Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Brands To Launch U.K. Coffee Chain Pret A Manger In India

Reliance Brands to open Pret A Manager stores across India, starting with major cities and travel hubs.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Pret A Manger store</p></div>
Pret A Manger store

Reliance Brands Ltd. is set to launch U.K.'s fresh food and organic coffee chain Pret A Manger in India, marking the oil-to-telecom group's foray into the booming food and beverage industry.

Reliance Brands, a subsidiary of Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries Ltd. that also runs India's biggest retail chain, struck a long-term master franchise partnership with Pret A Manger to open food stores across the country starting with major cities and travel hubs, according to a company statement.

The foray underscores the opportunity in India's food and beverages market as the industry formalises. Motilal Oswal estimates the Rs 6 lakh crore food services industry to grow 9% annually until 2025, with the organised segment expected to grow at an annualised pace of 15.4%. But competition is intensifying too.

Pret A Manger, French for ‘ready to eat', was first opened in London in 1986 to create handmade food, freshly prepared each day. The brand currently has 550 outlets globally across nine markets, including the U.K., the U.S., Europe, and Asia, offering organic coffee, sandwiches, salads and wraps.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>BQ Prime</p></div>

Pano Christou, chief executive officer, Pret A Manager with Darshan Mehta, managing director, Reliance Brands

"Our partnership with Pret is rooted in the strong growth potential of both Pret as a brand as also of the food & beverage industry in India," Darshan Mehta, managing director, Reliance Brands, said in a statement.

"RBL closely follows the pulse of Indian consumers and there is an increased consciousness of what we eat–rapidly making food the new fashion," he said. "Indians, like their global counterparts, are seeking fresh and organic ingredient-led dining experiences which has been synonymous with Pret’s core offering.”

In India, the brand will compete with Starbucks, which has a joint venture with the Tata Group, and Coca-Cola owned Costa Coffee.

Reliance sees the consumer business as "deeply strategic" for the future and has had the ambition to cater to as many consumers as possible, according to Devangshu Dutta, head of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight. "Keeping that in mind, launching a format store such as Pret seems like a logical addition to Reliance's portfolio."

Over the last two decades, however, the quick service, coffee as well as the beverages market has became very competitive. "While in the food service market opportunity will continue to grow, the demand could see sharp swings," Dutta said. "Both foreign and domestic, niche brands continue to expand. And staying on course of profitable growth will be a challenge for all brand, including Pret."

Reliance Brands, India’s largest luxury to premium retailer, has over 14 years nurtured and grown global brands in the country. Its current portfolio of comprises Armani Exchange, Burberry, Emporio Armani, Hamleys, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, Tiffany & Co., Versace, among others. It operates 732 stores and 1,205 shop-in-shops in the country.

"Two decades ago, we opened Pret’s first shop in Asia and it’s been an inspiration for all of us to bring our freshly made food and organic coffee to new cities across the continent," said Pano Christou, chief executive officer at Pret A Manger.

"RBL are a great partner to help us do just that...," he said, calling it their "most ambitious global franchise partnership to date".