The slugfest for the numerouno position in the Rs 4,600-crore cream biscuit market has been on for a while now ever since new entrants like ITC and Cadbury joined the fray. Even as the skirmish continues unabated, with each of the brands baking fresh strategies, ITC's Sunfeast, for now, has emerged a clear leader in the segment.
For the year ended October 31, 2013, ITC's cream biscuit market share stands at around 25% in value, according to industry sources who quoted all-India Nielsen numbers. The market share numbers for Parle Products and Britannia for the same period were under 20%.
Exactly a year ago, the three rivals were running a close race with their respective market shares at about 23%. However, there was no clear leader in sight then. Sunfeast, it appears, has inched up by capturing market share from both Britannia and Parle in cream biscuits. Cadbury's Oreo, on the other hand, has maintained its share of 5-6%.
Chitranjan Dar, divisional chief executive, foods division, ITC, attributed the company's gains in cream biscuits to its relentless focus on portfolio enrichment through innovations like Sunfeast Dark Fantasy Choco Fills and Choco Meltz and Sunfeast Dream Cream range. "These flavours have created excitement among consumers and significantly enhanced the consumer franchise of the 'Sunfeast' brand," said Dar. What's helped in the process is ITC Hotels's marketing and distribution infrastructure, which Sunfeast has leveraged to stay ahead of the curve.
Britannia Industries, which restaged its cream biscuit brands Bourbon and Jim Jam along with additional flavours, believes it is seeing significant positive shifts in the premium cream segment. "In an intensely competitive segment with high levels of investment, our focused approach is paying dividends," a Britannia spokesperson said. Britannia believes the "indulgence category" is key to its portfolio of both cookies and creams, which addresses differential consumer preferences.
Although a mail sent to Parle Products did not elicit a response till the time of going into print, the company has collaborated with Warner Bros to introduce a biscuit range embedded with Tom and Jerry faces. Parle Products believes the move will strengthen its dominant position in the overall Rs 21,000-crore odd biscuit market.
Industry analysts said the biscuit market has undergone a drastic change in the last decade. For one, the share of the organized market, which at one point used to be just about 10%, has gone up significantly to become more than half of the total size. "The high-end cream biscuit market is even more organized. Sunfeast was launched at the right time when the organized market was expanding. This helped the brand to expand rapidly in a market, which was for years dominated by Britannia and Parle," said ParasBothra, VP, equity research, Ashika Stock Broking.