Chef Bombay grabs eyeballs with packaging overhaul

The South Asian food brand wants to be seen as a premium option in the freezer section.

Butter Chicken

“We don’t need to hide behind a little logo anymore.”

That’s according to Khadija Jiwani, who handles marketing and strategy for Aliya’s Foods’s Chef Bombay brand, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a major packaging overhaul.

The primarily frozen South Asian food brand is jettisoning its small, busy, difficult-to-read brand logo in favour of modern, large and bold lettering, placed at 90 degree angles on the upper left corner of its packaging. And across its six SKUs (samosas, chicken tikka masala, beef vindaloo, butter chicken, butter chicken naanpanadas and veggie pakoras) the food imagery is larger, and placed more centrally on-pack amid a bolder and more vibrant colour scheme.

Jiwani tells strategy that the food photography was the number one element to overhaul, to better communicate the proposition that tastiness and decadence can actually exist in the frozen aisle. The second priority was to call out the brand far more prominently. It also comes with made-in-Canada callouts on-pack.

“This definitely pops behind a freezer and draws you in,” she says, while at the same remains true to the family-owned brand’s history.

When Jiwani joined her family’s business five years ago, Aliya’s Foods was primarily focused on manufacturing private label foods, and its own Chef Bombay brand was in need of a refresher. Back then, it adopted what she called “an accessible, clean look” that was trendy among other categories. But that meant that, suddenly, it looked nearly identical to a competitor that was sitting beside it in the frozen food aisle.

“Everything looked the same and people were not recognizing it,” Jiwani says, which inspired the new look and feel: prominent and colourful packaging and branding that showcases not only convenience, but indulgence. Frozen is the company’s strength and the area where it sees the most opportunity, and for that reason, Chef Bombay plays into the convenience value proposition inherent to the freezer aisle. But to further differentiate the product to millennials, it’s a more premium offering, priced higher than low-cost, ready-to-eat options such as Michelina or private label offerings from the likes of President’s Choice, she says. Those tend to be the brand’s biggest competition in the absence of large domestic players in the frozen South Asian arena like there are stateside or the U.K.

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In store, the brand does do demos on a small scale, especially in its home base of Alberta with discount POS promos at smaller stores, but has had to adjust to a more digital approach thanks to the pandemic. That being said, according to Jiwani, brand shopper marketing initiatives are starting to pick up a bit again, with some in-store promos coming over the next few weeks. The brand has not done any major ecommerce promo up until now, due to the logistical limitations of delivering frozen food in a timely manner, but it has consolidator partnerships launching before the end of the year. While sales have been volatile since March, she attributes a recent boost to the new bold packaging and upticks in demand because of the shuttering of many people’s favourite local Indian restaurants.

Going forward, Jiwani sees growth opportunities in frozen food space, not just because its spoil rates are lower and shelf stability higher, but because of production innovation. In the U.S. it recently launched a pumpkin paneer samosa, which is doing well as a small trial. Chef Bombay, currently more meat-centric, will be doing more vegetarian options, which lend themselves well to Indian flavour profiles.

Matchstick does social for the brand and Argyle handles its PR.