The firm, which sources rice from farms in the Himalayan foothills and processes it in Delhi, India, before worldwide distribution, announced the Asda deal last week.
“Foodservice is an area we are targeting and we are close to appointing someone to head up our foodservice operation,” Tony O’Connor, UK and Europe ceo for Amira told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“We’re looking to target all the high-end restaurants – our brand position is one of premium and quality. One of the quality parameters is how long rice has aged. Most rice companies would store rice for about nine months; all our rice is stored for a minimum of 18.”
Massively grown UK sales
After breaking into the UK less than two years ago, the business, which clocks up sales of $547M (£343.7M), had massively grown UK annual sales to about £1M, said O’Connor. Deals with Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose, clinched before the Asda contract, had helped and the brand was now sold in 1,511 UK stores, he said. “Our projected turnover this year is about £7M.”
Now Amira was planning to invest £1M in a marketing campaign that would embrace ethnic TV channels, but would also hit mainstream UK TV from November, he added. “We are looking to totally disrupt the market.
“We are looking to encourage consumers to scratch cook with the finest ingredients. Microwaveable rice has seen massive growth. Most advertising has been on microwaveable rice. We want to focus on the dry rice market.”
‘Open to options’
He stressed the company was still keen to break into Sainsbury and maintained an open dialogue with it. Meanwhile, he confirmed there were no plans to establish a UK manufacturing base. “At the moment our immediate plan is to leave production in India, but we’re open to other options.”
O’Connor also said the company wanted to branch out into other product areas, including smoked basmati, spices and snacks.
“We want to stretch the Amira brand into other categories and wouldn’t rule out growth through acquisition. We see the UK market as key to the development of Amira as a global business, because the UK is seen as a reference market for the rest of the world.”
Amira, which sells superior aromatic rice, pure basmati, Indian basmati, and long grain rice across the world, was founded in 1915 by the Chanana family, the fourth generation of which now runs it.