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By TPCI | September 19, 2019

Popcorn is treated as a basic product, but a conversation with an established food-preneur like Mr. Chirag Gupta, Founder & CEO, 4700 BC will surely enlighten you about its rich history and change your perspective. The popcorn story dates back to antiquity, an era as old as 4700 BC. So, it was almost around 6,500 years ago, when humans came to know how to make popcorns!

Popcorn is also quite well known in Indian households since many years, but India could not leverage this USP so far! In cognizance of this fact, Mr Gupta decided to take the popcorn story a little ahead.

As he was doing his research, Chirag discovered, “We have been knowing just a single type of corn seed for cultivation i.e., the butterfly corns which are miniscule in size. Therefore we are confined to the consumption of just one variety and that too, in a very limited way. On the other hand, there can be other corn types; which if cultivated by our own Indian farmers, can do wonders to the pop-corn industry.”  

This triggered an idea in Chirag’s mind – to educate and make people aware about this good ol’ product by making something innovative and transformational out of it. “Thereon, we decided to leverage our ancient USP and embarked on the journey to revamp and remould it, with 4700 BC”, says Chirag.

The tale behind the moniker
Mr Gupta was always fascinated with the long history of popcorn. “Owing to the fact that corns have an enduring presence in India and the fact that the industry needs awareness of other crop types as well, we had no other name popping in our minds, which was as apt for the brand and also justifying the thought behind it”, says Mr Gupta. Thus, came the moniker “4700 BC Popcorn”.

Early days, evolution and hiccups
It was in 2013 when the brand launched its first store. Having started initially in more of a QSR format, 4700BC has evolved as a full-fledged FMCG company over the years. “We started in a small but well-thought way, wherein we used to put our kiosks in various cinemas, airports, and organizations. However, with our focused efforts, we have metamorphosed into a complete food solution company. I think this has been the major transformation in our journey till date”, says Mr Gupta.

Chirag asserts that challenges are an integral part of the evolution of a company. However, the most difficult hurdle has been the way popcorn is interpreted in the country. “When we envisaged the popcorn business in India, we ended up with an observation – the Indian populace perceives this product to be a very general and monotonous product, whereas we wanted to develop a premium product out of popcorn. So, it was more like re-creating an entirely new concept. So the biggest challenge was the placement of our premium product.”

Today, the company’s products are successfully positioned in the premium segment and are winning customer traffic. But initially, Mr Gupta admits that they were apprehensive about the acceptability of their products, given the customer orientation of “pay less & have more”, when it comes to popcorn.

A bouquet of popcorn offerings
Flavouring and customization of popcorn was quite limited till a few years back, and the founders felt that it was in need of reinvention. “So, it was 4700 BC for the first time in India that came up with exclusive flavourings in the usual popcorns in a big way,” Chirag continues. Today, 4700BC stands as the first gourmet popcorn brand of India.

When asked how the brand is unique, Mr Gupta mentions, “Although, we have taken inspiration from around the world, we have never taken any franchise of any chain or so. We have incorporated our own ideas and developed in a purely new and innovative way.”

Serving majorly as a premium product, 4700 BC has come up with flavours, which appeal to the taste buds of the Indian consumers. Besides this, they have a plethora of flavours for the international audience. Moreover, Mr Gupta wants to introduce new and exotic flavours of popcorns to the Indian audience. “A country like India would do less with Wasabi flavour as compared to a country like Japan, where it is in hot demand. However, India is evolving and we are trying to incorporate new flavours into the popcorns and making Indians aware about them”, adds Mr Gupta.

Furthermore, talking about his currently available products in the Indian & the international markets, Mr Gupta reveals, “As of now, the categories in which my popcorns are available range from butter, cheese, caramel and chocolate. Within these categories, we play with multiple flavours. Within cheese, we can do a number of flavours such as Cream & Onion, Barbeque, Chilaca, Wasabi, etc. Given the fact that we are still a premium product, we need to break through the low-end audience also go for explosive expansion. And needless to say, we need awareness for the same”.

Exports and expansion
The world has been venturing into the flavouring of popcorns already. However, India has not been able to explore the opportunities very well, till date, signifying huge potential. They have penetrated markets like Dubai, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, but these have not been active countries or buyers for us. Besides this, they are in active conversation with some other countries such as South East Asia and eastern parts of Europe, China and Japan. However, US is not a focus market as it is already well-developed in this product category. The target audience includes institutions, organisations, FMCG companies and a large number of entertainment industries.

Mushroom corns: possible sunrise agri sector
4700 BC procures all its corns from the US, as the corn quality they use is not being produced and manufactured in India. This variety is known as mushroom corns, which are majorly grown in US. “Farmers in India on the other hand mainly grow butterfly corns, which are smaller in size and also have flakes,” says Mr Gupta. He believes that there should be no problem in growing mushroom corns in India, except that the awareness is missing. Moreover, mushroom corns have developed a completely new kind of audience these days, as these corns can be coated well and customised to a greater extent.

Apart from these, Indian companies have been ignoring their star grains like millets, ragi, jowar, bajra etc. But, now they are getting back to the roots because of health reasons.

IndusFood as a platform
India lacks a platform to market the product very well, which indeed is the need of the hour. And this is where IndusFood as a platform is doing tremendous job, according to Chirag. He elaborates, “I think that IndusFood helped us connect with the right buyers from across countries. It helped us come up with conversations, which made us export ready. We got a lot of orders from various parts of the world through this platform. One thing, which we expect from IndusFood is to help us find more and more buyers, as it helps us making the right selection. I think one should definitely look forward to exhibit in IndusFood. It is facilitating brands like us to secure our presence in the international market. Moreover, it is a win-win for everybody.”