From Chettinadu milagu kulambu to Kerala’s naadan kozhi roast, the iconic Sree Annapoorna Foods focusses on regional fare in its recently launched range of masala blends. MetroPlus takes a sneak peek into the spice unit in Coimbatore
The warm, peppery aroma of dry roasted spices follow me as I walk through the manufacturing facility at Coimbatore-based Annapoorna Masalas and Spices. The 25,000 square feet factory unit has a capacity to churn 35 tonnes of masala every day. Gunny bags packed with dry red chilies are stacked in a corner. Large trays are readied with lentils like urad dal for another round of roasting. An automised batching machine blends ingredients from some 50-odd boxes of chillies, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, and coriander seeds to name a few, and starts grinding the masala, filling the room with an uplifting, deep aroma of spices.
“We dry roast the spices. It gets rid of moisture, micro organisms and enhances flavour and aroma,” says Vijay Prasad V, executive director of the company, as he shows around the first floor of Sree Annapoorna Foods. “We developed the machine in-house and customised it. Every information is pre-stored to avoid manual intervention,offer quality and rule out any error,” explains Vijay.
The group recently launched regional blends like Chettinad pepper chicken roast masala, Madurai mutton chukka masala and Tuticorin parotta salna to name few, and biryani variants including Ambur biryani masala and Dindigul biryani masala. “We travelled to these districts in Tamil Nadu, tasted the cuisine and recruited chefs from there who specialise in Chettinad, Mughlai and coastal cuisine. We ask them to make the dish from scratch and deduce it as masala after many rounds of trials. The objective is to make it simple for the consumers.”
When Vijay Prasad entered the company in 2012, it was a regional brand that catered primarily to markets in Coimbatore. Vijay, who has studied food technology and worked in Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services in Melbourne, Australia, spent the first two years on product development and R&D (research and development) before taking over the operations from his father, R Velumani. “Having started as Sree Annapoorna Gayathri Foods in 1975, we were pioneers in processing and packing spices that catered to the local market. We hired a brand strategy team and based on the findings of the market research, we revamped the brand and explored pan-Tamil Nadu and pan-South India markets,” says Vijay. He adds, “The market value of spice consumption is ₹70,000 crore in South India, 20% to 25% of which comprises organised players, while the remaining is the home-grinding segment. We are trying to build a niche for ourselves.”
Some of the primary innovations included a multi-fold increase in capacity (from three to 30 tonnes), re-branding exercises and putting systems and procedures in place for the organisation and a digitised work atmosphere. He also came up with two verticals — the general trade to cover kirana stores and modern trade that catered to supermarkets, hypermarkets and departmental stores. “We relaunched the brand in September in an all-new avatar. We have 17 products for modern trade verticals. In November, we launched nine regional specialities like Kongunaadu naatu kozhi kulambu to bring new consumers into the brand. The naatu kozhi kulambu masala is my grandmother’s recipe, passed down to my mother and aunts. We developed it from scratch and it is one of our star products.” All the products are available on Amazon, Flipkart, and Big Basket too.
The biryani as priority
They perfected the biryani masalas after 25 rounds of trials. “First, we try and replace one ingredient, like ginger-garlic paste. We reduce it into masala, cook and then compare it with the original taste. This goes on for other ingredients till we are happy with the outcome,” Vijay says, adding, “We are also in the process of developing Thalassery biryani masala.”
The products cover not just Tamil Nadu, but also Karnataka’s tastes, with products like gojju masala, Mangalore chicken ghee roast masala, as well as Andhra Pradesh with kodi veppudu masala and koora kaara podi.
Chillies, coriander seeds, pepper, and turmeric are what define the end product, declares Vijay. “We use a combination of Guntur and Bydagi chillies and source coriander from Kota market in Rajasthan, while turmeric comes from Salem and Erode. Our pepper is from the Malabar region. We fix pungency and colour as benchmarks while sourcing chillies. We also use special ingredients like oleoresin, a natural chilli extract to standardise colour and pungency. For chicken 65 masala, to bring the red colour, we use resin and avoid artificial colours.”
He adds, “Masala is an enabler that makes cooking easy. We want to make fresh food as much as possible and masala just enables it.”