Cornflakes and oats invasion, 10 rupees at a time
What does a breakfast cost in India? Depends what you choose to eat or cook. A breakfast for three in urban south India, with dosa, averekal akki and ragi roti (and three small filter coffees), will cost within 100 rupees at an ordinary udupi cafe. A kilogram of wheat rava or rice rava, from which you can cook several upma breakfasts, will cost no more than 50 rupees from a small grocer in a middle-class ward of any town or city. A packet of poha (beaten rice) costs around 45 rupees a kilogram.
Now consider the cornflakes and oats breakfasts that are being marketed both by food MNCs in India (such as Quaker Oats, which is PepsiCo India, FritoLay Division; or Kellogg India; or Saffola, Marico Limited). [See the new post, ‘Let them eat biscuits’.]
Quaker Oats sells sachets of oats-based breakfasts for 10 rupees each. These are flavours such as ‘Homestyle masala’. ‘Kesar kishmish’, ‘Lemony veggie’ and ‘Strawberry apple’. Saffola sells sachets of oats-based breakfasts for 15 rupees each, and its flavours are ‘Curry and pepper’, ‘Masala and coriander’ and ‘Pepper and spice’. Then there is Kellogg’s which has for example ‘Corn flakes strawberry’ and ‘Corn flakes chocos’, both for 10 rupees.
The per kilo prices of these almost-ready breakfasts (warm milk or hot water to be added) can be seen in the table below:
Why has this happened? Part of the reason is that food products manufacturers, and in particular breakfast cereals companies, find it is cheaper to pack dry ready-to-eat (milk or water to be added) portions in strips of single-use sachets than in a plastic containers. The prices at which these are sold are in simple multiples – 5, 10 and 15, with the grammage being adjusted for these prices. This is the ugly side of the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ market, a foul term that ignores the mis-nutrition these food companies are responsible for in their pursuit of the price-conscious consumer (rural and urban alike). It also ignores the environmental aspect of such packaging, the costs of which are borne by towns and cities in the form of increasing per capita loads of plastic, packaging and laminated sachets.