Vir Sanghvi India s Ace political commentator turns his attention towards his favorite biscuits and cookies . An article in HT Brunch . Knows a lot on Biscuit market and trade .
Not only has it been a long time since Britannia ruled the waves, it has also been many years since Britannia ruled the Indian biscuit shelves. In my youth, Britannia and biscuits were synonymous. You had the Parle Gluco biscuit of course (apparently the largest-selling biscuit in India in that
era), but the ones that ordinary middle class families like ours chose to buy were Britannia’s versions of such British favourites as Bourbon, Marie, Thin Arrowroot and Nice (pronounced, we were told, like the city in France – not that it mattered as long as we got to eat the layer of sugar on the outside.)
I discovered later that this had to do with Britannia’s original corporate parentage (British companies with such reassuringly dated names as Huntley-Palmer) and the colonial desire to export great British brands to each corner of the empire.
Then, the Brits got taken over by Americans. Such giant conglomerates as RJR Nabisco (maker of the mighty Oreo which is to the US biscuit – sorry, cookie! – market what Coca Cola is to its soft drink sector) were placed firmly in control and the sweet old colonial brands started vanishing. Eventually, it all got very complicated with Nabisco being taken over by Wall Street bankers, Indian Britannia being sold, its new owners fighting with its new French partners etc. etc.
In any case, I am assured now that this avatar of Britannia, part of Nusli Wadia’s empire, has its own Indian identity and is so successful that foreigners try and steal its brands (Tiger biscuits, for instance). Fair enough. But two points are worth making. One: it is not the Britannia I grew up with. (But then, this is not the India I grew up in either so I guess that’s only to be expected.) And two: that the relaxation of food imports means that the shelves at my local grocer’s groan under the weight of so many imported biscuits and cookies from all over the world that the biscuits of my childhood (the great Britannia varieties) end up being relegated to the back of the shop while fancy expensive biscuits with French and German packaging occupy pride of place.
All In Good Taste - Hindustan Times