Iconic Ads: Captain Cook Salt – Extra Free Flow


The problems with the market leader was the lumpiness & non-free flowing quality that affected the taste in food and discomfort in use.

In the early 90s, DCW- a chemical company, decided to get into the FMCG business with salt that was named after the 18th-century British explorer, navigator, and cartographer Captain James Cook, calling it Captain Cook. This was done so that a sense of adventure, mystique & culinary mastery would be conveyed.

Dhrangadhra Chemical Works (DCW Ltd), a chemical company was started by Sahu Shreyans Prasad Jain, brother of notable businessman & philanthropist Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain of the Times of India & Dalmia Group.

It surveyed people, mainly women in Hyderabad and Mumbai, about their experiences with using and storing salt, as well as the difficulties they encountered. The end product was uncomfortable to use and often had undesirable effects on the food’s texture, flavour and consistency.

Captain Cook’s distinctive selling point was its free-flowing nature.

It was the very first time that a competitor to Tata Namak appeared on the market. Captain Cook positioned itself as a premium brand by charging Rs. 3 for a kg, whereas Tata salt cost just Rs 2

Tata is a household name and worked positively for the brand.  It was important to emphasise that in terms of quality, Captain Cook was superior.

DCW approached Lintas whose creative department was led by Prasoon Pandey. A customer did not comprehend free flowing, he was told.  And viewers did not like being taught anything while being exposed to commercials. Therefore, it was necessary to make the process of explaining more entertaining.

This inspired Pandey to envision a film in which Captain Cook is humiliated but ends up positive in a unique way. It was described as “Extra free flow refined iodized Captain Cook namak.”

The commercial’s director was Ram Madhvani. Madhvani was looking for a performer whose humour would set her apart.

Sushmita Mukherjee catapulted to popularity in 1985 thanks to her role as Kitty, an assistant to legendary actor Pankaj Kapur’s Karamchand on the Doordarshan detective drama. Mukherjee was the one they picked for her sense of timing.

To bring a little more zing to the film Javed Jaafri was brought in for the voiceover. The single shoot at Mahalakshmi’s Famous Studios was done in a unique manner. Jaafri would speak from behind the camera and  Sushmita reacted accordingly. Timing is crucial in comedy. The combination was great. The success of the ad may be attributed in large part to the chemistry between his speech and her facial expressions.


The advertisement did very well because viewers had never seen a commercial that disparaged their own product before. It may be attributed to the idea of negative advertising. The product the actress endorsed fell short of expectations. The advertisement and the product both benefited from this negative perspective. There was no direct comparative advertising also (This was frowned upon in India)

It seemed like “Mann pasand” was a secret code meaning “monopoly.” Captain Cook was the first firm to attempt to compete with Tata Namak, known as “India’s favourite salt.”

Reluctantly comparing the free-flowing, non-sticky Captain Cook with the’mann pasand salt’ (a lookalike of Tata Salt), her partiality for the’mann pasand salt’ was clear on her face.

To knock the product off its perch, marketing used the traditional Indian Bahu, a hard-nosed woman.

After the initial telecast on Doordarshan,  Zee TV offered discounted rates. It is said that the advertisements led to an increase in the channel’s viewership.

In a very short period of time, Captain Cook was able to capture 30% of the market. After the commercial film debuted, product sales increased dramatically. The company’s sales had topped Rs 100 crore

The pricing approach helped ensure the brand’s continued success in India, where consumers are especially price-conscious. Many assumed that a greater price indicated a higher quality product.

DCW sold the brand to International Best Foods which in turn was bought over by Unilever.




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