Food In Canada

Thanjai brings traditional south Indian delicacies to Canada

By Nithya Caleb   

Food Trends Bake & Snack Food Editor pick Ethnic food Indian cuisine Quebec Thanjai

Discover the story behind this Montreal-based brand’s mission to bring the flavours of the Subcontinent to Canadians

About a decade ago, I left the comforts of my birth place in south India for Canada with a deeply personal mission. That personal mission has metamorphosed into a new life in Toronto. Just like other first-gen immigrants, I often reminisce about the ‘things’ I left behind, from friends and family to food, arts and culture. So, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Kumaresan Muthukrishnan, managing director of Thanjai Group, Montreal, at the SIAL show earlier this year.

Established in August 2021, Thanjai manufactures classic south Indian savoury snacks at its own plant in Montreal.

For people unfamiliar with south Indian snacks, here’s a brief backgrounder. Most of these snacks are made with rice, millets, wheat or chickpeas. Traditionally, they’re handmade with a good dosing of spices like cumin, sesame seeds, peppercorn etc. They’re typically gluten-free and vegetarian. These snacks are usually served at tea time. They’re also offered as return gifts during weddings, festivals, baby showers, etc. Since these snacks are labourious to make, they end up becoming a whole family affair. From children to grandparents, everyone will have a role to play. Some of my favourite childhood moments was spent helping my aunts make murukku or curly crisps, as Muthukrishnan calls it.

Kumaresan Muthukrishnan

Muthukrishnan, an ex-IT professional and owner of the Thanjai Group of restaurants, isn’t relying on the nostalgia factor to sell Thanjai’s products. Rather, he’s hoping to educate Canadians about these products and diversify offerings at the snack aisle. Through Thanjai, an ode to this birth town of Thanjavur, which played a key role in many ancient Indian empires, Muthukrishnan is also trying to “elevate the quality of Indian snacks in the market.”


“We had already established ourselves in the restaurant sector with our unique south Indian food for more than 10 years. However, there was a growing need for healthy snacks in Montreal. Currently, supermarkets and ethnic shops in Montreal only stock imported products with short shelf lives and inadequate packaging. These snacks may also be unhealthy due to the addition of preservatives. Further, the majority of these snacks are north Indian recipes and lack the authentic south Indian flavour. Our snacks produced with chickpeas and rice flour are healthier than potato chips and other local snacks,” he said.

Thanjai currently sells traditional, gluten-free and vegan South Indian snacks like curly crisps, savoury jungle balls (seedai), fiesta mix (Madras mixture), dreamy crunchers (thattai), spice sticks (kaara sev), and baton bites (butter murukku) as well as healthier options with multi-grains, finger millet (ragi) and soy as key ingredients. Thanjai recently introduced frozen samosas (potato-pea and onion) and savoury puff pastries. These products can be found at Metro, IGA, Maxi and ethnic stories in Montreal as well as online on Amazon and their website. Since ethnic store purchase prices are very low, Muthukrishnan is actively pursuing other avenues.

Muthukrishnan sources the ingredients from Canadian suppliers as well as from India. He worked with a food consultant to adapt traditional recipes to suit North American taste buds as well as to ensure the quality and flavours aren’t lost when mass manufacturing these products that are usually handmade.

His 5,000-sf plant in Montreal is fully automated and can produce 5000 bags daily and 2000 samosas per day. The main equipment was custom-ordered from Coimbatore, India.

Muthukrishnan admits it has been challenging to build awareness and generate demand for South Indian dry snacks. Further, the snack market in Montreal is competitive, with a variety of local and international options.

“Differentiating our Indian snacks from existing products and highlighting their unique characteristics are crucial to stand out and attract customers,” said Muthukrishnan, who has largely bootstrapped this venture with his savings and income from other businesses. Despite the manifold challenges, he is determined to make locally made south Indian snacks the default snack choice of Canadians.

Print this page


Stories continue below