Tamil Nadu’s masala market is put at a sizzling Rs 715 crore, the highest among the southern states. And 93% of this lip smacking, aromatic and jazzed up taste is delivered to the homemaker by the two top players of TN, Aachi Masala and Sakthi Masala, brands that have held the ready to go masala market captive with a slew of spice combos that send taste buds into culinary stratosphere. Not surprising that the scent of these spices has tickled the competitors across the country to zero in on TN. Take Bengaluru-based MTR Foods, with a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. They have already put up a Rs 125 crore product infrastructure to take on the Aachis with Sakthi. According to MTR Foods CEO Sanjay Sharma, even product differentiation has been planned, “Our masalas are pounded, according to tradition, not ground like others.” With an average of Rs 35 crore ad spend, the masala brands are pounding, grinding and literally stomping their aromatic way into kitchens, which now witness more home cooking, gourmet experiments and taste adventures while a family is locked down. Coimbatore’s Annapoorna, a 45 year food brand, plans to pepper the TN masala market and more than double their turnover to Rs 90 crore in 2021-22. And the promos by TN’s masala players including entrants from the Punjabi belt, MDH, Badshah, Everest are getting more creative. Actor Jyotika’s hiatus in film appearances was hardly noticed. As Brand Ambassador, she carried the Sakthi Masala ads with as much aplomb as she did the Saravana Store Diamond Jewellery brand. From the days of standalone ground spices like turmeric powder and pepper, when homemakers would rather make their own sambhar and rasam mixes, every household now reaches out to popular ready mixed spices, podis and even easy do kits for homemade Biryani. The right masalas matter.