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INTERVIEW

“‘More Than Food’ campaign spotlights heritage of European ingredients”
Monday, 17 June, 2024, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
India has witnessed a significant surge in interest and consumption of European food and beverages. From olive oil, cheese, meats to chocolates and even wines and spirits  are finding their way into Indian kitchens, said Chef Guntas Sethi and Chef Ajay Chopra, European Union’s 'More Than Food' campaign ambassadors, in an email interaction with Nandita Vijayasimha. Excerpts:

Expand on the European Union’s ongoing campaign ‘More Than Food’ in India.
Chef Sethi:
The ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India aims to take the audience on a culinary journey to explore the rich and diverse food and beverages from the European Union. The campaign focuses on increasing awareness about the EU’s high-quality and authentic agricultural products. To make EU products the go-to for Indian businesses and consumers, the ‘More Than Food’ campaign spotlights the cultural heritage, tradition, and artisanal craftsmanship of European ingredients while highlighting their unparalleled safety, quality, authenticity, and sustainability.

Chef Chopra: This campaign aims to engage with a diverse group of audiences including importers, distributors, retailers, the HoReCa industry, and consumers to create a deep appreciation for the unique attributes of EU products and to encourage them to use these ingredients. We are leveraging multiple avenues such as specially curated culinary experiences, trade fairs, and in-store promotions to bring this campaign to life. We are also hosting specialised masterclasses in culinary schools to create a better understanding of these ingredients among aspiring chefs. To know more about the campaign and learn the best use of EU produce in Indian kitchens one can check out the ‘More Than Food’ website and Instagram handle – @morethanfoodind.

What is the acceptance of EU’s high-quality, authentic ingredients in India?
Chef Sethi:
The Indian market has showcased a positive sentiment towards EU’s products, particularly young, urban consumers who are now becoming global citizens and are open to experimenting with various cuisines.  

European produce has long been associated with high quality, especially in categories like chocolates and dairy. This perception remains strong among Indian consumers, particularly in affluent markets, with a growing interest in items like cheese, wine, olive oil, and specialty meats.  However, the challenge lies in educating and aiding Indian consumers on how to incorporate these ingredients into their everyday meals, which is why we have the ‘More Than Food’ campaign.

Chef Chopra: The acceptance of EU's high-quality, authentic ingredients in India is on the rise, fueled by a growing interest in international cuisines and a perception of EU products as the benchmark of food safety and quality.

While there is a positive trend toward embracing EU ingredients, success in the Indian market will only come with the acknowledgement of regional preferences. Overall, the Indian market presents a promising opportunity for EU ingredients, but navigating the complexities of the diverse culinary landscape is crucial.

How are you creating awareness among the B2B sector and consumers regarding the usage and consumption of EU ingredients?
Chef Sethi:
In line with integrating the EU produce into India’s local culinary landscape and to develop the market further, there is a need to familiarise businesses and consumers with the usage of these products. To cater to these distinct culinary traditions and ingredient choices in India, the European Union presents a vast selection of products. The ‘More Than Food’ campaign essentially is a catalyst for achieving the same. Recently, as a part of our campaign, we hosted a ‘Zero Waste Kitchen’ event wherein we provided an immersive culinary experience to the attendees and demonstrated the application of European food and beverages through a three-course meal, and showcased how we can minimise wastage in the kitchen by repurposing certain ingredients. The key focus has been to create awareness about the product, the usage, flavour profiles, pairings, the storage, and its different applications.

Chef Chopra: The campaign taps into an array of immersive events such as culinary experiences for the audience to network, and masterclasses for budding chefs. As chefs, partaking in these events is particularly rewarding since we not only get to spread the word about the EU’s produce but also get to connect with our audiences and share our passion for food. Getting the opportunity to represent the ‘More Than Food’ campaign at platforms such as Aahar 2024,  a flagship B2B Food & Hospitality trade fair will engage with the members of the HoReCa industry. Moreover, the campaign features collaborations with industry associations like FIFI and key opinion leaders and constantly seeds information via social/digital campaigns to showcase the quality, versatility, and application of EU ingredients in various cuisines. These efforts are instrumental in driving awareness regarding EU products in the market.

How do such cultural exchanges create an evolving palate and what are the foods accepted from an Indian standpoint?
Chef Sethi:
With the rise in international travel, Indian consumers are increasingly embracing global culture and cuisines. Modern-day travellers bring back culinary experiences and seek global delicacies, creating a demand for international ingredients. This is evident as many experimental restaurants in India are now offering fusion recipes with unique combinations. For example, a restaurant in Mumbai serves a chaat with Burrata, PGI from Italy. One could use ladyfinger biscuits from France to make a kulfi tiramisu or use Azeite de Trás-os-Montes (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), PDO from Portugal to make Indian-spiced roasted vegetables, the combinations are endless. This trend extends beyond dining out as consumers actively incorporate these flavours into their cooking endeavours at home. Furthermore, social media now serves as a platform for audiences to explore diverse cuisines further deepening cultural appreciation.

Chef Chopra: Cultural exchanges have played a crucial role in shaping India's evolving palate, introducing new flavours, ingredients, and cooking techniques from different cultures. Over the ages, India has stood as a vibrant centre for diverse culinary traditions. This has contributed to a broader acceptance and appreciation of diverse cuisines, enriching the local food landscape. European products, including cheeses like Parmesan, Cheddar, and Gouda, are now integral to Indian cuisine, featured in dishes ranging from pasta to sandwiches. Olive oil, particularly extra virgin, has become a kitchen staple, used in salads, marinades, and sautéing. European wines, notably from France, Italy, and Spain, are gaining popularity in India for both consumption and cooking. Specialty meats such as Prosciutto di Parma, PDO from Italy, Chorizo Riojano, PGI from Spain, Smoked Breakfast Ham from Belgium, etc., have carved out a niche market, adorning charcuterie boards and gourmet sandwiches. That’s not all! European chocolates, prized for their quality, are highly coveted in India, especially during festive seasons and as gifts.

What are the popular foods from the EU displayed as part of the campaign?
Chef Sethi & Chef Chopra:
European products are full of flavour, steeped in tradition, with intriguing narratives which makes them truly ‘More Than Food’. The campaign features a range of diverse ingredients from the EU’s 27 member states, all adhering to shared standards of quality, safety, authenticity, and sustainability. The EU safeguards product names through geographical indications (GIs), linking them to their origin and traditional methods. Geographical Indications (GIs) like Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) ensure that every aspect of production, processing, and preparation occurs in the designated region, guaranteeing authenticity and quality. The PGI label which is a Protected Geographical Indication emphasises the relationship between the specific geographic location, with at least one of the stages of production, taking place in the region. Through this campaign, the European Union is showcasing a selection of its food and beverage products across categories including fruits and vegetables, olive oil, dairy & cheese, chocolates and confectionery, pork and poultry and wines, alcohol and spirits. In the past year, we leveraged multiple touchpoints like networking events, masterclasses, and trade fairs to over hundreds of ingredients to our audiences such as Feta, PDO from Greece, Mandarin Oranges from Spain, and Cream Cheese from Poland, among others.

Chef Sethi & Chef Chopra: Amongst the curated range of EU products mushrooms, olive oil, and cheese, have garnered significant interest from Indian audiences, B2B and B2C, alike. With a growing enthusiasm for experimentation, Indians are embracing various types of mushrooms, especially from France, including Shiitake Mushrooms and Black Trumpets Dried Mushrooms as well as Golden Chanterelle from Hungary. They are also gaining a deep understanding of different olive oil varieties including Azeite de Trás-os-Montes PDO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) from Portugal, Huile d'olive de Haute-Provence (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) PDO from France, and their versatile applications in cooking. Last and most important, European cheeses, ranging from classics like Danablu, PGI from Denmark to Halloumi, PDO from Cyprus, and many more unique varieties, are being creatively incorporated into fusion recipes, resulting in dishes of exceptional flavour and complexity.
 
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