Kitchen Guru Celebrates Record Sales and Premiere Listings. Kitchen Guru is the fastest growing concept in the ethnic meals market. The business has recently secured listings in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s and the husband and wife team Chandra and Rekha Parmar are swiftly creating a buzz in foodie circles. The company’s turnover has increased 20 fold and the business is on track for swift expansion.
“We’re delighted with the response to the product in the major multiples. We’re experiencing repeat buys each week, and the feedback from customers has been really gratifying. We built a terrific base of support in quality independent retailers like Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Selfridges but the national listings have really given our business the boost it needed and our products are developing a loyal fanbase,” explains Managing Director Chandra Parmar.
The Bright Idea
It’s Rekha’s love of delicious and stylish food that is simple enough to cook at home that inspires the Kitchen Guru ethos. She challenges fiercely the assertion that Indian food is heavy and difficult to cook and is determined to make ‘cooking an Indian’ as common as rustling up a stir-fry.
From a young age, Rekha displayed a talent in the kitchen and enjoyed making authentic meals for family and friends. She quickly developed a sharp understanding of the uses of herbs and spices in traditional and classical Indian dishes and loved to conjure up new recipes, always ensuring the shopping list included only fresh and original ingredients and no shortcut sauces, pastes or mass produced curry powders.
Her interest in cooking healthy, fresh meals for her growing family and entertaining friends to dinner continued. Often guests would leave begging for the recipe only to find a daunting list of ingredients, many of which were unfamiliar and required only in small quantities. Now, as well as preparing delicious meals, Rekha found herself providing sachets of exotic, and hard to find spices to save her friends the hassle of hunting them down.
This inspired Rekha and her husband Chandra, who had a background in product design, to create a unique, new product for the cook-at-home market. They wanted something that would deliver an authentic taste of Indian cooking to its devotees, enabling them to create fresh, hassle-free meals.
The idea was simple. Kitchen Guru would select, measure and pack the finest herbs and spices with a foolproof recipe card and cooking instructions in exactly the right quantities for a meal for 4. Home cooks would only need to add a few fresh ingredients – meat, garlic, chillies, onions and so on – and Kitchen Guru would provide the heritage and skill that lies in real Indian cooking.
Rekha and Chandra were gripped. They designed the packaging and manufacturing process, converted their garage and single-handed started production in autumn 2002. Demand quickly outstripped production and, in 2003, they moved into a dedicated production unit with state-of-the-art machinery and several extra pairs of hands.
The Kitchen Guru brand introduces a new concept to the sector: its ready-prepared spice and recipe packs guide buyers through cooking authentic Asian meals at home – no measuring, no waste, no jars hanging around in cupboards; just the ingredients and the advice you need to cook real Indian food.
Kitchen Guru is one of those rare business visions – an entirely new idea, set to create an entirely new way of cooking to a new set of customers. No surprise it’s protected by patent.
“Many people shy away from Indian cooking, fearing the long list of ingredients and the mistaken belief that they will be chained to the cooker for hours. Kitchen Guru takes the mystery out of Asian cuisine and offers a shortcut to proper home cooked meals,” explains Rekha Parmar, co-founder of Kitchen Guru.
“I’ve grown up around family and friends preparing and enjoying delicious Indian meals and it really isn’t hard work once you know the basics and guidelines in using Asian ingredients. More importantly, there are no hard and fast rules, so you can feel free to experiment. It’s all authentic home cooking, with a little help from Kitchen Guru,” explains Rekha.
The Kitchen Guru cards are simple to use and act as a mini “recipe” and shopping list for a meal for a family of four. They appeal to keen cooks that cook ethnic food occasionally.
The pre-measured spice packs offer a hassle free approach to home cooked Indian food. The products have a loyal following and online cookery discussion forums are going nuts for the products.
One Waitrose shopper posted: “I tried Kitchen Guru ready measured spices which I noticed as being a new product on the shelves at my local Waitrose. The packs come with a list of ingredients and cooking method required for the particular dish on the pack. Having tried recipes for Indian cooking in the past and invariably being disappointed I half-heartedly decided to “give it another go”. Imagine my surprise when it worked, the dal was great too and lived up to its spicy promise. I served the chicken with a fragrant rice and the whole thing was a great success with my family. We’ll be trying some of the other packs available asap.”
Kitchen Guru offers over 20 traditional and innovative dishes.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Goan Style Pork
Prawns in Hot and Sweet Sauce
Lamb Rogan Josh
Saffron Pilau Rice
Innovation Points the Way
Kitchen Guru have won over 12 industry awards for innovation in just under 5 years, an impressive record by any standards.
The Yorkshire company came away with top prize in the Food Expo Ideas to Dine for awards and was named best small exporter at the UK Trade and Investment Awards two years running.
The products have impressed a wide variety of industry professionals including celebrity chef Jean Christophe Novelli, Daily Telegraph food writer Rose Prince and Waitrose regional buyer Graham Cassie.
Rose Prince, a keen cook herself, said: “These spice packs are a great idea for the under-confident cook. Nothing beats a homemade curry using fresh and organic ingredients. I like the idea that you know exactly what has gone into the curry.”
Despite his countrymen’s traditional love of their own native cuisine, Frenchman Novelli was particularly impressed with the flavour of the homemade curry and was a definite convert to the Kitchen Guru concept.
He said: “I’d like to see these marketed for the catering trade. Cooking a curry in sequence by frying the spices gives a depth of flavour you cannot achieve with a jar or paste of sauce.”
New Product Developments for 2008
Kitchen Guru are continually developing new ranges of spice kits to compliment and extend the exisiting products.
Chandra explains: “We’re continually asked about side dishes and compliments to traditional Indian banquets. This year we’ve launched an Onion Bhaji kit and a Vegetable Pakora kit.”
“You really can’t match the flavour and texture of Onion Bhaji and Pakoras, the pastry and texture of prepared products are really insipid. So we invented a simple kit and foolproof recipe for the home cook.”
The company has also developed a range of summertime barbeque marinades which are proving popular with consumers.
“We found that people don’t want to cook a traditional curry in summer, but want to add an Indian flavour to their grilled food, so we devised some simple marinades to give traditional barbequed food an Indian flair. The Smoky Tandoori Marinade uses the ingredient of the moment, smoked paprika, which imparts a beautiful woodsy aroma to grilled food,” says Rekha Parmar.
“Most people reach for a bottle of sickly sweet BBQ sauce full of additives, artificial colourings and e numbers. Kitchen Guru gives you a quick, easy and flavourful alternative. We use only premium grade spices and you add your yogurt, garlic and meat, using organic produce if you wish. What could be simpler or more wholesome?” continues Rekha.
The Spicy Tikka marinade and Smoky Tandoori marinades are welcome additions to the Kitchen Guru range. The products can be successfully displayed over the fresh produce counters with hanging strips.
Kitchen Guru have a wide range of merchandising material ranging from shelf-ready display units, hanging strips and countertop display units.