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How technology is transforming the snack manufacturing industry
Friday, 30 April, 2021, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Vikas Kumar Gupta
In the food industry, where margins are slim and labour intensive manufacturing environment has always existed, automation continues to make inroads to increase competitiveness through enhanced savings, efficiency, and productivity. According to a new market research report by Meticulous Research, the global food automation market is projected to reach $14.3 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2019.

Robotics and Automation in Food Manufacturing
Today, food manufacturing has become quite difficult within the intricate processes needed to carry out certain tasks. These processes include various cooking methods, picking and packing, preparing ingredients, as well as, improving the overall safety and hygiene of the food manufacturing environment.

As there has been a rising demand for lean manufacturing within the food industry, technology has been seamlessly integrated to make high precision movements within the workplace and mitigate workplace accident levels as much as possible. It is no wonder that technology is being adopted to do monotonous jobs. While there are minor chances for human error, there are no chances of fatigue from a robot.

The Indian Snack Food Market
The Indian snacks market will be worth more than Rs 1 billion by 2024, as per the Research and Markets report (2018-24). The lifestyle changes, ever-increasing number of working professionals, local availability of snacks in small packages in addition to the growing popularity of convenience foods are driving the market for snacks. Further, factors such as rising population and increasing disposable income affect retail market dynamics significantly.

The evolving needs of customers create complexity in the food production and distribution system. As people increasingly look for packaged food, snackable food and ready to eat options; food brands are installing technologically advanced machines to produce snacks like smoothies, yoghurts, dosa mix, healthy juice, and so on.
 
Though there was a time when the vast supply chain of the products had huge costs associated with it such as maintenance cost, transportation cost, machinery and infrastructure; the situation is no longer the same since the advent of advanced and indigenously developed equipment.

Food Processing Equipment Industry in India
The Indian food processing equipment market is growing at a steady rate. For example, the Indian snacks market alone is expected to be worth more than Rs 1 billion by the end of 2024, according to the Research and Markets report (2018-24).

The market is driven by the growing need to achieve food safety and fulfil the demand of its ever increasing population. Additionally, availability of processing equipment in different sizes, designs, configurations; increasing awareness among people about health consciousness; evolving dietary habits; and increasing consumption of processed and ready to eat food is further expected to enhance the market growth over the next few years.

According to Technova's quarterly update about the performance of food processing equipment industry, the food processing industry is growing consistently and is expected to grow further on account of increasing acceptance of processed food in the Indian market. The gross value of plant and machinery deployed in the food processing sector will likely reach $51.19 billion by 2024-25.

Well established coffee chains, cafes, in-store bakeries, and quick-service restaurants are quickly leveraging the opportunity associated with snack and ready-to-eat food items – greater convenience, availability, and a wide range of variety in products.  Further, rising urbanisation, an ever-increasing number of working professionals, lifestyle changes, the growing popularity of convenience foods along with local availability of snacks in small packages and increasing drive for greater taste, hygiene and consistency are driving the market for processed Indian food or Indian snacks. Factors such as rising population and increasing affect retail market dynamics significantly.

Benefits of Automation in Food Production
As rapid advancement in technology continues to increase the demand for improved food quality and safety, it has resulted in the growing implementation of automated systems in the food industry. The accelerated demand for processed and advanced packaged foods and increasing technological innovations further drives the need for automation in the food industry.

The benefits of automation in food production illustrate the reasons why those in the business see upgrading their systems as such an important way to increase competitiveness. The ability to produce a food product with the minimum use of ingredients, without compromising its appearance and quality, not only improves line efficiencies leading to bottom-line profit but also increases sales. Additionally, improving the traceability of ingredients provides the added benefit of improved food safety. Although widespread adoption of automation systems may still be a ways off, promising signs have been seen in quality control, improved safety, brand protection and an end to end traceability.

Emerging Trends in Food Processing Equipment
There is a growing demand for processing basic food items such as grains, fruits and vegetables in addition to shifting consumer behaviour towards more advanced value-added food categories. These demands can only be fulfilled with technologically advanced equipment, thus, increasing the demand for advanced methods, technology, and machinery. Further, there is a massive requirement for cold storage facilities across the value chain, pack houses at the farm gate, multi-modal logistics etc. Hence, equipment manufacturers specialising in machinery that support infrastructure creation across the value chain have an edge.

With the ever-evolving industry landscape, many food processing companies are expanding their product line-up or planning to do so in the coming years without making significant changes to their production process. Thus, versatile equipment that can produce different product types will be a preference.

India’s vast agricultural resources further create huge potential for investments in its food equipment industry. As the consumer is shifting towards more value-added food categories such as cheese, yoghurt and processed meat, it is working in favour of processing equipment market.

There exist huge opportunities within the food industry for automation to take place. As technology advances and the ability to manipulate complex shapes become easier, more opportunities for higher levels of automation are foreseen. Manufacturers need to remember that food items and their packaging evolve constantly to meet ever increasing consumer expectations, and the technology must always take this into account.

(The author is president-technical for Kanchan Metals)
 
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