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INTERVIEW

“Path-breaking innovations will be seen by 2020”
Monday, 02 January, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Anurag More

Mumbai-based Exelon Basket is a manufacturer of ethnic fusion Indian drinks such as Jeera Masala, Lemon, Orange and Mojito. Nilesh Lele, director, Exelon Basket, in an email interaction with Anurag More speaks about the food and beverage processing industry in India, indicators of innovations and machinery revolutions, growth in MSME sector and need for more policy support. Excerpts:



Brief us about the food and beverage bottle manufacturing machinery business in India.
Food processing is called the sunrise industry, and is in its nascent stages where less than 10% agriculture produce is processed into value-added products. Many traditional food products are manufactured manually rather than automation. However trends are now changing and we are seeing automatic Rinsing – Filling – Capping / Aseptic Filling, Gable Top Filling, Pouch Packing and various other machineries in beverage industry. Automatic Bottle Blowing, UHT in Milk Processing, Retort Packaging in Ready-to-Eat (RTE).

The Indian fruit juices market within the beverages market, the fruit-based beverages category is one of the fastest growing categories, and has grown at a CAGR of over 30% over the past decade. At present, the Indian packaged juices market is valued at Rs 1,100 crore (US$200 mn) and is projected to grow at a CAGR of ~15% over the next three years. The rising number of health-conscious consumers is giving a boost to fruit juices; it has been observed that consumers are shifting from fruit-based drinks to fruit juices as they consider the later a healthier breakfast/snack option.

What, according to you, are the growth indicators that pave way for higher demand in machinery for food and beverages manufacturing?
Food manufacturers face two major challenges, consistent and continuous raw material supply and adequate market demand. Providing shelf life to raw material and finished goods is the reason behind growth in machinery in food and beverages manufacturing. If we take an example of traditional sweets / mithai, the general shelf life is not more than seven days. However with demand from local and export markets to have shelf-stable products, we are now seeing many mithai products in market with a shelf life of 30 days which are manufactured with no manual touch. Changing demands are creating high demand of machinery for food and beverage manufacturing.
 
Which new innovations have revolutionised the machinery for food and beverage packaging & processing in India? Illustrate with examples or case studies.
Indian food processing industry is at an inflexion point and many path-breaking innovations will be seen by the year 2020. Changes in lifestyle, smaller and nuclear families, women joining the workforce and spending less time in kitchen, high disposable incomes and the trend towards healthy food choices are driving traditional food processors to rethink their market strategy. In India, on an average, 35% of household income is spent on food products, which is one of the highest in the world. So on one side we need to increase food security, make food relatively cheaper and at the same time provide healthier food to the consumers.

Innovations to prevent post-harvest losses: Food can be made cheaper if we reduce post-harvest losses. Dehydration (drying) can be promoted as one of the solutions to prevent losses. Maharashtra government (under Rajiv Gandhi Science and Technology Commission) in partnership with Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) has setup a model dehydration plant to reduce post-harvest losses. This model has been a commercial success. Vegetables such as spinach (palak), bottle gourd (dudhi), tomato have been dehydrated and sold in powder form thus increasing their shelf life and reducing losses. Supply chain also needs to be upgraded in order to reduce losses. There are Central government schemes run under the ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI), which offers subsidies for cold storage and value addition projects.

Innovations in food products: In next couple of years, we will see a boom of low calorie foods using artificial and natural sweeteners. In India, Sucralose has already been approved for various uses, and Stevia (which is a natural sweetener from a shrub) recently received an approval in the EU and is awaiting the green signal from FSSAI. With India becoming the diabetes capital of the world, a plethora of low glycemic index foods are being marketed to benefit diabetic people. Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of effect of carbohydrates on sugar levels (glucose). Product with high glycemic index cause a sudden spike in sugar levels and equally fast drop in sugar levels causing fatigue). Glucose has a glycemic index of 100, and in general fruits and vegetables have low glycemic index (approximately 55 or less).

Innovations in packaging: 38% of revenues in packaging industry are driven from food processing industry. From food processors perspective there is a huge need to extend shelf life of fresh and processed foods. For liquids, 6-layer Tetra Pak has been a success story for a long period, and a single layer packaging polymer is being developed by a company which can give a shelf-life of up to one year.Retort packaging can achieve a shelf life of 6 months.

Edible packaging is also causing a buzz across the world. A company called WikiCell has developed edible packaging with various applications. Innovations on technology side can also be implemented. For example high pressure processing (HPP) has immense potential in food industry.  Under HPP process product is processed at very high pressures leading to the inactivation of certain microorganisms and enzymes in the food. This treatment can increase shelf life of food products substantially. Due to high costs involved, high-end value addition can be achieved by HPP process.

The MSMEs in the food processing sector are showing high growth. Which type of machinery is high in demand in the sector?

Packaging machinery is showing a high growth, including packaging material. Form-fill-seal (FFS), Pouch packaging, Pillow packs, PET/Flexi packs are seeing growth in their consumption.

Are the policies with regard to the concessions on machinery for MSMEs enough or do you think that government is focussing more on Mega Food Parks rather than the MSME sector?
Mega Food Park is an ambitious project of Govt of India with its pros and cons. Mega Food Parks will be supported by collection centres in agricultural produce locations, common facilities will be provided by Mega Food Parks and economies of scales can be achieved. However SME manufacturers need support in terms of marketing and sales which is a lacking aspect in the ambitious Mega Food Park project. The government should focus on creating a cluster of distributors and retailers, also creating receivable insurance.
 
Which government policies have resulted in the rise of dedicated food processing machinery in India like tomato, pomegranates, and french fries?
Changes in regulations: The new food law is based on science and is technically very sound. It should be our combined responsibility to follow the law and make it even stronger.  For example, clear requirements have been laid down for labelling, and all the ingredients need to be listed, which can avoid the undesirable situation of allergy attack of say gluten, nuts etc. on a particular individual.

Changes in policies: Policy makers have realised the importance of food processing industry. In the 10th Plan the outlay for MoFPI was Rs 650 crore, which rose to Rs 4,031 crore in 11th Plan and is expected to be around Rs 15,000 crore in the 12th Plan.
 
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