MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) began as a restaurant in 1928. Soon it became famous for the authenticity, quality and tastiness of its food. In the 1980’s MTR began venturing into packaged foods: pure spices, mixed spices, mixes to make a variety of dishes and so on.
In 2004, the foods business was sold to Orkla, a Norwegian foods conglomerate, but the heritage of MTR continues to vest in the brand: giving it authenticity.
While MTR was a dominant brand in spices, the margins lie in processed foods. One of these is traditional South Indian snacks, a market estimated to be worth over Rs. 25 billion (about US$ 500 million). With its heritage and reputation behind it, MTR felt it could confidently enter this market.
Traditional South Indian snacks used to be largely made at home. Now though, the majority are no-name brands bought from a variety of local stores. Despite this, as with all foods, home made is still seen as superior to packaged.
Even with MTR’s heritage, we had to overcome this significant barrier. In addition, these snacks are bought by housewives as part of the weekly/monthly grocery basket, unlike chips etc. (e.g. Lays) which are impulse purchases.
So we needed to appeal to not just a different audience, we also had to give them a strong reason to buy.
The hallmark for taste – specially of traditional foods – is ajji’s (granny’s) cooking.
We decided to use this belief to our advantage. So MTR Snacks were positioned as just like ajji’s. By casting a popular star and his real-life wife as our spokespeople, we had a device to cut through the clutter of snacks advertising,
Our spokesperson, the film star, Upendra, recalls how eating MTR Snacks always reminds him of his grandmother and he recounts what happened at her last visit to his house.
After the advertising, awareness of MTR Snacks was at 80%.