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A sweet Diwali gift

The best way of saying ‘Happy Diwali’ is undoubtedly with a box of sweets in hand. With the festival of lights is just a few days away, sweetmeat stores are already displaying a varied fare.
When it comes to sweets, the choice is endless. At Gujrat Lodge Sweet Mart at Panaji, one can choose from three basic kinds of items – mixed dry fruits, mixed malai sweets and mawa sweets, with different varieties in each of them, costing Rs 900/kg, Rs 520/kg and Rs 320/kg respectively, informs co-owner Chetan Zaveri.
While on the other hand, Big Mishra Pedha is promoting gift boxes called Golden Celebration, Evergreen Celebration and Classic Celebration costing Rs 450, Rs 350 and Rs 250 respectively. Each of these come with basic items like soan papdi, namkeen packet, tins of rasgulla and ras jamun, all of which only differ in quantity. Such boxes are getting popular, according manager Ganesh Nayak, as “people now want longer shelf life items.”
Sales have been positive so far, says proprietor of Mithai Mandir, Nitin Maganlal, and looking at the demand, Mithai Mandir has introduced new types of boxes and some exclusive salty sweet items for this festival.
Dry fruit boxes, which are a preferred choice, come in diverse combinations and varieties, and caters to different needs. “Dry fruits that are priced between Rs 275 to Rs 1,800, are getting popular. Five years ago, people were hesitant to buy these as it was considered expensive,” says Maganlal.
There is a marginal shift from traditional sweets to chocolates, other types of boxes and dry fruits. This is more convenient, especially among youngsters, and is also considered good for health. Growing incidents of adulterated sweets could also be another reason for this trend.
Gifting is an important part of the corporate culture. And assorted sweets are considered to be popular as one gets to taste some of the finest variety of sweets in one plate. “We have seen that purchases from corporates have been increasing every year. Price is not a barrier as people are looking to gift something,” says Maganlal.
Even Kastur Bhati, owner of Sunrise Sweets, Panaji agrees that pre-factory packed sweet boxes like gulab jamun made by branded companies like Haldiram and Bhikaji are gradually being preferred by people as these are suitable for bulk distribution as gifts.
Zaveri is optimistic that sales will pick up as Diwali approaches, but on the other hand points out, “Generally looking, there is less movement of crowds on the streets, and this even during Ganesh.”
Bhati also laments that in the last 3-4 years sales have been dwindling. “Inflation has affected the spending power to a certain extent, and therefore people have reduced their purchases. Now, instead of buying one kilogram, they will settle for half a kilogram,” he says.
Although the cost of milk has gone up by 12 rupees a litre, they have not increased it, says Bhati, “as people will think that we have done so because of Diwali.”
Even prices of dry fruits are soaring, with 150 per cent rise in cost, says Maganlal. “What was feasible two years ago is not the case today. For instance, walnuts which were priced around Rs 800-900 a kilo has now touched Rs 1,800 per kilo, mainly due to the dollar fluctuation. Even in other items like almonds and pistachios have recorded a 60-80 per cent rise since last year,” he says.

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