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Catering for the Sweet tooth

Mouth watering sweets neatly arranged at a sweet shop. --- Photos: K.R. Deepak

India is known for diversity and colour of its festivals, whether religious, seasonal or secular. Almost the entire year pulsates with the joyous rhythm of one festival or the other and none is satisfied without the mouthwatering `mithais'.

Celebrations may vary from community to community but it remains the same in terms of sweets, for almost every sweetmeat mart is flooded with orders, interestingly for the same variety of sweets.

The numerous festivals, feasts and fairs are responsible for the sharp rise in the demand for readymade sweets. Gone are the times when womenfolk used to go about laboriously the process of making home made sweets during festivals. Now with changing trends and more number of working women, thanks to your friendly neighbourhood "Home Foods", these sweets can easily picked off the shelves.

Most of these shops stock several varieties catering for the heterogeneous clientele of Vizag. While personal preferences may transcend regional and religious boundaries, a few geographical specifics cannot be ruled out where the Bengali Babu, has an insatiable appetite for the three R's i.e., the rasgoolas, rasmalai and the rajbhog. The Punjabis in general have a special penchant for barfis, ladoos and jelebis. The South Indians lay special emphasis on coconut as an ingredient in the sweets. The favourite Andhra sweets are boorlu, bobbatlu, arisulu, etc.

C.S.N.Raju of Gruhapriya Pindivantalu says, that theirs was the first Home Foods to be set up in the coastal belt. Their shop goes in for traditional sweets like arisulu, bobbatlu etc. They have lot of orders during the wedding season where the bride while leaving her home is required to bring a lot of sweets called "saari" to her in-laws' house. Besides sweets, Gruhapriya also has short eats like vadiyalu, appadalu, pickles etc.

Buyers making inquiries at a sweetmeat shop.

Koteswara Rao of Vijayawada Home Foods has been in this line for the past 11 years and concentrates more on Andhra sweets like sunnivunda, Bandar laddu, palakailu, etc.

Damodar of Bezwada Home Foods opines that there is a lot of competition in this sector with new players joining in frequently. The stiff competition has resulted in the customer getting quality products, he says.

Deepak of Chandu sweet shop is modest in disclosing his shop's origins. "My father started off with a mobile sweetmeat shop where sweets were delivered at the customers doorstep. This business became big enough to go for a shop outside Poorna Market where it was first set up in 1963", he says. "We also opened an extension counter near RTC Complex in 1996. Our sweets are known for quality and we bag huge orders during the festive season."

Krishna Reddy of Siva Rama Sweets says: "Their shop was first set up opposite the Turner's Choultry in 1968 and later branches were added at Asilmetta and MVP Colony. Our items are prepared with pure ghee even though the costs of all ingredients have been increasing our quality control standards are very high."

Basu of Ahujas Sweet Cottage claims his shop is famous for Bengali sweets like rasmalai and rasgoola. "We have put up a stall at Kali bari near Railway Station and special Bengali delicacies are being prepared there."

Sharat of Sweet India, which has been set up in February, says that it specialises in Rajasthani, Bengali and Gujrati sweets, besides a variety of namkeens and milk shakes. It is a favourite haunt of teenagers who step in to have namkeens or milk shakes.

With the changing times, hand measures have given way to automatic machines and manual counting to computers. Special emphasis is given to cleanliness and fully automised-closed units have replaced open kitchens. Flies can no longer claim entry into these shops, wherein hygiene standards are high.

Colouring agents and preservatives being used have essentially to have an "Agmark" stamp of quality control, and all efforts are made to win the satisfaction of the buyer.

In the face of stiff competition, many shops have established a speciality or two in addition to routine items. Special preparations for certain festivals are also sale-accentuating tactics.


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