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FOOD PROCESSING

Healthy, convenient and organic - New-age mantra for Indian processed foods
Friday, 12 April, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Mithun Appaiah


FnbNews Healthy, convenient and organic – will be the new-age mantra for Indian processed food players as consumers increasingly demand for products that are high on ease of use and at the same time healthy, nutritious and made from organic/natural ingredients.

Our country which has one of the largest millennial populations in the world will see a renaissance in the demand for frozen food. Owing to the growing demands for innovative, healthy and sustainable products the frozen food segment in the country will see some disruptive changes.

The Indian frozen foods market was valued at Rs 59.7 billion in 2017. The market is further projected to reach a value of US$153.1 billion by 2023, expanding at a CAGR of around 17% during 2017-2023.

The demand for frozen food products has gone up in recent years particularly in a growing economy like India which has seen rapid increase in number of consumers with higher disposable incomes, more women entering the work forces, growing number of two income nuclear families which has resulted in paucity of time and hence the need for convenience-driven foods.

Further augmented by rising urbanisation, increasing number of refrigeration facilities in small retail shops and rural households and growing cold chain industry. However, these consumers are not merely looking for convenience they are also looking for alternatives that are healthy, organic and preservative free along with taste, variety and value for money – they want it all. It presents both a unique challenge as well as an opportunity to frozen food manufacturers.

The future is frozen – why fresh may not be as fresh as you think anymore
While frozen food is generally considered as convenient it is often perceived to be unhealthy, a consumer misconception the sector has grappled with for a while now. Often consumers assume what is available as fresh is better, but in reality this is quite contrary. While there is no denying that fresh is good – but what is perceived to be fresh produce in the market often has reached the consumer a good 15 to 20 days after it was harvested. The days spent in transit, pollution, improper storage conditions in fact destroy most of the nutrition.

Whereas most freezing units across the country are located within 100 km of where the produce is sourced meaning your fresh peas in the Uttaranchal belt reach the manufacturing unit within hours where it is cleaned and flash frozen at its peak nutritional state and then stored and transported in a controlled environment where the temperature is consistently maintained under -18 degree Celsius to prevent enzyme activity that might further cause nutritional loss. Freezing as a process in fact involves minimal processing, has high retention of nutrients, taste, texture and freshness making it one of the best and safest methods of food preservation without the addition of any preservatives.

The frozen food industry is also witnessing an increase in demand for more premium, sustainable and healthier products. Today’s high expectation in terms of quality, taste, origin of produce and ethic brand practices is high as well.

A recent Nielsen study found that 81% of millennials and 78% generation Z are willing to pay more for foods with benefits. Millennials are more likely to spend on sustainable brands that offer products that are organic, high protein and follow fair trade / souring practices.

Another major challenge that frozen food manufacturers need to address is the growing consumer demand for variety and novelty in this segment. The consumers today are seeking more innovative products, our primary research data shows a marked rise in demand for mainline products like pizza and biryani in the Indian frozen segment and not just snacks. Frozen desserts (non-ice cream segment) is gaining traction and consumers have started accepting those products.

The frozen food sector overall is witnessing lot more disruption than ever before. To address this disruption, frozen food manufacturers need to significantly invest on R&D and innovation, and develop products that address the consumer concerns around health, nutrition and origin.

We uniquely combine innovation with the use of healthy ingredients like turmeric, millets, methi (fenugreek), lean meats - like chicken and seafood, healthier cooking methods, e.g., roasting vs deep frying to create our products. This is reflected in our newly launched range of gourmet premium products created in collaboration with 13 time Michelin starred chef, Chef Alfred Prasad (this is a first of its collaboration in the Indian food industry), kebab and paratha range - curated by Master Chef India judge Chef Ajay Chopra.

Our products are made from healthy premium ingredients and are largely free from any preservatives and stabilisers. Also in the last one year we have built a robust system to manage our internal R&D. We have created an internal Chef’s Panel of well-known chefs who come together twice a month and go through our innovation funnel and test the products using our unique ranking system and recommend any modification. Only when our product passes this ranking system do we introduce it our next set of panel – our consumer panel. We follow similar rigorous tasting and testing process.  Once the products that pass these two panels we then launch them in the market.

Other trends that we see emerging in the industry apart from premiumisation of frozen food is that of private label brands is another factor that is boosting the growth of the market. Private label products are relatively low-priced as compared to mainstream brands, which makes them a popular option among consumers who are budget-conscious. The market share of private-label players is increasing in all the segments of the global frozen food market.

In order to succeed in the current market scenario we believe, the players in the market need to introduce new products that can tap into the potential offered by the growing demand for premium, healthy and novel frozen food products in the country.

(The author is CEO, Innovative Foods Limited, Brand Sumeru)
 
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