When the Covid-19 pandemic has put all sectors in the soup, the biscuit and bread industry is the only sector enjoying a green patch with higher sales than in pre-pandemic times.
Two leading biscuit manufacturers – Olympic and Pran – and many others have gone for new investments with a significant surge in the demand for their dry food products.
Additionally, Reedisha, a new brand of biscuit owned by Kohinoor, recently entered the market while Bashundhara Group is also in the pipeline with its own brand.
Industry insiders have linked this sudden sales growth to people's preference for packaged biscuits as street food is considered to be unsafe at this time of the pandemic.
Most biscuit and bread companies have registered 20% growth between April and October this year, although the sector's growth is not more than 10-12% even in normal times.
Olympic's biscuit exports have posted more than 50% growth as well.
Olympic, the market leader which accounts for 25% of the industry, witnessed a 22% hike in sales in the April-June quarter of this year when the country was under the 66-day shutdown.
According to the Dhaka Stock Exchange's disclosure, following a boom in market demand, the company has decided to invest Tk42 crore to enhance its production capacity. The company will be able to produce around 12,442 more tonnes of bakery items with the added facility, taking the total capacity to 1.29 lakh tonnes.
Md Nazimuddin, executive director of Olympic Industries, told The Business Standard, "We have decided to go for new investment as people now prefer branded packaged bakery items."
For the first time since its inception, the company has crossed Tk1,500 crore-mark in sales in the fiscal 2019-20, thanks to the sudden growth triggered by Covid-19.
Olympic has continued to witness its sales growth in the post-shutdown period.
In July-September, the company saw a 17% growth in biscuit sales. Its exports also grew by 51% in the last six months (April-September).
Pran, the second in the market, has posted a 15% rise in sales during the pandemic. Its new manufacturing line will go into commercial production within the next two months to meet growing demand.
Kamruzzaman, director (marketing) at Pran, said, "Our production capacity will increase by 30% once the new unit comes into operation."
Pran, having joined the biscuit market officially in 2012, has introduced a great variety of biscuits on the market. The company sells a sizable amount of products through its signature Mithai outlets while also occupying store shelves.
Starting its journey in 1953, Nabisco Biscuit and Bread Factory, one of Bangladesh's oldest biscuit brands, now manufactures 26 types of biscuits. The company has witnessed more sales growth than in normal times. It wants to stay in the market with their existing production capacity.
SM Mahmud Alam, deputy general manager (marketing) at Nabisco Biscuit and Bread Factory Ltd, said, "Our biscuits are in great demand on the market. All the time, we want to expand our production capacity but the company directors show no interest in doing so."
Both Nabisco Biscuit and Bread Factory Limited and Pran-RFL Group jointly hold second place with 8% of the market share each.
According to the Bangladesh Auto Biscuits and Bread Manufacturers' Association, the country's biscuit and confectionery market size amounts to around Tk6,000 crore.
Haque, Al-Amin and Danish have 5% of the market share each. They are followed by: Bongos, Romania, Deco, Globe, Fu-Wang, Bonoful, Kishowan, Thai Food, Bengal, Gold Mark, Mashafi, and New Olympia, each accounting for a 2-3% stake.
Other companies, including Ifad, Cocola, Pinnacle, Kakoli, Shifa, and Kohinoor Industry, have also occupied a sizable portion of the market.
Sales of non-branded small factories have also posted sales growth during the pandemic.
Md Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan, president of the Bangladesh Auto Biscuits & Bread Manufacturers, said small companies alongside the big brands have increased their investments at this time.