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The bakery market in Chennai, like in many other cities, is a dynamic and thriving sector within the food industry. Chennai’s bakery market offers a wide range of baked goods, from traditional Indian sweets to international pastries and bread. A successful bakery shop understands what the market and customer needs for the region they exist in.
Planning, strategy, and forward thinking are crucial to thrive in the bakery industry, says Janaki Maya, co-founder of Cake Square. A plan for the current year, next year should be in place. The business owner should also have a plan on marketing, see what would work for you, learn from the clients and correct the mistakes.
She shares how when Cake Square started out, they misjudged the on-road situations and have made mistakes in delivery, temperature.
“Our biggest challenges are delivering. Cakes are very delicate and when we misjudge the road conditions, traffic and the city temperature, we are in trouble. Small or big bakers, delivery is a challenge and this kills the brand reputation,” she further shares.
The next most important point, which can be both a challenge and beneficial to the business, is to gain the customer’s trust. Janaki shared that Cake Square’s motto is being able to provide fresh and preservative-free food.
“Gaining the trust of a customer takes time, when we do, we see the customers ordering cakes from us for all their occasions,” she said.
A bakery in Tier II or Tier III cities differs from bakeries in metro cities as the customers’ needs and requirements are different. Even the exposure to their varieties of products would differ and the taste varies. Listening to customer feedback and adapting to changing preferences can help bakeries stay relevant and competitive over time.
“Being successful in the bakery market depends on the business owner’s approach to the customers, quality and pricing. Eatables are a big market on their own. The players in the industry are increasing daily. But they need to learn the methodology, the quality needed to thrive in the market,” said P P Subramaniam, Secretary, Tamil Nadu Bakers Association.
He also says that one should not jump into the industry just knowing how to bake. They should also understand the market to get into the industry.
Trends and Competition
Like in any thriving urban area, the competition in the bakery industry in Chennai can be fierce. Chennai is a bustling city with a diverse population and a strong food culture, making the bakery market highly competitive. “These days look quite tough, to be honest. The new ones always get prominence however I also see a boomerang trend where customers will always revisit what they enjoy. Which means, if as a brand you have a few classics, you will not be forgotten until there are takers for the same,” said Meghana Karthik, founder of Fresh Baked Goodness.
Both local, homegrown bakeries and well-known national and international bakery chains have a presence in Chennai. This adds to the competition, as established brands compete with newer entrants. “It is not easy to make money in this industry. The cost of raw materials is quite high and they keep going up at least thrice a year. Chennai is a very conservative market and it’s a very price-sensitive market,” said Nicky Mahboobani, founder of Nicky’s cafe and fine pastries.
In a competitive market, the quality and taste of baked goods become critical differentiators. As equal to quality and taste, the price also plays a huge role in competing against one another.
Meghana further adds, “I for one don’t jump into the trends “wagon”. I wait and watch to see how much it is absorbed into the market. I refrain from catching on to overdone trends that tend to saturate with time quickly. I stick to a simple, straightforward approach which at the end leaves a lasting ‘after taste’ of my products and service minus the gimmicks, which is what makes my customers come back to me for more.”
Despite newer trends, and the need amongst consumers to try out new food, Nicky says the regular flavours are a must to serve.
“We started in 2014 as a European pastry-only shop. In comparison to other cities, Chennai is not open to trying out new items or flavours. People here tend to stick to what they are familiar with or know that they would like for sure. If we were not served the regular flavours like a Black forest, chocolate truffle, red velvet, people are not very happy about trying new stuff,” Nicky further shares
He also added that the major chunk of sales happen in flavours that the customers are very familiar with.
Advice to the upcoming bakers
Many of the brands are experimenting very well, including giving a very warm dine-in experience of eating simple bread with herbed butter, croissants with coffee, and simple sandwiches. The bakery industry need not always be about cakes and cookies.
The bakery industry in Chennai and overall is giving consumers a great variety from homemade breads to cakes to specialised chocolates. This includes home bakers and independent chocolatiers.
To them, Porkayi Pandiyan, founder of Cake Point suggests, “Go beyond being bakers and chocolatiers and become more professional by learning the art of doing business. They have the talent to become very successful entrepreneurs if they manage to learn the business and increase their spread.”
Bakeries that offer customisation, such as personalised cakes or catering services, can gain an edge in the market by catering to specific customer preferences. Those that give more innovative offerings, such as unique flavour combinations, artisanal products, or healthy alternatives, also stand out in a crowded market. Active marketing and promotional strategies, both online and offline, play a significant role in attracting customers. Bakeries often use social media, food delivery apps, and loyalty programs to stay competitive.