The M&S biryani wrap: do allegations of inauthenticity hurt sales?

Marks and Spencer recently launched its vegan biryani wrap, as part of its new Plant Kitchen range. It contains spicy basmati rice, sweet potato, roasted red pepper, and buckwheat. Traditionally, a biryani is a meat-based rice meal served in a bowl. The deviation from this tradition has led to criticism, accusing M&S of cultural appropriation.

Maunika Gowardhan, author of Indian Kitchen, is among those who are outraged by the product. She commented, “there is no such thing as a veg biryani” to The Times.

Indian restaurant Darjeeling Express tweeted, “This is wrong at SO many levels… you do not appropriate names from a cuisine without even bothering to do any research on that dish.”

Manager of Jewel In The Crown curry house, Juliana Ali, says the wrap is the main issue: “biryani is a rice-based dish and we don’t use wraps when we make one – that’s a no-no.”

According to the Wikipedia article on biryani, there is a vegetarian variety called Tehari. It was developed for Hindu bookkeepers and became popular in World War II, when meat prices soared and potatoes became the common substitute.

So what do our consumers think?

We used a Vykert steer to find out that great tasting food is much more important to the vast majority of people than authenticity:

When asked if “you think it’s wrong when people change recipes from their authentic roots”, the majority of people don’t have a strong opinion. 11.46% of people feel strongly that it isn’t wrong, 13.44% of people feel it’s absolutely wrong, and 14% are completely neutral on the idea:

57% of consumers don’t think PR impact would affect them. However, 17.95% are tempted to buy the wrap to see what the controversy is about, and 16.17% are less likely to buy it after being told the product isn’t authentic.

Overall, 70% of M&S Shoppers want to buy and try this “delicious but inauthentic wrap”:

Despite the apparent lack of authenticity, consumers are willing to try the new sweet potato biryani wrap. Launched at the end of Veganuary, it’s a strong contender in M&S’s Plant Kitchen line.

Image credit: mtaylor848

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