Saturday, June 23, 2018


Indian convenience food mkt expected to touch Rs 1,580 bn by end of ’17
Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Mamta Thakur
Foods which do not require much time (often need less than five minutes) and efforts for preparation are convenience foods. Some convenience foods can be consumed instantly or some after the addition of some water, heating or thawing. The demand for convenience foods is growing at a faster pace due to changes in social and economical patterns, as well as increase in urbanisation, buying power and awareness about health foods, changes in meal pattern and existing food habit, desire to taste new products. They are becoming extremely popular especially among the working class people, teenage children, people living in hostels, bachelors, and so on. They are usually cheap (some healthy choices are expensive), tasty and but frequently less healthy.

Most convenience foods provide little to no nutritional value and contain very high amounts of sugars and fats. The examples of convenience foods include candy, beverages, frozen pizza, cake mixes, microwaveable dinners, canned soup or pastas, masala oats, chocolate bars, and so on. Yogurt, fruits like apples, bananas and oranges and vegetables like carrots, broccoli or cauliflower are some of the nutritious convenience foods.

Classification of Convenience Foods
Ready-To-Eat (RTE) Foods
Such foods are edible and do not require additional heating/freezing treatment to make them safe to eat. They are ready for consumption, need only to be reheated and consumed. For example, long keeping/short-term preserved/preserved and flavoured/retort processed/frozen chapattis, composite breakfast cereal bar, RTE soy chunk, intermediate moisture fruits, and so on.

Ready-To-Cook (RTC) Foods
These foods are edible and require additional heating/freezing treatment to make them safe to eat. For example, Instant Curried Dhal mix, Instant Pulav mix, Instant Khichidi mix, Instant Basmati rice, Instant whole legumes like Kabuli channa, Rajama, and Whole grams.

Ready-To-Serve (RTS) Foods
Such foods can be directly consumed from the container and mainly include beverages. For example, Juices, squashes, purees (tomato, mango), soft drinks, packaged milk (flavoured milk, pasteurised milk), lemonade, fruit beverages, and energy drinks.

Frozen Foods
These foods are kept below the freezing point of 0°C, some need to be warmed up or cooked while others can be eaten right away. For example, Frozen mixed vegetables, frozen pizza, meat pies, chicken nuggets, ice cream, freeze dried meat, and freeze dried sweet dishes.

Market for Convenience Foods
According to Indian census data (2011), more than 70% of families in Indian society today are nuclear and 11% are single members. Lack of time due to busy lifestyle and changing consumption patterns have led to an increase in the demand for convenience foods. In India, the convenience food market is about to reach Rs 1,580 billion by the end of 2017, with a penetration in 30 million households which accounts for 32% of the industry. Among convenience foods, the market for ready-to-eat foods is about Rs 2,900 crores in financial year 2016. Three main factors viz. acceptability, affordability and availability drive such an enormous growth in the convenience food sector. India is supposed to experience a double-digit growth rate through the 2017–2022 in several categories of convenience foods.

The size of the foods and beverages sector in India today is nearly Rs 3,350 billion. Of this, the semi-processed and RTE packaged foods segment constitutes only 2%, however, growing at 20%. Globally, 65% of the consumers buy RTE meals for their convenience either frequently (20%) or occasionally (45%). The US is the largest market for convenience foods in the world and the emerging markets of Asia-Pacific, Middle-East and Latin America would fuel the future growth of the same. The global ready-to-eat food market is expected to grow at a 21.5% CAGR during the forecast period 2017-2022.

In India, the market has been segmented by type as canned foods, frozen foods, ready-to-eat snacks, meals, chilled foods and others. Some of the main companies dealing with manufacturing and distributing of convenience foods are MTR Foods, ITC, Amul, Mondelez International Inc., Bird’s Eye Ltd and Kraft Foods Group Inc. Also government has recognised the importance of convenience food production and food processing industry and is facilitating expansion.

Further, 100% FDI is allowed in agricultural and food processing sector, with plans to establish a venture capital fund to support investment requirement. Some 51% FDI in retail will transform this industry more.

Trends in Convenience Foods Market
Changing consumer lifestyles across all regions is a major factor driving the demand for convenience products. The major trends that serve as growth drivers are greater individualism, busy work culture, changing tastes and preferences of the consumers due to experimentation of consumers with new brands and exploring new tastes, cuisines and flavours. The increasing presence of drive-through windows, take-out meals, microwave dinners, home delivery for groceries and online shopping also influences the sale of convenience foods. Another trend is the convenience seeking factor involving convenience in carrying, cooking and eating.

Portability and single-serve packing is on the rise to meet the consumers need to "eat-where-you-are." Convenience coupled with the increase in health-consciousness could be major reasons for growth in certain food categories such as packed fruits juices and mineral water. The food products offering less convenience are considered to be less preferable by the consumers. Further, the rapid growth of the food service industry in large number of developing markets is also expected to fuel the demand for packaged ready-to-eat snacks such as potato fries, bakery products and meat products. However, lack of proper storage and logistics is a threat to the frozen and chilled category of convenience foods in developing countries.

Innovations to Make Convenience Foods Healthier
The recent innovations have led to the use of many traditional technologies like fermentation, extraction, encapsulation, fat replacement, and enzyme technology to produce new health food and reduce/remove undesirable food components, add specific such as nutrient vitamins like thiamine and minerals like calcium or functional ingredients like antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acid, modify food compositions, mask undesirable flavours or stabilise ingredients. The level of fat or cholesterol may be reduced by using fewer amounts in the preparation. The formulation must label the amount of gluten or another allergen if present. The formulations must use healthy fats/oils, whole grains, fibre, sodium alternatives for the increasingly health-conscious customers today without compromising on taste. Several such healthy convenience foods like Energy bars, Nutrition bars, Fruit preserves, Low-fat yoghurt, and Frozen desserts, have been introduced in market and have gained huge popularity and acceptance.  

Modern biotechnology and nanotechnology has even revolutionised the way foods are created. Recent discoveries in gene science may manipulate the components in natural foods. In combination with bio-fermentation, desirable natural compounds can now be produced in large amounts at a low cost and with little environmental impact. All these innovative techniques will influence the production of a wide variety of convenience foods with enhanced flavour and texture conferring multiple health benefits simultaneously to the consumer.

Several novel technologies may now be used in the manufacturing of convenience foods like Retort Processing, High Pressure Processing (HPP), ultrasound, Pulse Electric Field (PEF), and Freezing. The retort processed foods do not require rehydration or cooking and can be consumed straight from the pouch with or without pre-warming, depending upon the requirement of the users and the weather conditions. HPP met the requirements for delivering a safer, more natural product to the consumer without the need for chemical preservatives. PEF processing offers quality fresh-like liquid foods with excellent flavour, nutritional value, and shelf-life. Properly frozen foods maintain more of their original colour, flavour and texture and generally more of their nutrients than foods preserved by other methods as freezing can be the most expensive method of preserving foods. Advancements in the packaging include active, controlled or intelligent packs that greatly extend the shelf life of the product.

Advantages of Convenience Foods
Convenience foods may offer some benefits like less time spent in the kitchen or planning meals, less preparation time, fewer leftovers and easy cleaning up. They add a variety of items particularly for inexperienced cooks. There is less spoilage and wastage using the packaged convenience foods. They are economic for mass production and distribution. Properly stored ready-to-use products are bacteriologically safer than fresh goods. The shelf-life can be extended through additives.

Disadvantages of Convenience Foods
Sometimes, convenience foods may take increased time for thawing or baking than the normal cooking period. They contain unhealthy amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and trans-fats and also lack freshness like in case of fruits and vegetables. Eating too much salt, sugar and unhealthy fat may lead to several health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Convenience foods generally lack micronutrients like vitamins and minerals which are required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms, like our bodies. Moreover, ready-to-use products are often very expensive than homemade. Products may contain additives-preservatives, colouring, and so on and packaging may negatively impact the environment.
(The author is PhD research scholar, deptt of food engg & tech, SLIET. She can be reached at;
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