A quiet revolution has taken place on the bread and biscuit manufacturing front. Not long ago, tinned biscuits, sealed cakes from a few South-east Asian countries captured the market here. Even parata from Malaysia gained some popularity here. All because there was no local company that produced comparable items. So far as biscuits and bread are concerned, they lack varieties and, most of the time, quality. Hoque and Nabisco once ruled the roost; then a few mass producers of biscuits also announced their presence in the market. Quite a few of them were highly popular among consumers but they could not retain the market because their quality was not religiously maintained.
Of the popular brands of bread, Olympia and Oriental still lead the pack in the capital. But the demise of the Modern Bread factory, the first automated ever in the country, is sad indeed. Sorties by popular brands in other cities could not gain ground because of the time lag. Then there are a number of other bread makers which have no outlets of their own but are supplied to ubiquitous groceries. Admittedly, these are yet to find a footing under their feet.
Apart from such bread manufacturers, there are bakeries which produce quality bread but these are available only at their own shops. Highly costly, they hardly prove affordable to all classes of consumers. Then again, there are a few brands of medium quality which are supplied to department stores in the city. The number of such companies is rising because business here is by arrangement with the chain shops. Some mass producers of cakes and biscuits have almost elbowed out small local bakeries.
If bread's short-lived shelf life is responsible for not contributing to its mass marketing, particularly to other towns and cities, biscuits have no such problem. Gone are the days when consumers had to limit their choices to a few varieties of biscuits produced by a handful of local companies. The emergence of a number of companies on the scene has completely transformed the scene. Not only do such companies meet the need for quality biscuits of the local market but have also embarked on exporting those to a number of countries. The Middle-East countries are their prime target. Arabic letters printed on the packets may be a guide to this.
One is pleasantly surprised to see the efforts given to expand the range of variety, taste and quality of biscuits. Some of the products can compete with the best in Asia, no doubt. In other cases, there has been some poor imitation of a few internationally famous brands. It is a transitional time for the country's food industry. So, this kind of naive imitation can be excused. Ultimately, though, such things will disappear and the originality will sustain.
Patronage provided to the local companies is not uncalled for. The high rate of duty imposed on import of bakery items has made foreign brands many times costlier. Now that local companies are coming up with quality biscuits, wafer and sealed cakes, no one should complain why foreign brands are out of the market. The few varieties of foreign origin are outrageously costly because of the heavy duty on their import. So consumers here most of the time have to satisfy their appetite for quality with the local alternatives.
So far so good. The problem starts with the items that are not locally produced. Chocolate is one such item. The few local substitutes for the famous foreign brands are way behind and are unappealing to children, the prime customers of such items. This is mostly an uncharted or little ventured territory where local companies now need to concentrate. It is certainly not easy to produce quality chocolate particularly when the main ingredients have to be imported. But there is little doubt about the success if local companies go for the venture. If they cannot do it alone, they can go for collaboration. Locally made chocolates will definitely be cheaper than the imported.
Tastes of people change from generation to generation. Reportedly, people in Bangladesh have reduced the consumption of rice over the years. But a generation before, asking someone to eat rooti was awarding punishment. If the young generation prefers chocolate, there is no harm. After all, it is not the fast or junk foods that have been damaging their health. Let local companies come forward to produce quality chocolate and save the day for the young people.