In recent times, the market for dairy products in Bangladesh has grown in line with the increased milk production, and sweet traders believe that the market for sweets alone has exceeded Tk20,000 crore.
Other than sweets, curd or dahi, made from milk, also has a large market in the country. According to Bogura's curd traders, each year, they sell curd worth more than Tk1,000 crore.
Other items of confectionery such as cheese, biscuits, chocolates, and ready-made dairy items also have a huge market worth.
Mohammad Anisur Rahman, director of Aarong Dairy, a corporate milk producer in the country, believes that the increase in milk production has led to an increase in dairy products. Aarong itself produces 20 types of dairy products, he added.
"Last few years have seen an increased demand for sweets as they have become essential in every occasion. The quality of sweets has also changed. Sweets used to be made with sugar and flour but now milk and curdled milk are used the most," said Md Aminul Islam, owner of Muslim Sweets and secretary of Bangladesh Sweets Manufacturers' Association.
People involved in the sweet industry believe that currently in Bangladesh, there are more than a thousand sweet outlets run by big corporations. They ventured into this business with large investments and did extensive research on the nature of the market. Many of these sweet outlets soon expanded outside the country, opening branches in countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and several Middle Eastern countries.
Saeed Ahmed, managing director, Meena Sweets, said, "We have studied the Bangladeshi sweet market and the demand for sweets here is huge. Even without occasions, people here consume a lot of sweets in general. And, Bangladeshi sweets have demand abroad as well."
But, most of the sweets consumed in Bangladesh are non-branded. There are more than 20,000 locally-run sweet shops in the country which have created employment opportunities for millions of people. In the local sweet shops, sweets are made in the shop and instantly sold. Rasgullas are among the most popular sweets in such shops.
Corporatisation of the sweet industry
Once, the sweet business in Bangladesh was under the control of the Ghosh family. But now this industry has gone through massive corporatisation.
In 1983, Alauddin Sweetmeat started widespread advertisement about their business and opened several outlets across Bangladesh and started selling packaged sweets. Soon, Hazi Masum turned the inherited business into a limited company. Alauddin Sweetmeat later opened multiple branches abroad.
Now, there are many branded sweet shops, such as Premium Sweets, Rosh Sweets, Banaphul Sweets, Fulkoli Sweets, Bikrampur Mistanno Vandar, Vaggokul Mistanno Vandar, Well Food etc. By focusing on branding, these brands are gradually overshadowing traditional sweet businesses.
In 2015, Pran Group opened around 40 sweet shop brands in Dhaka. Mithai, one of Pran's brands, makes various types of popular sweets in the country by their artisans.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director (Marketing), Pran – RFL Group, said that the growth of their sweet business has been good so far as their sweets are made ensuring the best quality and proper hygiene.
"Everyone makes sweets with milk. But when it comes to consumers, they want to ensure the milk is safely sourced. So, when sweets are made by a corporate organisation, people feel confident to consume that," he added.
Mahbubur Rahman Bokul, chief marketing officer (Bangladesh), Premium Sweets, one of the most popular sweet brands in Bangladesh, said that people are preferring branded sweets more these days as brands offer more varieties and flavours in their products. And, hygiene also plays a big role, he added.
Some local sweet shops also expanded their horizons over the years. One such example is Banaphul and Co. They currently have several branches in Dhaka, Sylhet, London, and Dubai.
MA Motaleb, owner of the company, said, "In the 1980s, I went abroad and learnt about corporate marketing of sweets. Then I slowly transformed my business. I went to India to learn how to make different types of sweets and over the years, I brought trainers in Bangladesh to teach my workers."
The big business of regional sweets
Different regions of Bangladesh are known for different types of sweets. For example, Cumilla's Roshmalai, Tangail's Chamcham, Jamtalar Rasgulla of Jashore, Naogaon's Pyara Sandesh, Natore's Kanchagolla, Muktagachha's Manda, Netrokona's Balish Mishti, Gaibandha's Rashmonjuri, Meherpur's Sabitri and Raskadam are highly popular with Bangladeshi people.
Corporate organisations are bringing all these different types of sweets from around the country under one roof. The brands are gradually mastering how to make the sweets by visiting particular regions and directly learning from the local artisans, said MK Nazrul Islam, deputy general manager, Rosh Sweets.
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