This Cookie Brand is Bringing Victorian England Flavors to India
Celebrity chef Shaun Kenworthy would often grab a cookie or two from Millie’s counter at the Manchester railway station on his way to work. This was the late '80s or early '90s. "There is a smell of freshly baked cookies that I can never forget," he says. So, when WIB approached Kenworthy to become the Culinary Director for Millie’s, it was sort of a homecoming for him.
For more than three decades, Millie’s has been baking fresh, chewy, soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside cookies every day. It specializes in gourmet cookies, muffins, milkshakes and hot drinks. Childhood friend Sahil Arya, Senior Vice President, World Iconic Brands and Sehej Chopra, (brother of Parineeti Chopra) an investor who also runs five franchise stores of milkshake brand - Keventers, would often discuss food concepts. They wanted to experiment with something new and realized that no one is catering to the cookie segment.
A few years back, Australian brand Cookie Man entered the Indian shores and is widely popular in some parts of the country but the experience itself is completely different this time, claim the two. "From entering the store to looking at the cookies and buying them, we are selling an experience along with the cookie. Even the taste is a differentiating factor," asserts Chopra. Adding to this, Chef Kenworthy explains, other brands bake and tin their products in factories 16 hours prior to supplying them to the stores but at Millie’s, cookies are baked at the stores itself.
Moreover, the recipes are shaped according to Victorian England flavors with a hint of spices. "The aroma coming from freshly baked cookies at certain times of the day is exciting for anybody. It would remind you of a tray coming out of the oven in a bakery in Paris. There is a certain kind of a romance in it," he says. Moreover, all the basic ingredients like butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate are imported. "So, even if there was a large market for freshly baked cookies, I think this is where we would stand out," he informs.
For WIB, the basic plan is to start small with 300 sq ft to 500 sq ft stores, mostly take away formats or cafes with sitting arrangement for 16 to 20 people, with the first store opening in Delhi and then Mumbai. Ten stores will be up and running by March 2019. "Going forward, if we can have about 50 stores, then we will look into whether we can support bigger stores or kiosks and if we can supply fresh batches three times in a day," says Utkrisht Sahai, Vice President, WIB. Each store would require an investment of around Rs 35 to Rs 50 lac depending on the size of it and a breakeven is expected within 18 to 25 months.
Chopra, who has taken the rights for the north and west India, always wanted to create something in the F&B space but when Millie’s happened it became his ambition. "My friends, acquaintances, and all the people in my neighborhood know more about Millie’s than me. Hence, it was a go ahead for me. All of them say, it has a very homely feel," says Chopra.Talking about his sister Parineeti Chopra endorsing the product, he says that the actress has been familiar with Millie’s from her college days. "It’s a brand for her that she keeps going back to. When I told her that I want to introduce this to India, she also wanted to be a part of it," he adds.
For a franchise product like Millie’s, everything is predefined, from the recipes to the measurement. Responding to how Kenworthy can add value to the product as a chef, he says, "It is a work in progress in many ways. The product isn’t coming from the UK so we have to create them for the Indian market. To see how it is going to evolve over time or where we can take the brand later on are the most exciting parts."
Though the chef recommends the cookies to be eaten fresh, those come with a shelf life of five days. However, at the stores, cookies will be replaced by a fresh batch every day. Along with regular offerings, it has a 12 inch model, which is mostly made on order basis.
Besides, if you want something oven fresh, it will be handed to you within 40 minutes. "I think we have this great proprietary product freshly baked cookies which I don’t think anybody is doing or taking seriously in the country. Along with it, we are making cookie shakes and cookie-based desserts. We have cupcakes, cheesecakes, and brownies, great coffee, and some Darjeeling tea. So, it is more of a sweet destination," concludes chef Kenworthy.
(This article was first published in the August 2018 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)