'. Indians often refer to jam as Kissan Jam, and that is because generations have grown up consuming Kissan's Mixed Fruit Jam for breakfast. However, when supply chain mechanisms of most companies, including that of Hindustan Unilever, which manufactures Kissan Jam, came to a halt during the Coronavirus lockdown last year, consumers had little choice but to try out locally manufactured brands. By virtue of their proximity to the market, the local brands were able to service customers better.
Panchgani-based Mala's Fruit Product's jams and ketchups came to the rescue of consumers not just in Maharashtra but also in adjoining Gujarat, through general trade as well as ecommerce platforms such as Grofers and Big Basket. Murtaza Mala, Partner, Mala's Fruit Products, says that jams and ketchup saved his business during the peak of the lockdown. "In fact, jams and ketchup helped us run our factories."
Though Mala's father, Taiyab Mala, started the business way back in 1958 by making six bottles of strawberry jam everyday, it was the Mala's juices, crushes and cordials which eventually became popular. A trip to Panchgani would never be complete without indulging in strawberry and cream topped with generous portions of strawberry crush at the Mala's restaurant. Almost 40 per cent of Mala's revenues comes from the HOREKA segment, where it supplies its beverages, crushes and cordials.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, when the restaurants shut down Mala's beverage business came to a complete halt. "Even after the restaurants opened, consumers were averse to consuming cold beverages because they feared they would catch a cold. The beverage business is coming back now, but it's still not what it was pre-COVID," explains Mala. It was during this time that the company's food business (jams and sauces) took off in general trade and ecommerce.
Around 40 per cent of the company's business through the COVID months have come from general trade. "We do a lot of R&D on fruit-based products. In fact, our jams have 100 per cent fruit pulp unlike others which use only 40 per cent pulp."
Apart from HORECA and general trade, around 20 per cent of the company's revenue in the past few months has been coming from contract manufacturing. The private label jam, ketchup, and ready-to-drink fruit beverages of most retail chains are manufactured by Mala's. "Contract manufacturing has grown by 100 per cent in the past couple of years," claims Mala.
COVID, says the third-generation entrepreneur, has taught him the importance of having a basket of products. "You need to have a basket of products, comprising of products which people eat on a regular basis. Beverages are a party phenomenon, not a regular consumption item." Mala's has 200 SKUs and manufactures 200 tonnes of jam everyday.