After witnessing a dip in sales following reports of a cancer-causing food additive present in bread, the Ludhiana bread industry is finally beginning to recover from the crisis with its sales almost back to normal.
Bread manufacturers witnessed almost a 20 percent dip in sales on May 23 when CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) released its report that bread contains cancer-causing additive potassium bromate.
Manufacturers are now claiming to have removed the objectionable chemical and are pasting stickers on the packing assuring customers that the bread is bromate-free. In addition, manufacturers have also come up with pamphlets which are being given to distributors for pasting at various shops that sell breads.
Ludhiana bread industry enjoys the distinction of supplying bread to the entire north region comprising Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, parts of Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh. The key players include Kitty, Bonn and Cremica who continue to innovate and make a variety of products even as they are in direct competition with each other.
Says Ramesh Mago, managing director of Kitty Bread Industries, which has a plant on the city’s outskirts in Kohara village, people were scared to buy the bread after the report came out. “On the first day, the sales dipped to as low as 20 percent. But now, sales have revived and the dip now stands at only 5 percent.”
Kitty industries was set up in 1977 when Mago quit his job with a bank to follow his passion for bakery. The business expanded and the fully automated plant was set up in 2004.
“We were using potassium bromate within the prescribed limit of 50 parts per million (ppm). However, after the scare, we have completely removed it from our bread. The chemical was only used as a flour improver. To substitute it, we have increased the quantity of ascorbic acid and certain enzymes,” said Mago.
Ajay Bector of Cremica Food Industries, which was set up 35 years ago, said they stopped used potassium bromate years ago when European countries banned the food item.
“Still, as a mark of assurance to people who might have got scared after reading the news, we have now imprinted on our wrappers that the bread is bromate free,” he said. While the company has its office in Ludhiana and an ice cream unit, the bread factory is located in Phillaur.
Following on these lines is Bonn Industries on the Chandigarh road, set up in 1985, whose director Jatinder Singh states that they never used potassium bromate.
The company has pasted a green label on its wrapper which reads bromated-free. “Our product is totally bromatefree but to ward off any scare in the minds of consumers we have been printing it on a green label. The sales did decline for the initial five to six days but the sales are now almost back to normal,” he said. Bonn has 13 units in north India and caters to a wide range of products.
INNOVATIONS OVERTHE YEARS
With increased awareness about nutrition and health conscious consumers, the bread industry too has undergone a change. “When we started, we only made white breads, but now there is Aata bread, brown bread multi grain and the like. Besides, the companies are also manufacturing pizza base, burger buns, bread crumbs. For instance, we supply bread crumbs to McCain besides a number of other products,” said Mago of Kitty industries, chairman of the All India Bread Manufacturers Association.
The bread industry in Ludhiana also has tie-ups with various hotels and hospitals.
FEMALE WORKERS KEY PLAYERS AT FACTORY
In all the bread factories situated on the outskirts of the city, a large number of women migrants are employed who reach the factory at 8 am and work for packing and work at the various machines in the plant.
Their work basically involves shifting the stuff from one machine to another and packaging.
A woman labourer employed in Kitty bread factory Julekha Khatun hailing from Bihar said she has been employed here since the last seven years and her entire family including her husband works here.
Earning `8000 per month, a bus from the factory daily goes to all the surrounding villages to pick all the women.
“The job suits us as we reach here by bus and there is no security concern. I came from Bihar 15 years ago and am now living comfortably here,” said Kalinda, a widow and resident of Heera village. Most of the female workers are either uneducated or just eight pass but are contented as are contributing a major part to the family’s income.