Life is Sweet – BusinessToday
Quick, how do you make Mithai exciting? How about infusing a pinch of champagne in your laddoo, or coating your patissa with coconut and caramel, or wrapping Belgian dark chocolate truffle in a traditional grandma-style besan laddoo? ? A small but significant number of food and beverage (F&B) professionals are doing this and more to make mithai fashionable.
âWe wanted to take what’s traditional and reinvent it,â says Sameer Seth, co-founder of Hunger Inc, the company behind Mumbai-based restaurants The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro. Seth and his co-founder Yash Bhanage started Bombay Sweet Shop in March of last year. âWe envisioned it as Willy Wonka’s mithai factory,â Seth explains. So the store has a floor with bees hovering around the flowers with kaju katli shaped petals and spotlighted display cases with exposed mithai. The mithai itself uses a lot of chocolate. Take, for example, the best-selling kaju marzipan that gives classic kaju katli a chocolaty touch. It sandwiches two layers of kaju katli with a thick layer of decadent chocolate ganache. Each square is then dipped in chocolate and then sprayed with chocolate spray. A box of nine pieces costs Rs 600.
Chef Girish Nayak, nicknamed Chef Mithaiwala, likes to reinterpret traditional mithai in his own way. So, you have the lal peda but filled with dulce de leche caramel and pieces of peanut honeycomb, or the besan laddoo coated with sugar syrup and toasted hazelnuts.
In the north, Delhi-based mother-daughter duo Subha and Arshya Aggarwal, who belong to a family of malt makers, decided to experiment with alcohol in Mithai. âThe Mithai market was stagnant, no one was really experimenting. If you could have alcohol chocolates, then how about alcohol mithai? Arshya said of Nihira. The brand was created by the duo in 2018 with a few traditional Mithais, but they quickly realized that experimentation was the way to go. Today, Nihira has nearly 80 different varieties and plans to have almost 100 by Diwali. The most popular are whiskey laddoo, red wine laddoo, Old Monk halwa, and gin and cranberry laddoo. Nihira also offers a range of mithai without alcohol but with a different taste. So you have vividly colored barfis, where khoya is combined with rich flavors like blueberry, tiramisu and cheesecake.
The idea behind Nihira was to reintroduce mithai to the younger generation. âMithai was considered boring and we wanted to change that,â says Arshya. Nihira, however, was well received by all age groups. âWe recently provided [mithais] for someone’s 75th birthday and they wanted alcoholic drinks. Nihira’s most expensive offering is a big golden laddoo cake made from Iranian pistachio extract and sandalwood. The one kg laddoo costs Rs 25,000 each and is available to order. At the moment, Nihira does not have a physical store; it is only available online with a maximum of orders via its Instagram page.
Fusion and classics
Neha Lakhani and Ashay Dhopatkar of Arq Mithai – another Delhi-based Mithai brand with a store in the luxury DLF Emporio mall – are professional chefs who graduated from Cordon Bleu, Ottawa and University of the Country respectively. Wales.
âWe wanted to create a product of international quality while being Indian. We decided to combine classic Indian mithais with an international flavor, âexplains Lakhani. So, you get a barfi kaju with raspberry compote, or a besan laddoo with chocolate ganache or their bestseller: the khoya vanilla gulab jamun espresso. Everything is made with real ingredients, she says.
Lakhani says it is the younger generation who opt for mithai fusion while the older generation prefers the classics. Arq has around 25 flavors on its menu, 60% of which are classics, like badam barfi with rose. The wedding market continues to be an important source of income, with Arq supplying a large number of mithai boxes for wedding invitations. Lakhani says that while they have plans for expansion, at the moment everything has been put on hold.
The brand is barely three years old, including 18 months during the pandemic.
Not everyone thinks Mithai needs to be reinterpreted. Delhi-based Khoya Mithai takes pride in making classic mithais without any flavor experience, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and packaging. âMithai is such an integral part of Indian culture and heritage, but when we started, many people were embarrassed to offer it. Mithai was trivialized and seen as overtly sweet, syrupy, artificially flavored, and poorly packaged. We wanted to bring back the real mithai and give it the importance it deserved, âexplains Sid Mathur, founder of Khoya Mithai. The brand, established in 2016, has a counter at The Oberoi pastry shop and a store in Delhi’s upscale mall, The Chanakya.
Khoya has provided mithai to the who’s who in the corporate world, as well as to celebrities. At the end of 2018, Abhishek Bachchan won the rapid fire round against his sister Shweta Bachchan Nanda on the Koffee celebrity TV show with Karan and returned home with the coveted gift basket. The basket contained a box of Khoya Mithai, much loved by the Bachchan family. Abhishek’s mother Jaya sent some to Nita Ambani to try and before he knew it Mathur was on appeal with Antilla’s executive chef who in turn put him in touch with Chief Ritu Dalmia who was in charge of catering for Isha Ambani’s wedding functions in Udaipur. âWe sent nearly 50 kg of mithai to Udaipur in boxes of 36 mithai each,â explains Mathur. Each box contained their best-selling mithais, such as coconut laddoo, badam loin, pista loin, and milk cake.
Mathur, who is also a partner and director of Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality – the company behind restaurants like Social and Smoke House Deli – studied mithai-making techniques for several months.
âWe realized that mithai was traditionally made in a very different way from what we ate today. What our parents ate was different. It was lighter, there was less sugar and you could really taste the quality of the key ingredients. Initially, Mathur believed that the best way to improve traditional mithai was to bring together a halwai and a pastry chef: while the halwai explained the technique, the pastry chef could refine it. âBut it was a disaster. They just couldn’t harmonize. Then I got rid of the pastry chef and sat down with the halwai and broke down the whole process to figure out how we could improve the flavor, texture, method and processing of the ingredients.
Khoya puts a lot of emphasis on its packaging with only food grade boxes in beautiful, bright colors. A matching box of 16 mithais (their biggest seller) costs Rs 1,800. On average, Khoya makes 100 kg of mithai per day. It recorded a 40% sales growth in 2019 (year-on-year) and in July 2020 their sales were double those of July 2019. Last year they launched luxury baskets which besides the mithai, also offered savory food and the average expense. per customer went from Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,400.
Khoya is raising funds to hire more staff and increase kitchen space, as she is currently losing nearly 20% of orders at key times such as Diwali. It is launching a platform called Khoya Access where it will partner with three or four key hotels in the city and become the one stop shop for all their mithai needs.
Gur Chini, another Delhi-based brand, provided mithai for Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta’s wedding. His Laddoo Swarnamishtha, made from Italian pistachio and 24-carat gold leaf, costs almost Rs1,000 a piece.
With their businesses, these brands are trying to change Mithai’s reputation for being dated and “boring” to something that is seen as contemporary and fun. âWe are bringing back the magic of mithai,â Seth says. But to be clear, this is not a sales issue as the mithai market in the country continues to thrive, thanks to our love for sweets and the concept of âmooh meethaâ. Sales of mithai and namkeen (snacks) have never declined. Currently, the mithai and namkeen industry in India is worth Rs 1 lakh crore and is growing at 12-15% per year, according to the Federation of Candy and Namkeen Manufacturers, an industry body that represents the mithai brand industry. and namkeen in India. The industry has over 100,000 manufacturers across the country doing business, although the majority of them are not counted in the total turnover of the organized business category.
While the contribution of first-time mithaiwalas to the overall mithai industry may be limited, their influence on our taste profiles is significant.