This week I'll be discussing four items--three snacks foods (from the MTR company), and one beverage (from Sresta). These all came from a grocery (Kroger, if my memory serves) in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, which apparently has a sizable population of folks with Indian heritage, or at least a lot of people who like that country's cuisine.
MTR Foods Pvt. Ltd. started out as a restaurant in Bangalore, India, owned and operated by the Maiya family, back in 1924. In 1975 they expanded into a company which manufactures pre-made and instant food mixes. Currently they make ready-to-eat curries and rice, gravies, frozen foods, mixes, spices, beverages, snacks, ice cream, and pickles. In 2007 MTR was bought by the Norwegian company Orkla. Orkla is an extremely old company, beginning as a pyrite mine in 1654.
In contrast, Sresta is quite the recent endeavor. It was started in 2004 by Raj Seelam. This company's passion is for organic foods, almost to a ridiculous degree. If you check out the company website, you'll read tons about how chemicals, and pesticides, are bad for food products, for the consumers, and for the farmers who grow the plant ingredients. Aside from fruit based drinks, often under its 24 Mantra line, Sresta makes flour, breakfast cereal, spices, oils, teas, jams and spreads, honey, nuts and dried fruit, and cookies.
1) Sresta mango fruit beverage: Ingredients are water, organic mango pulp (25%), organic sugar, citric acid, vitamin C, mixed carotenoids, and natural flavor. This, not surprisingly, had an orange color. In general I enjoy mangoes. Also, when I eat at Indian restaurants I almost always love to get a mango lassi, a mango-yogurt drink. Anyway, this Sresta drink was good. Not as great as a mango lassi, but still tasty.
2) MTR SnackUp ompudi: These were yellow string-like pieces with occasional green leafy bits. Bland. Not very good. Crispy and crunchy, but dull.
3) MTR SnackUp cornflakes mixture: This one looked like orange cornflakes with occasional peanuts and cashews. Not sweet like a cornflake breakfast cereal, but savory and slightly spicy. These were alright. Not great, but decent.
4) MTR SnackUp avalakki mixture: This one consisted of tiny, orange-colored rice flakes, mixed with peanuts, cashews, and curry leaves. Had kind of a sweet and spicy thing going for it. I really liked this one--the pick of the MTR litter, for sure. It was very messy to eat, though.
Therefore, the items I sampled ran the gamut from below average up to good. Given my usual appreciation of Indian foods, I would certainly be willing to try other products in both companys' lines. And I would buy the Sresta mango drink and the MTR avalakki mixture again, too.
Finally, I was interested to learn that the mango is part of the Anacardiaceae plant family. Other members of this group include cashews, pistachios, and....poison ivy. This shocked me. Poison ivy is something that Eastern U.S. archaeologists commonly encounter, much to our annoyance and even horror. I've had coworkers who had such a bad skin rash from touching it that they needed medical attention, or even steroids. Two people even got it on their eyes! Moving on, parts of the cashew and mango plant also contain substances which cause skin irritation. Not usually as extreme as the urushiol oils in poison ivy, but nasty all the same--people who harvest or process these plants have to take precautions. It's weird to think that these tasty foods and the "demon weed" are kin.