Few people in India can resist the temptation of a Kesar Kulfi falooda served as a dessert. Similarly, several more swear by their favourite zafrani pulao or the Kesar milk. Kesar, Zaffran are the two Indian names of saffron, among many others.
Saffron is an exquisite spice used to prepare unique items, particularly during ceremonial occasions. But if you are asked to name the best saffron brands in India, the most likely answer is, I never knew that saffron is also sold as a brand!
The Source of Saffron
If you are not familiar with the raw form saffron (source), it is derived from the flower of the plant Crocus sativus. Saffron is threadlike in shape, measuring around 2.5 to 4 cm in length.
In India, saffron is mainly grown in Kashmir. However, saffron is also cultivated in Central Asia, China (Tibet region), Europe, and the US. Before we find out the best brands of saffron in India, let us understand why this spice is so expensive.
Saffron – A Costly Spice
The cultivation of saffron is labour intensive. To make just one gram of saffron takes about 600 threads. Moreover, it requires a close inspection and careful segregation of the threads to pack the top quality of saffron.
The uniformity of bright orange-red colour across a pack or a batch indicates the best grade of saffron. The appearance of white streaks denotes a lower quality. The limited cultivation, seasonality and high labour cost result in saffron becoming expensive.
Some of the Best Saffron Brands in India
An Insight into the saffron Brands
The entire saffron industry belongs to the unorganised sector. Good marketing data is always an issue with any unorganised sector. Therefore, no relevant data on saffron is regularly available for analysis. The brands mentioned below are based on market sources.
The lion brand is among the best saffron brands in India and is a product of Kashmir. The brand packs top-quality saffron, cultivated organically. Lion brand pure Kashmir lachaa is preferred by top chefs in India for its pleasant taste and fragrance. Lion saffron comes in a superior grade blister pack, ensuring a high shelf life.
2. BABY BRAND:
The baby brand is another top saffron brand of India. The origin of the baby brand in India dates back over 175 years. It is also known for its superior quality because its threads bear a distinctive deep red colour and some yellow in between. There is an interesting anecdote behind the genesis of the brand name. Long back, the saffron of this producer was famous among pregnant women for wellness reasons. Subsequently, the product got popularly branded as Baby.
A preferred brand by the culinary experts, Keynote saffron, comes from the valleys of Pampore, Kashmir. The brand has built up its reputation in European countries over the years and is a top exported product. European confectioners, too, prefer the Keynote brand for its unique aroma and flavour. The manufacturer of Keynote was proactive in adapting better packaging, and Keynote saffron packing was changed to an air-resistant glass pack. As a result, the product enjoys food safety certifications. Furthermore, the richness of taste in Keynote saffron makes it an ideal choice for direct consumption with milk items. The sweet makers also prefer it.
Noor saffron is the most popular saffron brand in the restaurant segment. However, a late entrant (1999), Noor has gained quick popularity with its competitive pricing strategy and ready availability. The aroma, strong fragrance and pleasant taste make the brand an ideal additive for various pulao and Biryani dishes. As a result, Noor saffron is among the best-sold brands in India.
5. OMNA ORGANIC:
The marketing of Omna saffron strategically as a pure, organic product has put the brand in the top league of the saffron companies in India. Besides, competitive pricing has helped the brand to higher sales. As a result, Omni is a top-selling product in the online e-commerce segment.
6. The Gathering of Saffron:
Spain is a major producer of saffron in the world. Besides European countries, the Gathering of Saffron brand is also sold in India. The brand has an established market presence in India and is counted among the best saffron brands. The Gathering of Saffron brand manufacturers has focused on high-quality packaging, offering complete protection from dampness. Improved packaging of the product has increased the shelf-life to almost five years.
Like in a marketing quiz, you will be surprised to know that the Tajmahal brand saffron is of Spanish origin! The brand, considered among the best saffron brands in India, enjoys the reputation of a unique product. Preferred by consumers for its fine texture and distinctive flavour, Tajmahal saffron is considered safe for even kids' consumption. In addition, high quality, damp-proof packaging helps the product be stored for a long duration.
Afghanistan is a leading producer of saffron globally, and UPAKARMA is considered the best Afghani saffron brand sold in India. The product's colour is intensely red, making it a favourite of a section of the consumers. Afghani saffron is mainly known for its medicinal properties (though not much different from the Indian varieties in reality). It is also famous for use as a cosmetic supplement in face packs and other applications.
Saffron: Know the crop
Iran is the topmost producer of saffron in the world. In India, Saffron is cultivated chiefly in Kashmir. Iran, Spain and India produce the majority of the saffron consumed globally. The saffron produced in Pampore (Kashmir), Khorasan (Iran), or La Mancha (Spain) is considered the best in the world.
In Kashmir, saffron is harvested in September and October. The new crop usually starts reaching the markets from October-end. Usually, it is possible to store saffron for three to four years. However, proper airtight containers have to be used to retain the aroma and flavour.
Uses of Saffron
- In Food: As a spice, colouring and flavouring agent
- In Wellness: Used for digestive problems, Blood pressure, Respiratory health and treatment of depression. Saffron is considered suitable for retaining memory. There is a practice of giving saffron to a pregnant woman to curb morning sickness, cramps, digestive issues and allergies.
- Other uses: Saffron extract is used as a fragrance in perfumes and as a dyeing agent for cloth.
Saffron in India is not a widely advertised or promoted product. With most households buying saffron occasionally, brand awareness is low with consumers. It is the commercial food segment that sources saffron for regular use. As a result, the choice of the best saffron brands in India is influenced mainly by customer perception and, to a lesser extent, by culinary literature, advocating the use of saffron in specific items.
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Q. Can saffron be consumed regularly?
Ans. Saffron is safe to be consumed daily. Therefore, saffron was used regularly in daily cuisine during the Mughal period.
Q. Why is the price of saffron so high?
Ans. Saffron is expensive due to two reasons- first, the cultivation area is limited due to the required climatic conditions and soil; second, the entire process, from cultivation to harvesting, processing and packing, has to be done manually. Moreover, trained hands are required for proper sorting and stacking. Therefore, the total labour cost is very high. These factors contribute to the high-end prices of saffron.
Q. Which is the best saffron brand in India?
Ans. Usually, the best brand is considered based on sales value; sometimes, perceptions help form an opinion on the best brand.
In the absence of pertinent marketing information, it isn't easy to judge the best brand. Saffron brands mostly come from the unorganised sector, and therefore, customer perception decides brand popularity. The baby, Lion and Noor are popular brands in terms of sales.
Q. How old is saffron cultivation in the world?
Ans. Historians indicate the cultivation of saffron to be over 4000 years old. It is suggested that the plant may have originated from Mesopotamia. Experts suggest that saffron may have reached Kashmir during the 11th or 12th century AD through the Persian rulers.
Q. Is Saffron and Kesar the same?
Ans. Saffron is Kesar in India (mostly north and western parts). In other regions, saffron is known by the respective local names.
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