Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Paper Boat out to solve Covid era pani puri, golgappa pangs with ready to cook version

Brands like Haldiram’s, Frylo and Jalani have launched their own variants of DIY ‘pani puris’ in both ready to serve and ready to cook formats.

‘Golgappa’, ‘pani puri’, ‘gupchup’, ‘fuchka’… It is very likely that you haven’t had it in the last several months and are already salivating at the mention of such mouth-watering snacks. As a street food item, it’s one of those necessary evils that one tends to make peace with.

‘Pani puri’ carts always pull crowds (maybe not so much in the Covid era), despite its so-called unhygienic nature. It is, however, a very serious no-no in the Covid era, as erstwhile villains like E. coli and Salmonella take a back seat and the more fatal Coronavirus takes charge. Google India reportedly saw a major surge in searches for ‘pani puri’ recipes as the country went into lockdown in March.

However, brands like Paper Boat are trying to get consumers to make their own ‘pani puris’ at home. Paper Boat has just launched ready-to-cook ‘pani puri’ pellets, along with the two ‘pani’ beverages – spicy and sweet and sour – that go with the ‘puri’. While the pellets are priced at Rs 200 for 400 gram, the drinks come in the Paper Boat sipper pouches (Rs 30 for 200ml).

An extremely unorganised food category, brands have tried to organise it in the past with their own variants of DIY ‘pani puris’. Readymade ‘pani puri’ packs come in multiple formats. Brands like Haldiram’s and Frylo pack, their ready-to-serve fried ‘puris’ along with cut-pour-stir powder mixes. Another brand Jalani, like Paper Boat, serves its ‘puris’ in a ready-to-cook format.

With traditional and (Indian) household beverages at its core, Paper Boat has also forayed into non-beverage categories like ‘chikki’, banana chips and ‘aam papad’ over the last few years. Paper Boat’s ‘pani puri’ is also, in a way, the brand’s first step in the ready-to-cook segment. The brand has always played high on ‘nostalgia’ and ‘memories’, and this reflects in its social media creatives during the launch.

“Apologies for robbing you of the fun of proclaiming, ‘Bhaiya, ek extra puri dena’, but we suspect it’s a small price to pay for unparalleled taste of roadside ‘golgappa’ at home,” reads a post on the brand’s Instagram profile.

This is also, in a way, Paper Boat’s second go at a ‘pani puri’ product. The brand had earlier launched ‘Golgappe ka Pani’, the spicy-tangy ‘pani puri’ liquid filled in a packed ready-to-drink beverage format.

Neeraj Kakkar, Co-founder and CEO of Hector Beverages (the company that owns Paper Boat), says, “Due to Covid-19, this one thing that we loved so dearly, has completely disappeared from our lives today. But our love and longing for the delicacy hasn’t. Paper Boat prides itself as the harbinger of native flavours from across the country. We launched our ‘golgappa pani’ years ago. Consumers shared a lot of love for this drink, as it was both hygienic and tasty.”

Kakkar says that putting together the complete ‘pani puri’ package was already in the books and the launch was only accelerated by the Covid need gap.

“We spent a lot of time researching ‘pani puris’, and how to deliver them to consumers in a safe and convenient way. We had already initiated the process, but Covid-19 made us accelerate it. Paper Boat ‘pani puri’ pellets are ready-to-fry, or ready-to-microwave. Freshly made ‘puris’ are now convenient. They are also made with utmost hygiene, hence are safer than readily available ‘puris’. Neatly packed, they can be fried at home and turned into the perfect accessory to the ‘pani’. Since they are pellets, there is no concern of breakage. It can be consumed at a go, or can be saved for future use,” Kakkar adds.

He mentions that the variations in the sweet and spicy choice for consumers were quite subjective, and the brand had to launch separate ‘teekha’ and ‘meetha’ ‘panis’. “With this, consumers can make concoctions based on their mood and courage for spice.”

The new packs have been designed by Pune-based strategic design consultancy Elephant Design and, unlike most others in the space, the packs don’t display the ready ‘puris’. They, instead, flaunt the ready-to-cook pellets.

Ashwini Deshpande, Co-founder and Director, Elephant Design says, “Design language for Paper Boat has been crafted for flexibility. It is a world of fresh ownable imagery, icons and words that are full of goodness and simplicity. The decision to show pellets is aligned to the honesty of the brand. We did not want to give an impression of delivering ready ‘puri’ and wanted to be absolutely transparent about what you need to do to get the ‘puri’ ready.”

Ruchira Jain, Founder, Elevate Insights (former Director, Insights, PepsiCo; and VP, Insights, Swiggy), says that the DIY space has seen a lot of interest during Covid and, hence, this is a great time for Paper Boat to launch its ‘pani puri’ proposition. “‘Pani puri’ was one of the highly searched recipes, as consumers tried to recreate the ‘bahar ke khane ka magic’ at home. I can see a lot of pull and trial for this, as there are few branded options in this space. The real test, of course, will be the taste.”

Jain adds that the new product matches Paper Boat’s core propositions of nostalgia and memories, as most consumers have grown up with such traditional food items. “The choice of ‘khatta’ and ‘meetha’ ‘pani’ shows their understanding of regional and personal preferences when it comes to ‘chaat’ type foods,” she signs off.

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