Reliance, Britain's Pret bet on appetite for upmarket refreshment

Pret a Manger in New Cavendish Street, London. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: British snack chain Pret will adapt its menu to local tastes when it opens in Indian cities and airports under a partnership with retail giant Reliance to try to satisfy the nation's growing appetite for upmarket refreshment.

As part of its broader plan to target the most affluent 50 million of India's 1.3 billion people, Reliance on Thursday announced a franchise deal with Pret.

The partnership has the potential to make India one of Pret's biggest markets and to challenge incumbents Starbucks and Coca-Cola's Costa Coffee, as well as Tim Hortons of Canada, which said in March it will launch in India this year.

For Reliance, the Pret deal marks its first major bet on wealthier Indians' pursuit of new food experiences.

"We are looking at 3%-4% of India's population ... It fits right into our strategy," Darshan Mehta, chief executive of Reliance Brands, told Reuters in an interview.

"Unlike Starbucks, I was looking at something that is more food-led. Starbucks is a beverage-led business," he said, adding the Indian market was big enough for competing brands to grow.

Pret A Manger - or "ready to eat" in French - opened in London in 1986 and has 550 outlets globally, including in the United States and several European countries.

Mehta said Reliance aimed to make India one of Pret's three biggest markets by 2030.

The first Indian outlet of Pret - known for organic coffee and chicken and avocado sandwiches - will open in Mumbai.

A source with direct knowledge said Pret will have 100 India outlets within five years, although Mehta declined to disclose the number targeted.

The broader food services market is predicted to grow significantly. Technopak Advisors estimates India's cafe chain market will be worth $550 million by 2025, growing 34% each year.

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