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Devising innovative ways of developing products and solutions is the trend
Wednesday, 11 December, 2019, 14 : 00 PM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
The Indian consumer today is no longer bound by the three fixed meals a day. The consumption moments have increased and as a testament to this, the market for snack food segment is on the rise. Hence the focus of the food processing industry has been to research and devise innovative ways of developing products and solutions that optimally satisfy people's nutritional needs.

According to a report, the revenue in the snack food segment amounts to $5,254 million in 2019 and the market is expected to grow annually by 7.5% CAGR 2019-2023. With this, there is also a rise in health-consciousness among 21st century customers who lead a busy lifestyle and are constantly looking for quick healthy fixes for their multiple meals each day.

The University of Agriculture Sciences noted that India’s food processing sector needs translational research and accelerated product development. Food processing industry will require larger investments and an effective functioning of the innovation pathway. Research to promote innovation must be supported increasingly on a cooperative rather than a competitive basis. This requires effective communication among science agencies, research institutions, academia and industry.
 
Additionally, increasing urbanisation, growth in the number of double-income households, paucity of time and the impending inflation which have resulted in changing food consumption patterns. This has fueled the demand for convenience and healthy foods in the country.
 
“The Indian agro and food processing industries are recording double-digit growth. Being the second-largest producer of farm produce in the world and the third-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), India indicates promising prospects. With a massive food market that is fast expanding, generating growth in the retail sector along with supporting policies and fiscal incentives, India’s food economy is thriving,” said Dr V G Dhanakumar, director and professor, Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore.
 
Functional foods will influence daily diet choices. An increasing number of consumers are expected to pay attention to the functional and medicinal attributes of food products to help them select those that align best with their diet or lifestyle choices.
 
It is the revival of more indigenous grains. While millets were the focus of attention in 2018 for India and the consumer interest in 2019 and 2020 will trigger the revival of other traditional grains and indigenous varieties of rice, ordinary vegetables will be the new exotic. Here gharelu vegetables such as bathua, tendli, lauki, and tinda, which have not shown up in commercial kitchens so far, will feature prominently in restaurant menus, according to sources at UAS.
 
Conscientious cooking and responsible eating will gain traction. As consumers become aware of and appreciate the intricate relationship between food choices and environmental well-being, they will actively seek solutions that help minimise impact on themselves and the environment.
 
Fermented foods will be everywhere. There will be a rise in the variety of naturally fermented products that are available on shelves and menus in 2020. Micro cuisines will hit the spotlight. There will be an explosion of conversations, events, products, and dining experiences inspired by micro-cuisines from specific sub-regions, communities, and even family kitchens. Grandmother recipes will rule menus. The food industry will create more opportunities to pay homage to mothers, grandmothers and home chefs as the original sources of inspiration, and custodians of our rich culinary diversity. There will be a reinvention of snacking.
 
Consumers will get more opportunities to replace their main meals with credible snacking products that align with their priorities around health, convenience and costs. There will be a boom in availability of unusual products with labels like rustic, artisanal, small-batch, crafted and handmade.
 
According to Prashant Parameswaran, CEO and MD, Kottaram Agro Foods, which has Soulfull as its brand, as a superfood and a smart food, millets are beneficial to consumers, farmers and thereby contribute to a sustainable ecosystem. He stated, “It is good to see that Indian and international institutes are realising the potential of millets. To promote millets as a superfood, we work closely with government agencies and agricultural bodies.”
 
Parameswaran added, “Therefore, the joint effort in educating consumers coupled with our constant innovations and push to take them to the consumers’ tables is where we see growth and millets getting international recognition will further Soulfull’s growth story. Year 2018 was Year of Millets in India and Soulfull was at the forefront to drive the same through their products and marketing initiatives. Soulfull has been interacting with government agencies on thought leadership in this area.”
 
Meanwhile, Paolo George, director, Symega Food Ingredients, said, “As consumers’ tastes and preferences continue to evolve and competition in each market segment intensifies, innovation is the core to having a differentiated positioning.”
 
In a similar vein, Dr Siddhant Bhargava, co-founder, fitness & nutritional scientist, Food Darzee, stated, “We believe ‘to eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.’ The idea was to nip in the bud certain lifestyle and weight-dependent diseases and creating a healthy and conveniently managed in future.”
 
Facts on frozen food
The processed and frozen food market is seeing a steady growth in demand both in India and world over, particularly in the developing Asian countries. Globally the frozen food market is expected to reach US$309.98 billion growing at a CAGR of 6.15% by 2021. Developing markets are likely to experience a higher growth. India’s frozen food market which stood at US$310 million in 2017 is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 16% to reach US$754 million by 2023.
 
Frozen foods are a regular part of the daily diet world over and India is quickly moving towards that primarily driven by changing lifestyles and increasing purchasing power. Consumers are now recognising that frozen food is a more healthy option available over a lot of packaged products due to its intrinsic value of preserving nutrition due to advanced technology available. “Sumeru as a brand is leading this innovation in technology by using most advanced IQF freezing technology to keep products fresh and lock in nutrition,” said Mithun Appaiah, CEO, Innovative Foods.
 
Opportunities of organic
According to a study, India's organic food market has potential to grow more than 25 per cent annually to touch $1.36 billion by 2020, provided there is more awareness about these products and the government incentivises region-specific organic farming to ensure consistent growth in future.
 
People in India are understanding the importance of organic food slowly. India is capable of growing all kinds of organic foods. Farmers should be educated to boost organic cultivation. Organic farming not only protects land and water resources, but also improves farm income.
 
Awareness about organic products has been significantly increasing in recent three to four years. Consumers are also more aware on certification processes and hence make careful purchase decisions. On the market channels, there has been an emerging trend on farmers markets and society activations focussed on organic products. “The growth and availability of alternate channels as well as increased awareness on organic certifications has helped organic companies to reach out to more consumers in an effective manner,” observed Ravi Jakhar, founder, Truefarm Foods.
 
Innovation indispensable
 According to Hemant Malik, chief executive officer, ITC Foods, there is a need to drive innovation to take advantage during the upturn and stay close to the consumers. Further, it is also important to consider intelligent cost cutting or devise strategic cost management plans to drive operational efficiency and keep an eye on competition. He stated, “We are confident that the consumption is expected to multiply. The future looks bright and strong and the economy will bounce back.”
 
Stressing on a similar point, P C Musthafa, chief executive officer, iFresh, said, “Innovation, evolution change are much desired as we move to towards organic. This is a disruption in the food processing sector. Adoption of technology and creating value without an escalation in the final pricing to the consumer ensuring certified compliances for all our produce reinstates our effort to bring a sustainable way of consumption with our organic products.”
 
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Transport and Agriculture Laxman S Savadi, commented on a concluding note, “Food processing has the potential to dramatically improve the rural livelihoods by raising farm incomes through value addition in their agricultural produce. The big attraction in Karnataka is the diverse six agro-climatic conditions, which enable cultivation of wide-ranging fruits and vegetables suitable for food processing industries. The state is self-sufficient in fruit, flowers, spices, vegetables, medicinal plants and aromatic crops. There the scope, potential and opportunities are huge for food processing.”
 
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