Parsi Dairy Farm On Princess Street Gets A New Avatar After 107 Years. Here’s The Story Behind This Iconic Brand

Parsi Dairy Farm

My earliest memory of Parsi Dairy Farm is indulging in the brand’s rich, creamy kulfi at a family function when I was about 10. I remember sweeping that plate clean and bugging my mum for more. Ever since then, that kulfi has become my go-to frozen treat. And every time my mum sees me enjoying that dessert, she recalls how she relished the Basundi her father used to bring from the OG Parsi Dairy Farm at Princess Street in Marine Lines, Mumbai. Just like my family and I, I’m sure many other families have had their fair share of experiences with the city’s oldest dairy brand, whether it’s white butter and ghee or Indian mithai and Sutar Feni. Parsi Dairy Farm has been a household name since its inception, creating a personal connection between its offerings and patrons.

Parsi Dairy Farm

Nariman Ardeshir launched Parsi Dairy Farm in 1916 at Princess Street with a single milk can. Known to have introduced yoghurt in the city (around the 1980s), the brand today boasts over 80 mithai products and 30 dairy essentials. After 107 years, the iconic dairy in Mumbai gets a fun makeover in honour of its legacy. Featuring an unmissable large red door, the expanded space is subtly vibrant and features window displays, yoghurt carts and a rendition of their famous milk drops, among others.

Parsi Dairy Farm

Keen to know all about the 107-year-old legacy, I sat down with three members from the fourth generation of Parsi Dairy Dairy Family aka the ones who are running the show. Brand Director Zeenia K Patel, Operations Director and Le Cordon Bleu alumni Parvana S. Mistry and Sales Director Sarfaraz K Irani who also (voluntarily) doubles up as the family’s guinea pig for all tests and trials of new products–have a candid conversation with me where they share their fond memories growing up in the family-owned business, their favourite treats, what the new store has to offer and much more.

Parsi Dairy Farm
Bakhtyar K. Irani, Parvana S. Mistry, Meheru K. Patel, Shernaz K.Irani, Zeenia K. Patel, Sarfaraz K. Irani, Seated Jeroo Nariman

Key To Sustainance

There are very few businesses that have stood the test of time and Parsi Dairy Farm is one of them. The Princess Street dairy easily enjoys a place on the list of historic spots in Mumbai as it comes with a heritage of its own. So what really goes into maintaining a brand that’s over a century old?

Zeenia mentions that it’s because of their pure and preservative-free products from the very beginning. “We’ve stuck to that for 107 years, which is why we’re still here. When it started, we used to have our sheds in Mazgaon on the outskirts. As urban development started, we moved to Jogeshwari and then to a 300-acre farm in Talassary on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, which we still run. Most of our production and livestock as well as our restaurant is there. I guess this is where we are now, at the same store but with a revamped look, keeping the tradition and products the same but moving with time.”

Parvana owes it to the age-old recipes of certain dairy products that are down through generations. “We’ve tried to systemise many family recipes by sticking to the proportion of the recipe and flavour and scaling it correctly. For instance, we take great pride in the way we make our ghee. The way we churn it gives a beautiful aroma and we try to keep it as natural and pure as possible. The result is that lovely danedar ghee, which is important to us. So we work hard on keeping our recipes simple, traditional, the way they were. Another example is the very famous Sutar Feni, which we still hand weave–something that’s very rare in today’s age and time. So these are a few elements that still add to the brand’s legacy.”

Taking The Legacy Forward

It is common for family-owned businesses to come with their own set of hiccups, especially when the new generation comes in and tests the waters till they find their individuality. However, with Parsi Dairy Farm, Zeenia, Parvana and Sarfaraz were naturally drawn to the business from the very beginning as they grew up with so many moments that still hold a special place in their heart.

“We’ve all grown up on our holidays and helped with the business. Parsi New Year was not about sleeping and enjoying good food. We were on the go packing orders, serving customers, decorating the Boi, putting pista on the jalebi and offering it to people. So it’s always been in us to work and grow. This business is like work and pleasure together. To me, it’s never felt like a conscious decision to start working on it. Since we were kids, we used to write the names of people on coupons, sit on the floor and give cash. We would go to the dairy and pack butter because it was very fascinating. So naturally, we’ve taken it on,” Zeenia shares.

Parsi Dairy Farm

It’s a similar affair for Parvana and Sarfaraz. “We grew up enjoying work at Parsi Dairy Farm. Seeing the buzz and excitement during festivals, customers walking in and everybody wanting to pick up the lovely sweets, I never once thought why I shouldn’t do this. I remember all of us coming together one Sunday and deciding that a certain part of the production unit looked a little dull. So we all came in, got a little paint and painted the entire place in different colours. So we’ve always wanted to be there and do better,” Parvana explains. “We’ve always been a force,” Sarfaraz adds.

Zeenia aptly points out how Paravana’s nine-year-old daughter is also already giving her own suggestions for the business. “She’s realising that there’s so much time and effort that’s going into this and so much is changing. One day, she looked at the ice cream barfi, which is the pink one and said, ‘We got to make this the Barbie collection one.'”

Family Favourites

Just like us, the current generation has grown up eating PDF products and has its share of favourites. While Zeenia can binge on heaps of butter and ghee, Parvana can’t resist the jalebis. “Something that I remember vividly is when I came in early sometimes in the mornings for festivities, there were heaps of jalebis lying in the area. The aroma of pure ghee and the sweetness of the jalebi make it one of my favourite products. It’s crispy on the outside and you can’t walk out of there not eating one. Every festival I’m 250g higher,” Parvana candidly shares.

“A few memories that I can poke out are regarding our kulfis and toffees. Whenever it was our birthday in school, we took our milk drops, which are the Great Indian Toffees today. It was a class favourite and my friends would wait for my birthday. Even on my father’s birthday, they would request him to bring those chocolates. They would go nuts about it,” Sarfaraz shares. He further recalls how he would travel on the Deccan Queen (the train from Bombay to Pune) during vacations and vendors would come to sell the family their own PDF kulfi. They’d still buy it and eat it though it was readily available back home.

What To Expect At The New Store

Keeping the heritage alive while also embracing modernity, the iconic store at Princess Street is more interactive. For the first time, the store has a window display that features large jalebis and lassi cans–tempting enough to lure you in. The striking feature though is the big red door, which will also be seen in two new Parsi Dairy Farm stores coming up in Ghatkopar and Borivali in October and November respectively. “We want people to recognise our brand with this door whenever they see it,” they proudly share.

Open the door and you’re in for multiple treats! A comfortable cafe-style seating for you to sit and eat falls on your left-hand side. There’s also an interesting wall of history featuring old advertisements and working areas for customers, especially novices, to learn about the brand’s 107-year-old legacy.

Parsi Dairy Farm

Then comes all the delicious mithai counters. Kids now have something to look forward to (rather than simply going with their parents to buy ghee or butter). Make a beeline for the Great Indian Toffee vending machine featuring the brand’s legendary milk drops (now renamed the Great Indian Toffee) in two exciting packaging options–one whose box is shaped like an Indian Circus, and the other that is made like a large toffee with a nice plate.

Don’t forget the cart featuring different flavours of yoghurt made from their in-house natural jams. To make it more engaging, the cart will rotate its products in intervals, so the next time you visit you might find kulfi or cheese being served. The store introduces a partly self-service, grab-and-go feature where packaged products like lassi, chaas, masala milk, butter, and kulfi can be picked out yourself.

Parsi Dairy Farm

As a country that’s big on festive celebrations, the store includes a gifting section for you to create hampers and gift boxes for your loved ones. Besides rebranding the milk drops, Parsi Dairy Farm introduced two new products–chai masala and milk masala. “As we are already into dairy products, we wanted to keep our roots in mind and launch accompaniments to our milk,” Sarfaraz says.

Parsi Dairy Farm

The revamped store is not just suitable for adults to get their weekly stock of dairy but also gives good reason for kids to head there for bites of flavoured yoghurt or toffees, or basically, anyone who needs to brighten up a dull day with indulgent delights. Century-old recipes might have kept this brand alive and kicking for 107 years but it’s also the consistent dollops of enthusiasm and love added by every family member across generations that keeps Parsi Dairy Farm going strong.

We also traced the journey of another landmark in Mumbai: Pritam Restaurant in Dadar. Read all about it here.

- Lifestyle Editor


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