Published in Sep-Oct 2017
Sunridge Foods, a company established in 2015, has recently introduced a whole wheat flour brand called Sunridge Chakki Atta to meet consumer demand for natural, healthy and hygienic whole wheat flour.
Wheat is a dietary staple in Pakistan. It is the main source of nutrition for most Pakistanis and contributes about 72% of the country’s daily caloric intake, with a per capita wheat consumption of approximately 124 kgs per year, one of the highest in the world. About 50% of the wheat flour (atta) obtained from wheat is used in households to make different kinds of flat breads (roti, chapati and naan), while the other half is processed into white flour (maida) – with negligible bran content – to make bakery products (biscuits, bread, cakes and pastries), noodles, pizzas, semolina and other sweetmeats.
Fortunately, it is grown abundantly in Pakistan, with an annual production amounting to 25 million tons, which translates to Rs 800 to 900 billion. Until 2015, the crop alone contributed about 10% of value added in agriculture and 2.1% of the GDP (source: United States Department of Agriculture report: Grain and Feed Annual Pakistan).
Yet, despite huge production and being the most important basic grocery item in Pakistan, the wheat category has largely remained unorganised. The market is regionalised with different small players operating in specific provinces and towns; and until 2015, there existed no national wheat flour brand (Onaaj, launched in 2015 by Engro Foods and discontinued last year, was the first and only national brand). Hence, the branded flour category is a mere five percent of which a big chunk belongs to white flour and the strongest player is Ashrafi.
Speaking about their product, Muhammad Amin, CEO, Sunridge, says the company had long been thinking of introducing a national wheat flour brand, “but it took us two years to establish the factory and begin operations.”
As to why wheat flour was chosen as Sunridge Foods’ first product, Amin says that although today Pakistan is the world’s seventh largest producer of wheat, unfortunately, the milling process and technology has not kept pace with the increase in the crop’s production. With the exception of a few companies that are using modern machinery for milling wheat, the prevailing method consists of grinding atta in a chakki (traditional mill), the core of which is the grinding stone; the problem is that this method no longer meets today’s food safety and production consistency requirements.
The focus of Sunridge’s TVC revolves around making that perfect roti; from the clash of the two wheat stalks to running the flour through the fingers, to kneading it and rolling it until it turns into a fluffy ball on the stove and lands smoothly on the plate.
Amin was of the view that with progressive urbanisation, consumers have become more health and hygiene-conscious and now demand high quality and sanitation when it comes to things edible. Today’s consumers want to know the ingredients they eat, the energy value of every food and the calorie count, yet surprisingly, he adds wheat is one food they tend to overlook.
“They consciously read nutrition charts on food packages but don’t pay attention to the wheat they consume every day; its contents, nutrition and how it has been made.”
To address this issue, Amin says the company has brought in the latest, state-of-the-art PESA Mill technology at their plant in Port Qasim, Karachi. In a completely automated milling process, the wheat is not exposed to external elements; all dirt and bacteria are removed effectively while all the nutrition of the whole wheat flour remains intact. Furthermore, industry experts are of the view that a chakki mill can only handle about 300 kg of wheat at a time; a PESA Mill can replace up to 20 chakki mills with its high throughput capacity.
“Most of all, it consistently delivers the same good quality, unlike the atta from a chakki mill, which is different every time,” says Amin.
As packaging plays a vital role when it comes to wheat and its shelf life, Sunridge Foods made it a point to come up with leak-proof, plastic packaging that not only retains the quality and hygiene of the flour, but protects it from environmental moisture and contamination by insects, pests, microbes and dust. The orange-coloured packaging (that comes in two SKUs: five kg for Rs 265 and 10 kg for Rs 525) was designed by Sunridge’s creative agency IAL Saatchi & Saatchi.
The front of the packaging shows two fluffy and appetising rotis with a golden wheat field in the background to convey two messages to the consumer: first, that this flour is 100% wheat and second, that it makes the softest of rotis.
Giving further details, Tahniah Manzar, Associate Creative Director, IAL Saatchi & Saatchi, says that the agency conducted a Q&A-based research for the product. They deduced that those were the two basic elements a Pakistani consumer wants from his wheat flour: softness and whole wheat content.
“We wanted our message to be clear. Instead of saying 20,000 things, we wanted to make a few promises and live up to them,” adds Amin, seconding Manzar.
This is also the reason why the focus of Sunridge’s TVC revolves around making that perfect roti; from the clash of the two wheat stalks to running the flour through the fingers, to kneading it and rolling it until it turns into a fluffy ball on the stove and lands smoothly on the plate.
The TVC was shot in Poland using high-speed bolt camera as the technology required to take good food shots is not available in Pakistan. The TVC features an Indian woman who plays the mum and a Polish boy as her son. It was directed by Nick Sawyer, a film director, and Director of Photography (DoP) from the UK, who has directed commercials for various brands including Coca-Cola, Garnier, KFC, McDonald’s, Philadelphia, Philips, Pizza Hut, Tesco and TGI Friday, to name a few. The music was composed by Shani Arshad.
Apart from the TVC, the company is sampling the product in different supermarkets in Karachi and Lahore, along with a handout that gives additional information about Sunridge Foods, their modern milling system and the end product. “Two small rotis of Sunridge Chakki Atta fulfil 24% of the daily dietary fibre requirement of a normal person,” they claim.
Sunridge Chakki Atta is available in the major cities of Sindh and Punjab and the target is to reach 50 towns by the end of September 2017. Aiming to be the undisputed and number one national brand, Sunridge will compete with all the small brands in different cities, and although the company is targeting SECs A, B and C, Amin believes that since they are charging a very small premium for the product, the price will not be a deterring factor in brand-switching, even for the low-income households.
The distribution will be a challenge, largely because of the freight costs which are very high. “So if you are targeting nationwide distribution, then you need more factories around the country,” says Amin and adds that expansion plans are on the cards but first, the company needs to determine from which region it is getting the most business from.
Going forward, Sunridge Foods plan on introducing more variants of flour and bringing in other food categories.