What is the secret spice behind marketing curry globally? Don’t ask India, Ask Coco Ichi!

Mention ‘curry’ to a consumer and there’s a fair chance they’ll think of India. This summer I stayed in an AirBnB in London, the host hailed from India originally and the kitchen had the largest display of spices I’d ever seen  – over 40 varieties!

I was not surprised that India is the largest spice market in the world, around 4.6m tons. However it is not the largest in per capita consumption, surprisingly that accolade goes to Guyana at the top of South America.

Guyana grows black pepper, ginger and turmeric; and processes curry powder, garam masala and jeeera.

Globally spices are ascending as interest in ethnic foods grows. The curry sauces market is worth over $1.4b according to one number I read.

Is India never mind Guyana doing a good job of marketing their prowess in spices? 

I am not sure. 

The UK has a very wide plethora of Indian restaurants – mostly independents by the way – yet most of the curry sauce brands in the supermarkets are either British like Sharwoods or ethically British like Pataks.

Oriental food section, Asda Swindon, UK, July 2023

Here in Japan, the largest curry brand is probably House’s Vermont curry. I will not get into the why’s and wherefore’s of why it is branded ‘Vermont’ (and even more confusingly why the House Foods annual report refers to this curry segment as ‘roux’.) However it is a $250m business. House has successfully launched Vermont in China many years ago, and this year is expanding production at its Zhejiang plant. This year in Indonesia PT Sasa Housefoods has launched a 20g product for household use.

Housefoods also has a premium spice brand called Gaban.

Gaban sales are around $80m in Japan

McCormick is one of the biggest Western player in spices with sales around $6.4b, of which consumer products are 60%. McCormick claims that 77% of consumers add flavourful spices & ingredients when cooking or preparing a meal. 

Is McCormick making hay from the growth in spices? Judging from its stock price, the jury is sceptical.

One does not normally associate Japanese convenience stores with curry. Recently Lawson ran a 2 week event across its 14,500 store network, partnering with Nakamuraya, a local brand. Interestingly Nakamuraya has been in business since 1923 and has 4 plants in Japan, plus an R&D centre.

Lawson nationwide curry promotion, late summer 2023

QSR chain Coco Ichibanya is huge here and has made significant inroads internationally. The company started in 1974 and now has over 1000 stores. It opened in HK in 2010, Singapore and California in 2012, Malaysia and the Philippines in 2015, Vietnam and London in 2018.  Don’t shout too loud but Coco Ichi also has outlets in India…

Want to see how curry is marketed in Japan?

Rupert tells a story about Japanese curry (with a car crash in the background!)

In 2015 House Foods took a 51% stake in Coco Ichibanya, a move that looks astute given Ichibanya’s stock price growth (+23% over previous year).

When and how can India or Guyana rise to the challenge to entice and educate the world what are real and truly authentic spices?

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