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INTERVIEW

“Indian flavours industry set to grow at a healthy rate”
Monday, 05 December, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Demand for protein-rich foods by consumer have created a diet evolution. This has paved way for the alternative protein market, giving people a chance to return to the traditional protein routes, albeit in more convenient and tasty formats. Plant-based food and beverages trend is picking up fast in the country as people are becoming more receptive and open to something new, healthy, and sustainable, Prakash MG, managing director, India Sub-Continent, IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances Inc.), tells Nandita Vijay, in an email interaction. Excerpts:

How would you describe the current landscape of flavours, food fragrances, and protein solutions among others in India?
Post-pandemic there has been a paradigm shift in consumers’ food preferences. Indian consumers are now adopting more of a holistic approach to their overall health. The food industry plays a key role in helping Indian consumers shift to a nutritionally adequate diet. In this context, we observe a significant interest from our customers who are focussing on providing sustainability, health & a great taste experience to the end-consumers.

What are the visible trends in this space?
Uniting the consumer desire for health & wellness with indulgence is a key trend across categories. The ‘flavours and ingredients’ market in India is seeing rapid expansion amidst increasing consumption of processed foods, that have functional health benefits, a great taste experience, and most importantly are convenient such as ready-to-eat meals. We see significant traction in protein solutions, probiotics, emulsifiers, sweeteners, and preservatives apart from flavours, which is equally critical.

Notably, there is a growing interest to explore plant-based foods and beverages, especially plant-based proteins. In India, consumer interest in plant-based protein is catching up in metro cities. One in four Indian (urban) consumers is keen to include protein in their diet, while one in five believe plant proteins are healthier, and are open to trying them. This is also driven by the evolving consumer palate and overall lifestyle change. It should be noted that the consumers in India sub-continent region are steadily rising on the socio-economic ladder as well, which helps in the growth of the processed food industry.

What are the challenges of this market?
In the current global context, inflation and availability of quality raw materials is the biggest challenge that the industry faces today. Food ingredient organisations are challenged by issues, namely sourcing, managing high costs & freight. These challenges are impacting the entire value chain- from the supplier to the consumer, which in turn further impacts the business dynamics and the entire ecosystem. The stakeholders are now trying to strike a balance between high inflation and consumer affordability. Here we are working hard to offer solutions to mitigate this challenge.  

Can you tell us how the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the interest towards protein solutions, probiotics among others?
The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted consumers to pay greater attention to their health and to seek ways to protect it by adopting 'preventative health' measures such as strengthening their immune system. Scientific studies indicate that consuming probiotics regularly increases immunity and reduces the risk of acute infections and brings down regular episodes of falling sick.

The Indian probiotic market is growing at a healthy rate due to factors such as rising health concerns, an increase in lifestyle-related diseases, and rising disposable income. The availability of probiotic foods is also increasing gradually due to the increased accessibility in our country, which is steadily bridging the demand-supply gap. India is the largest producer of milk and fermented dairy products have become an inherent part of our diet; there is therefore potential for significant growth for probiotic dairy products.

Next, as discussed earlier, there is also a rise in demand for protein-rich foods such as soy and pea protein which are flag bearers of this consumer diet evolution. This has paved way for the alternative protein market, giving people a chance to return to the traditional protein routes, albeit in more convenient and tasty formats. Plant-based food and beverages trend is picking up fast in the country as people are becoming more receptive and open to something new, healthy, and sustainable.

How has your company performed in India which is a large unorganised market?
We are a global organisation, our purpose is where science meets creativity, creating consumer-preferred products by applying expertise in product research, sensory and consumer science, and flavour & specialty ingredients R&D.

We work together with the regional customers to co-create market-ready locally relevant solutions and recipes, involving them from conceptualisation to successful commercialisation of these innovative food products. Our success is built on a foundation of research and development, where the experts are constantly working on broadening the portfolio of flavours and ingredients, introducing cutting-edge processes that ensure the highest quality ingredients, and delivery systems that can be tailor-made to fit any customer’s needs. Backed by its in-depth research and market insights on the Indian consumer, IFF India continues to demonstrate its commitment to meeting the evolving needs of the fast-growing Indian processed food market.

Could you tell us where are your manufacturing plants and how are you strengthening the Make in India focus?
We recognise the Make in India initiative as a driving force for the ‘sunrise’ food processing sector of the country, giving impetus to the intensive research being conducted towards developing innovative flavours and specialty ingredients. In 2020, we commissioned a state-of-art facility at Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, that produces flavours & fragrances. This production facility largely caters to the Indian market apart from exporting to neighbouring countries. IFF India is blessed and lucky to attract the best talent in our country across functions. We have a dedicated flavours & ingredient team creating high-quality, cost-effective products, tailor-made to the needs of Indian consumers. Apart from production, our innovation team operates out of labs in Gurgaon, Mumbai & Bangalore serving customers in India.
 
How much of tech adoption has been made at these facilities?
At our Sri City plant, we are committed to sustainability goals. To begin with, the plant has achieved Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) at the site, has certifications - ISO 14K & 45K and SEDEX complied site apart from a host of energy & water conservation measures, Rainwater Harvesting and Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWL). The site has allocated 33% for green belt development.

How important is India from a global market standpoint to market your range of products?
The Indian flavours & ingredients industry is set to grow at a healthy rate. As per the USDA report, India’s food processing industry is considered the sunrise sector for the Indian economy. In this context, we are committed to serving the consumers & customers, in alignment with regional strategic growth plans.

In terms of the FSSAI regulations which are the ones’s that are forward looking giving India an edge in the global market?
FSSAI has undertaken a huge step forward by starting a project to harmonise Indian regulations with global regulatory frameworks, especially Codex. This one singular step has resulted in providing a framework that is globally harmonised and allows Indian companies to access global markets without really requiring drastic product reformulations.
 
What are the likely future efforts of the company from an India stand-point?
As a global industry leader, we shall continue to focus on bringing our science & creativity, that is able to offer quality products that is revolving around ‘Sustainability, Health & Great Taste Experience’. We shall offer these by leveraging our consumer trends & insights, tools & technology, and collaborating with our customers that address the needs of the consumer.
 
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