The Journey of Innovation

26 November 2016 | Column | By Sanjay Sharma, CEO, MTR Foods Pvt. Ltd

Packaged food Packaged food

Packaged food is a concept built on deep consumer insight. It has a constant requirement of innovation. From a packet of chips to the jams that are now household staples, convenience foods have become a significant and ubiquitous part of the consumer’s shopping basket today. We at MTR are well aware of how an insightful packaged product can change a consumer’s and manufacturer’s life. In the 1970s, we had to shut down our iconic restaurant for a short duration; at this time, we realized the role packaged foods can play in keeping up our operations.  

The need to survive, coupled with the demand from consumers for our products, gave birth to our packaged foods business. From there came our vision – to be an indispensible companion in every kitchen, and to help create authentic and delicious Indian food. This vision resulted in our portfolio– a product range to help our consumers at every meal – ranging from breakfast, lunch or dinner to snacks, beverages and accompaniments.  

Programmed for Innovation  

The consumer of today is vastly different from that of a few years ago. Technology has taken over our lives, making it simpler and more complicated at the same time. Our target consumers do not have the time, technical know-how and sometimes even the inclination to make food from scratch – specifically Indian food that is perceived as cumbersome, difficult and time-consuming. These consumers want quick solutions to their food dilemmas.

This is where innovation becomes important. No other industry studies the consumer as deeply as the packaged foods one. At every step of a consumer’s food journey, from the time they need quick meal solutions for busy weekdays to their desire for comfort home-food on lazy weekends, companies like MTR need to be the consumer’s provider. We have always studied, gained extensive insight and stayed ahead of the dynamic consumption patterns that dominate the landscape now. We conduct in-depth research on food cultures and sub cultures, ongoing trends in the industry, varying cuisines in different parts of the country, diverse taste preferences of people and consumer requirements.

A dedicated programme to innovation - MTR’s MEGA! Innovation Programme with 10 sources of innovation - has led to 44 innovations in the last four years. The programme has helped the company churn out successful, innovative products and packaging formats like the dessert portion packs, multigrain breakfast mixes, a range of masalas targeted towards Tamil Nadu, breakfast in a cup and many more.

A Product for Each Need  

The recently launched Veggie Breakfast range is a great example of an innovation sourced from outside. After MTR was acquired by Norwegian conglomerate Orkla in 2007, it became easier for MTR to share ideas, technology, and innovation with the many food organizations that come under the Orkla umbrella. Taking inspiration from the fresh vegetable pasta launched by an Orkla company, MTR quickly innovated and adapted it to Indian tastes to conceive the newly launched Veggie range. We identified that every Indian parent was always looking to add vegetables to their children’s diet.  


The Veggie range makes it easier for parents to feed their children the added wholesomeness of vegetables while not compromising with the familiar Idli and Vermicelli taste. These products are a blend of nourishment and taste that stands testament to our commitment to innovation. Recently, we also launched the ‘Breakfast in a Cup’ range that includes popular breakfast dishes like Poha and Upma.  

This range is aimed at the busy working youth of today who do not have time to cook or eat an elaborate breakfast and usually end up skipping the meal. With these on-the-go products, a hot Indian breakfast is ready in three minutes by just adding hot water and it can be consumed while on the way to work, in traffic, in a bus or car. We launched the Multigrain Breakfast Mixes range when we saw the increasing trend of Indians wanting to include grains like Ragi and Oats in their diets to benefit from their nutritional value.  

We also brought an innovative solution for Indian sweets for quality conscious consumers. Understanding that not all consumers want to buy sweets by the kilo from their neighborhood sweet shop which might have questionable quality standards, we launched single-serve sweet packs. A true packaging innovation, these portion sized desserts come in convenient microwaveable cups with a disposable spoon in the pack. For those sweet cravings or whenever a consumer wants to make any moment special, these packs are the perfect solution.  

Overcoming the Habit Hurdle  

More than 10 percent of our business comes from our innovative products. However, we do face one challenge on the consumer front - adoption. Consumers resist change in familiar formats.  

So while they will experiment with cuisines, changes in their favorite Indian food are harder for them to accept. To combat this, our products are evolved only on truly authentic Indian recipes that can disrupt the daily consumption habits of consumers. These products represent great taste and quality, they are identifiably from their region of origin and packaged in innovative and convenient formats.  

We have constantly striven to preserve the vast culinary culture and subculture of India and hence our culinary secrets are protected and handed down over the generations. MTR’s journey to becoming India's leading processed food company will continue to be marked by a constant focus on innovation and the adoption of new technology.


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