With a touch of spice, Reliance and Pret from the UK capitalize on India’s changing tastes

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Reliance, a conglomerate that runs India’s largest retail chain, announces a franchise deal with UK snack chain Pret A Manger

NEW DELHI, India — British snack chain Pret will adapt its menu to local tastes when it opens in Indian cities and airports as part of a partnership with retail giant Reliance to try to satisfy the growing appetite of the country for premium refreshments.

As part of its broader plan to target the richest 50 million of India’s 1.3 billion people, Reliance on Thursday June 30 announced a franchise deal with Pret.

The partnership has the potential to make India one of Pret’s biggest markets and challenge Coca-Cola’s Starbucks and Costa Coffee incumbents, as well as Canada’s Tim Hortons, which announced its India launch in March. This year.

For Reliance, a conglomerate that also runs the country’s largest retail chain and has partnerships with global fashion and luxury brands, the Pret deal marks its first major bet on the pursuit of new food experiences by consumers. richest Indians.

“We are looking at 3-4% of the Indian population…. It fits perfectly into our strategy,” Darshan Mehta, chief executive of Reliance Brands, told Reuters in an interview.

“Unlike Starbucks, I was looking for something that is more food-focused. Starbucks is a beverage-focused company,” he said, adding that the Indian market was big enough for competing brands to grow.

Pret A Manger – or “ready to eat” in French – opened in London in 1986 and has 550 outlets around the world, including the United States and several European countries.

Mehta said Reliance aims to make India one of the top three Pret markets by 2030.

Pret’s first Indian outlet – known for its organic coffee and chicken and avocado sandwiches – will open in Mumbai.

A source with direct knowledge said Pret would have 100 outlets in India within five years, although Mehta declined to disclose the targeted number.

The broader catering services market is expected to experience significant growth. Technopak Advisors estimates that the coffee shop chain market in India will reach $550 million by 2025, growing 34% annually.

As disposable income increases in cities and towns, Indians, who were traditionally tea drinkers, are embracing Western-style coffee sold in cafes and restaurants.

When launched in 2012 in partnership with the Tata Group, the first Starbucks store in India attracted long queues. It now has 268 stores in 26 cities, although it also faces competition from local chains such as Blue Tokai.

Mehta sipped Blue Tokai coffee during his video interview with Reuters.

Asked about it, he replied, “We haven’t launched Pret yet.”

Pandemic closures and spice adjustments

Pret CEO Pano Christou described the Indian deal with Reliance as its “most ambitious global franchise partnership to date”.

The chain has been hit hard by the pandemic due to the shift to working from home, which has led to a huge drop in sales to UK office workers who had been a major market, and led to it closing stores and cut jobs.

As he seeks new opportunities, Ankur Bisen, head of consumer and retail at Technopak, said the closures of local cafes in India during the pandemic have allowed Pret to move in.

Bisen said Pret could be “direct competition” for Starbucks if it can adapt its food to local tastes and attract customers with stores that have room to eat.

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.

Like many other foreign chains, Starbucks’ success in India has been underpinned by a partnership with an Indian conglomerate and a combination of international flavors – Hawaiian sandwiches and tomato basil – and Indian dishes, such as spicy paneer.

Mehta said around 20% of Pret’s offerings will be Indian-inspired.

Many of the remaining items could also be modified to Indian tastes, he said. For example, the amount of spices or tahini sauce in falafel rolls could be changed.

In addition to its partnership with Pret, Reliance also plans to open an outlet for Japanese retailer Muji’s coffee and Asia’s second Armani coffee. Armani and Muji are both partners of Reliance in India.

For all its ambition, Reliance is proceeding in stages, with a few Pret stores by the end of 2023 and then more from 2024, Mehta said.

“Airports are a big part of the supply,” Mehta said, but Pret would also be scattered across city centers and business complexes, offsetting some of the UK office worker market. – Rappler.com

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