Hyderabad: Mithai kab khilare. Be it clearing examinations, getting hitched, getting a promotion, welcoming a new family member, buying a new vehicle or any other momentous occasion calls for a celebration. And no celebration is complete without indulging in sweet.
For three decades now, Almond House has been the go-to place in Hyderabad for quality sweets. What started at Himayatnagar, it now has six outlets within Hyderabad in addition to three outlets at the Hyderabad International Airport.
Nagarjuna Choudary, a chemical engineer from BITS, in 1989 began the journey of this sweet empire, which relies on quality as its USP. “Our emphasis is on responsible indulgence. We always stress on the need for having sweets and condiments as part of the balanced diet,” says Chaitanya Muppala, the chief executive officer, an MBA graduate from University of British Columbia in Canada, who took over the mantle of the business in 2012.
The sweet maker is against using any artificial colourants or additives. It also makes all the intermediate products, for instance khowa, by itself and strict screening is adopted for other raw materials that are bought. Almond House is Telangana’s first ethnic foods brand that follows Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) norms and a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) certification on its way. It has procured machinery from Italy and Germany.
Almond House is credited with introducing aesthetic packaging for gifting sweets, departing from the red and white chequered bhandana pattern on the containers. The extra oil on the savouries is expelled using centrifugal force, a practice which is now adopted by many, Muppala says. “Purity, taste, hygiene and health are our focus,” he adds.
Along with an assortment of traditional mithai, namkeen and dry fruits, Almond House also offers eggless confectionery, natural ice-cream and chocolate. “We understand the fact that adding sugar beyond the minimum required level is an adulteration that results in poor taste and ill-health,” he says adding that it does not make sugarless sweets. “How can a sweet be completely sugar-free?”
Almond House has gelatoes and sorbets under its Indulge brand. Gelato, (ice-cream in Italian) is made with milk, cream, and sugar, and flavored with fruit and nut purees. It is generally lower in fat than other styles of ice cream. It has 50 per cent less air than conventional ice cream as it is churned at low speeds as it is being frozen. And this result in a creamier and softer texture, he says. Sorbet, on the otherhand, is a water-based dessert made from fresh fruit.
Like the gelato, it also originated in Italy. Sorbet, which contains no dairy products, is a non-fat or low-fat alternative to ice cream. At Indulge, the sorbet has less than 4-8 per cent butterfat compared to 10-18 per cent in regular ice cream, explains Muppala.
In 2001, it introduced this snack that is topped with almond chunks. “It has been flatteringly imitated by everybody in the trade but it is yet to be matched,” says Muppala adding that its Khara brand has been, over the last two decades, offering a range of traditional and healthy savouries.
Almond House has recently opened Gappe Vappe, on the Forum Sujana Mall Road at Kukatpally. It is a newage premium chat brand with touch of sophistication including in preparing and serving them. It is also planning JalebiWala, live counters for jalebi soon.
Almond House 2.0
“We are repositioning ourselves in terms of identity and product offerings. The focus will continue to be on delivering products that are fine balance between indulgence and health implications. We will have traditional products and constantly develop new products in the gourmet snacks and gifts categories,” he says about the plans to take the Hyderabad-born sweet makers to reach out to a wider market.
Chaitanya’s focus is on core business areas such as production (kitchen), retail and team building. It now has about 350 employees. “We adhere to a kitchen-first policy. The kitchen is open for inspection by the customer at any hour. We want customers to see how the stuff is made. We want them to demand the same from others too,” he says.
Festivals and marriages are also a main stay. It has made a foray into catering. Several corporates are its patrons. Many order Diwali sweets for all their employees. The Diwali planning happens at least three months in advance. It uses an enterprise resource planning software to breakdown the orders to individual units in each box and allots the required material for making them.
“We rent new premises and have more man power in place for Diwali for catering to corporate orders. We deliver within the timeframe. We will not take more orders than we can handle. Our existing customers and consistency in quality are a priority,” says Muppala. For Almond House, employee health, safety and children’s educations are a priority, he says.