Page 3: Research
In 1995, Indian ready meals were a multi-million pound business to Waitrose and sales were increasing rapidly. Indian meals made up 40% of all Waitrose’s Own Label sales of ready meals.
Market research carried out by Waitrose indicated that the time was right for segmenting the Indian ready meal market. Consumers were looking for variety. Over the years they had become increasingly “educated” to the richness and range of Indian meals. Waitrose, therefore, wanted to further develop their partnership with Noon Products to produce a range featuring recipes from four very different regions of India.
Waitrose therefore presented Noon with the following project brief.
“We would like you to develop an exclusive, up-market range of Indian dishes based on regional cuisine. A maximum of 4 regions are required, which would offer a broad spectrum of cooking styles, heat levels and types of dishes. The meals should be inventive and authentic, whilst at the same time presenting a sensible commercial proposition. Each region is to offer a complete menu in itself, i.e. a balanced range of main dishes and accompaniments.”
The regions that were chosen provided an exciting and innovative addition to the market. As well as including traditional British favourites such as Madras, innovative new dishes were added from Goa, the Punjab and Hyderabad. A brief glance at the four regions gives us a glimpse of the rich diversity of India.
- Goa - Goa is a small stretch of land on the west coast of India to the south of Bombay. It was ruled by the Portuguese from 1498, when Vasco de Gama landed there, up until the 1960s. Its history is therefore quite different from the rest of India and this European/Christian culture has strongly influenced the cuisine. Being a coastal area, seafood predominates and fresh coconut makes its way into most dishes. Rice is part of the staple Goan diet eaten with fiery curries made with roasted spices and vinegar.
- Punjab - Situated in the north of India the Punjab is mainly agricultural; a rich fertile plain yielding wheat for bread, cane for sugar and milk for dairy products. The people of the Punjab are heavy meat eaters and consumers of lentils and green leaf vegetables. The Moguls who invaded India from the north in the sixteenth century had a big influence on Punjabi cuisine. They introduced the concept of Tandoori cooking (originally a hole in the ground filled with heated stones) in which lightly marinated meats and bread were cooked.
- Madras - In Madras, which is in the south of India, it is very hot and so the food can also be very hot as it is said to cool the body. The people are mainly Hindu and the cuisine is mainly vegetarian. It is a rice producing region and this is therefore an integral part of the diet. Local herbs and spices find their way into almost every dish. The area is also famous for its coffee estates and coconut palms.
- Hyderabad - Hyderabad, in central India, was once one of the richest princely states. The area is steeped in Mogul culture and the cuisine still reflects the Mogul influence with its use of rich, exotic and expensive ingredients. Saffron and whole spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks are used in abundance, together with almonds, cashew nuts and yoghurt. Meat predominates over vegetables and all types of Indian breads are popular.