India’s biscuit giants: How emerging market brands are fast-tracking their success

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

India’s biscuit giants: How emerging market brands are fast-tracking their success

Related tags Kantar worldpanel Lay's potato chips Oreos Parle G Britannia Industries

While powerhouses like Oreo’s shout tales of success one twist at a time, the rise of ‘biscuit billionaires’ in emerging markets like India are not to be ignored. How many of these brands do you know?

Kantar’s Worldpanel Brand Footprint report reveals the world’s most chosen brands, with Coca-Cola picked off the shelf by consumers almost 8.3 billion times in 2023.

But while big brand names – like Oreo’s and Lay’s – dominated the leaderboard, the report is cognisant of the building power of emerging market brands.

Formidable contenders from India are quickly reshaping market dynamics, contends Kantar, evident in its analysis that found consumers chose these brands more than a billion times in 2023.

Often underestimated in Western markets, the so-called ‘billionaire babies’ are carving deep furrows in the F&B landscape with their deep understanding of local markets. However, it’s also their strategy to venture into new territories and diversifying product lines to suit local tastes and pockets that’s fast-tracking their success.

At the pinnacle of Kantar’s Billionaire’s Club is Parle, a name that resonates deeply with Indian consumers.

Billionaire brands

With annual revenues surpassing $2bn and commanding eight million Consumer Reach Points on Kantar’s Brand Footprint – second only to Coca-Cola – Parle’s market dominance is undeniable.

The success of the Mumbai-headquartered company is largely attributed to its profound understanding of its target market. From its inception in 1929 as a confectionery maker, the company has prioritized affordability – with the 65g snack pack of its flagship product, Parle G, priced as low as Rs2 ($0.02) today.

Parle’s biscuit journey began in 1939, with a license to exclusively supply Parle G to the British Army. When India gained independence in 1947, the company quickly pivoted to market its Gluco brand as the Indian alternative to the British-branded offering, but Parle-G maintained its global reach and became the world’s best-selling biscuit brand in 2011, according to Nielsen.

In 1977, the Morarji Desai government expelled Coca-Cola from India, opening an opportunity to diversify into beverages.

Accessibility is another of Parle’s key strategies. Its products are available in over seven million outlets across the country – from local Kirana stores to large supermarkets – ensuring access to as many of the country's 1.417 billion citizens as possible. Much care has been given to packaging sizes, too, with particular appeal for the smaller-sized packs that fit neatly into tiffins and dabbas or for eating on-the-go.

The brand’s longstanding rivalry with Britannia has kept both companies at the forefront of the Indian biscuit industry, the latter nabbing 7.9 million CRPs in 2023. Adding to this competitive landscape is ITC Food’s Sunfeast (2.7 million CRPs), which is experiencing a not-to-be-ignored 28% growth rate, thanks to its growing international presence. Others making global inroads are TaTa (3.0 million CRPs) and Haldiram (2.1 million CRPs).

Emphasizing the importance of cultural diversity, Parle’s marketing philosophy is finely tuned to regional preferences, but also designed to capture the masses with themes of kindness, compassion and empathy.


“Parle has a footprint across more than 120 countries today; not only consumed by the Indian diaspora but increasingly the local population,” said Mayak Shah, VP of Parle Products.

“The consumer is at the centre of everything that happens at Parle. So, when it comes to marketing, we do not use a one-size-fits-all approach. We prefer to interact with our consumers in their language and dialect, using their cultural codes and nuances. However, while doing this, we ensure that we do not deviate from our core purpose. Our purpose defines our identity, and hence, it helps us stay true to our identity.”

He added, “You cannot force consumers to buy your product. It will not work in the long run. If you offer a great product, delight them with the experience and build a love for your brand, only then will they stay with you.”

Getting to the top is one thing but staying them and sustaining momentum is quite another.

“To be relevant to consumers, one has to keep one's ear to the ground to understand changing consumer dynamics and adapt to those changes in a timely manner,” said Shah.

“If you stay true to what your consumers want, understand them and, most importantly, delight them by providing great value, they will stay with you. We intend to continue doing that.”

Key insights

Woman shopping looking at label Getty
Pic: GettyImages

The 12th​ edition of Kantar’s Brand Footprint unpacks the 460 billion brand choices made by shoppers last year – an average of 29 brand decisions each month – in 62 markets.

Coca-Cola remains the world’s most purchased brand for the 12th​ consecutive year, with 8.3 billion Consumer Reach Points (the number of times consumers chose the brand), a rise of 2.6% over the year prior.

Red Bull was the fastest growing FMCG brand with a 17.8% growth (1.43 million CRPs).

The averaging 4% grocery inflation saw grocery spend per household punch through the $1,000 ceiling for the first time to clock in at $1,052 per buyer – an increase of 8.6% on 2022 and almost 60% from a decade earlier – with shifts to at-home treats and premium purchases to offset coping strategies.

Americans spent the most (around $3,063 per household) while Bangladeshis spent the least (around $159).

Despite a fall in unit sales, global brands retained 30% of spend thanks to increased prices and premiumization. Local and regional brands accounted for 47% of purchases, while private label spent increased by 22.7%.

“The Brand Footprint 2024 rankings reveal how successful brands have recruited more shoppers in an environment where less costs more and private labels are gaining share,” said Guillaume Bacuvier, CEO of Kantar’s Worldpanel Division.

“Put simply, they have found ways to be meaningfully different. It’s what happens when brands create strong functional and emotive connections, making the brand mentally available and physically unavoidable, integrating seamlessly across all consumer touchpoints.”

How the big brands are doing it

Lay's and Oreos
Pic: GettyImages

Innovation and global reach lie at the core of megabrands like Oreo’s and Lay’s, which punched in with 1.6 billion CPRs (an 8.4% climb from the previous year) and 3.376m CPRs (an increase of 2.3%), respectively.

According to Delphine Tassin, global key account director for Europanel, “Oreo isn’t just a cookie; it’s a cultural phenomenon.”

In 2023, the Mondelez-owned brand became the globe’s most chosen biscuit, increasing its shopper base by 24.7 million people by weaving itself into their daily rituals. Its winning strategy also got to the heart of consumer connection by understanding how different culture interact across various ‘demand moments’.

For example, the ‘Kick start’ moment – to jumpstart the day – resonates with Brits, capturing 37% of Oreo consumption occasions, while Spaniards embrace the biscuits as part of the ‘Routine recharge’ (18% of consumption), serving as a sweet pause during daily activities or as a pleasant pick-me-up in the afternoon. Brazilians integrate Oreos into their day as a consistent element of relaxation and enjoyment.

“This isn’t just about buying a treat, as we see in our usage data; it’s a moment of joy wrapped in blue and white purchased on average 3.6 times in a year for take-home consumption and 2.4 times for consumption on the go,” wrote Tassin.

The brand has added listings to hundreds of thousands of stores in emerging markets, but no matter the region, the vision remains the safe: to bring a playful twist to snacking.

Meanwhile, employing strategies that resonated across continents saw Lay’s climb to even greater heights in 2023, coming in sixth as the most chosen FMCG brand on the planet, wrote Tom Pattinson, client director of Worldpanel Division.

Its extraordinary reach in markets like Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Belgium showcases the universal appeal of its flavors and its ability to adapt and resonate across diverse palettes.

Gourmet versions like Lime & Cracked Pepper, positive choices like air-popped and baked variants and renovations such as Simply Lay’s Veggie Poppables saw it’s shopper base expand by 17 million new consumers in 2023, far outpacing its closest competitor in the sector.

Not content to be the undisputed leader in the savory snacks category, Lay’s is also pioneering the sweet-flavored chips segment with the launch of Lay’s Shapez Heartiez in India.

“In the world of snacks, Lay’s is changing the game, one deliciously crisp slice at a time,” wrote Pattinson.

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