This Study, “Export Competitiveness of Pakistan’s Spice Mixes Category” is an in-house publication of The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) and is a part of the “Make More/Make Better” Pillar of the PBC’s “Make-in-Pakistan” initiative. In this Study, Spice mixes have been defined as a combination of whole/pure spices in a given proportion to develop a unique, ready-to-use mix such as a biryani masala, a korma masala, a nihari masala etc. Spice Mixes are also referred to as Recipe Mixes and the term has been used interchangeably in this Study.
As part of this Study, the PBC conducted secondary research of available data and supplemented it with interviews with major firms operating in Pakistan in this category. The Study identifies the opportunities and challenges in the spice mixes category and proposes a set of policy recommendations aimed to increase exports of Spice Mixes from Pakistan.
The global market for the spice mixes category was estimated at USD 17.75 billion in 2021 with global exports of USD 620.1 million in 2021. European countries had around 44 percent share in global imports of spice mixes in 2021, worth around USD 305 million. China, India and Pakistan are the market leaders in the spice mixes export category.
Pakistan was the 3rd largest exporter of Spice mixes in 2021 with exports of USD 80.8 million with a growth rate of 8.1 percent between 2012 and 2021. Pakistan’s spice mixes exports constitute 13 percent of the total global exports.
Pakistan’s spice mixes category presents an opportunity for growth, but this growth is hampered by factors primarily related to weak mainstream distribution channels in potential markets, a limited presence on e-commerce platforms, the absence of a spice industry association, grey channel exports, high logistics cost, lack of access to cheaper raw materials from the cheapest international source, insufficient funds to meet marketing / expansion expenses abroad and a fluctuating exchange rate.
- Spice Mixes from Pakistan are Well Established in Export Markets
Pakistani brands hold around 70-80 percent share in export markets as compared to their competitors’ brands indicating that Pakistani products are more popular among consumers. The target market for Pakistani Spice Mixes is the Pakistani and North Indian diaspora in the major markets of the West and the Middle East.
- Varying Packaging & Labelling Requirements
Labelling and printing of nutritional information on packs of spice mixes varies across markets. Same packaging can thus not be used in the EU, the US, the Middle East and the Canadian market.
- Weak Mainstream Distribution Channels
In the major export markets, Pakistani spice mixes brands are usually missing in mainstream superstores such as Walmart, Lulu, Carrefour etc., this restricts the reach of products.
- E-commerce Platforms are Not a Major Conduit in Export Markets
Pakistan’s spice mixes brands have mostly been unable to tap into the e-commerce channels in most of the core export market. Awareness programs need to be introduced by the government and associations to help exporters understand the nitty gritty of the e-commerce platform.
- A Ban on Direct Trade with India Increases Costs:
India is the major global supplier of most of the spices used in Pakistani cuisine and has been a traditional supplier of the same. Currently due to a ban on direct trade with India, most Indian spices are being re-routed through other destinations increasing cost.
- Absence of a Spice Industry Association
Pakistan’s spice industry currently does not have a common platform in the form of a dedicated association that can truly advocate on behalf of the industry.
- Presence of Grey Channel products in Export Markets
Afghanistan, mainland Europe (Spain, Greece & Italy) and Malaysia are seeing the presence of grey channel products. The problem with grey channel products is majorly that of labelling on the packaging as well as traceability.
- Market Diversification is Required
The potential next frontier for Pakistani brands could be the North African Diaspora as there has been a lot of migration from these regions to mainland Europe. Additionally, Mediterranean and Iranian diaspora also provide an opportunity for Pakistani spice mixes brands.
- Major Difference between Pakistani & Global Consumers
Globally, markets are moving towards bulk buying or buying larger pack sizes whereas Pakistani markets are moving towards smaller and smaller consumer packets. This seems to imply that globally consumers have become budget conscious and save money by purchasing bigger packs whereas consumers in Pakistan have become more price conscious and prefer purchasing one-time-use small packs.
- Use of BTL Marketing Mode in the Spice Mixes Category
Below the Line (BTL) marketing mode is usually used by the brands to target specific groups through media such as digital marketing, direct mail marketing, sponsorships, in-store marketing etc. Through this mode, businesses are able to focus on interests, geographies and even ethnicities.
- High Logistics Cost
Over the last few years, the global shipping crises coupled with a shortage of shipping containers has led to increased costs.
- Insufficient Retained Exports Income to meet Expenses Abroad
As per the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) rules, businesses are allowed to retain only 10% of their export proceeds to cover marketing and other expenses in international markets.
- There is a Need to Increase the Market size by Moving Beyond the Ethnic Markets
A successful marketing strategy needs to be put in place to convert non-users to users especially consumers beyond the diaspora. It is very important to target the non-ethnic consumers in the export markets. The Indian / Pakistani diaspora has been well targeted in the western markets and now in order to increase the pie size, it is important to target non-ethnic consumers.
- Collaboration Needed Amongst the Local Manufacturers as well as with the Government
Key industry players need to lobby with the government for greater market intelligence and detailed market research. This will help the industry identify global trends and major opportunities as well as the specific requirements of new target markets. Funding can be provided from the Export Development Fund (EDF).
- National Brand Building Programme Through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
A State sponsored national brand building programme needs to be initiated. There is a need to improve the brand image of Pakistani products as Pakistan is not considered a reliable supplier. This can be done by addressing the perception of Pakistan.
- Improving Access to New Markets
In order for Pakistan to increase its exports of spice mixes products, it is important to access new markets and bring variations in the spice mixes products as per the target markets’ taste. This can be achieved through greater participation in exhibitions and efforts need to be made to promote Pakistan’s ethnic cuisine.
- Businesses be Allowed to Invest in the Development of Export Market
The 10% cap on using the export proceeds to fund international growth needs to be revisited. Firms with exports beyond a certain threshold be allowed to invest in market and brand building activities.
- Organizing Pakistan Food Festivals in Major Markets
TDAP needs to organize Pakistan Food Festivals in major markets and try to rebrand Pakistani cuisine as separate from Indian or South Asian cuisine. Only recipe mix manufacturers should be allowed to participate and to use only their recipe mixes in preparing the dishes.
- Firm Need to develop New Communication Strategies to Target the Younger Generation
Emotional appeals based on connections to their home countries will eventually lose their appeal. Hence, new strategies are required that can appeal to the younger generation. This could be done by informing them about the easy-to-use benefits and the role that spice mixes can play in preparing a wholesome, delicious and quick meal.
The PBC is a private sector not-for-profit advocacy platform set-up in 2005 by 14 (now 97) of Pakistan’s largest businesses. PBC’s research-based advocacy supports measures which improve Pakistani industry’s regional and global competitiveness. More information about the PBC, its members, objectives and activities can be found on its website: www.pbc.org.pk