masale claims that its products cater to these evolving needs. We have also introduced various packaging sizes, besides innovating in various blends for ease of meal preparation while maintaining consistency in its quality. We are constantly researching and developing new products and refining the existing ones.”
Diversification and innovation is an important part of the expansion strategy of players in the organised spice market. Jain stated, “We recently launched JK Poha as we found that there is strong demand for quality flattened rice. The market for flattened rice is largely unorganised and it being a staple for Indian households, it was appropriate for a company like ours to venture into this product category to satisfy consumer demand. Additionally, we have newer spice blends in the pipeline that include biryani masala, tikka masala, tea masala, tadka masala, aloo dum masala and jaljira powder.” The company has also diversified into the organised retail segment and opened it maiden retail store - JK Lifestore in 2008 in Kolkata and presently has three outlets.
Ensuring a continuous flow of quality spices into the market is essential for the players in the organised spice market. JK Spices has three integrated manufacturing units – one each in Gujarat, West Bengal and Rajasthan – with an annual capacity of 30,000 tonne and plans to expand its production base driven by growing demands. Jain stated, “JK Masale witnessed over 60% jump in its turnover and registered Rs. 245 crore in FY18, aided by national branding and marketing. The company hopes to continue these activities as it targets around 50% growth in sales this fiscal (FY19) to reach Rs. 360 crore.”
The organised spice market, due to its restricted size and large number of players, is highly competitive. Most of the players in this sector depend on strong marketing strategies to aid their growth. Recently, JK Spices which has a strong presence in eastern India (Bihar, Bengal and Odisha) where it claims it has 35% market share, introduced Bengali actress Priyanka Sarkar as its new face. Other important players in the segment also depend on celebrities for their marketing requirements.
According to IBEF data, India exported 1,028,060 tonnes of spices and spice products which were valued at around Rs. 17,929.55 crore for the 2017-18 fiscal. Exports grew by 8% in terms of volume and 6% in terms of value. The US is the top export destination for Indian spices followed by Vietnam, China, UAE and Malaysia. It is expected that with renewed governmental focus on the export market through initiatives such as setting up of spice parks, organised players in the sector will be encouraged.