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“We plan to launch ice cream help centre with 24x7 helpline”
Monday, 14 December, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Indian Ice-Cream Manufacturers Association (IICMA) is a professional non-profit apex industry body formulating the policy & representing the business interests of Indian ice cream industry. Leading brands such as Havmor, Kwality Walls, Scoops, Creambell, Vadilal, Top N Town, Dinshaw’s and Naturals are among its members across India. IICMA supports Indian ice cream industry by providing education, updated information through events, seminars and training programmes on various critical issues related to industrial policies, food safety and R&D. The body elected its office bearers recently with Sudhir Shah, director, Scoops Ice Cream, taking over the helms as president. Hyderabad-based Scoops, a Haridwar Group Rs 700+ million company, is known for brands such as Scoops, Temptations and Cream Stone spread across 25 cities. In an email interview with Manjushree Naik, Shah delves deeper into the effect of the pandemic on the ice cream industry, future action in regard to regulatory compliance and more. Excerpts:

The ice cream industry has gone through testing time recently. How has the recovery been so far?
Yes, according to the media report analysis, the ice cream industry has lost more than 60% of its business so far. I hope good days are ahead; this is the time to be positive.The coming 4-5 months will be a good opportunity for recovery and growth for the industry.

What are the total losses suffered by the ice cream industry this fiscal year? How much time will it take to recover?
The ice cream industry has suffered greatly due to following: The lockdown started during the peak season of business; People were scared that ice cream could harm their health or increase chances of infection; Many people lost their sources of income; Parlours and retail outlets remained shut during this period; Even the media is not convinced about the benefits of ice cream. They still think it’s a non-essential product and continue to tell the public to stay away from ice cream.

More awareness campaigns need to be conducted for the public as well as press and media houses where technical experts and doctors can show them why ice cream is perfectly safe. Press releases also need to be done to share the same message.

Even now, people are being cautious about ice creams, refrigerated products and the like. What is your association doing to address this?
As I have already said, media campaigns to spread awareness must be done frequently. People need to understand that ice cream is not similar to other refrigerated products that can be harmful to human health. In many places, ice cream is given to children who don’t like drinking milk because it can provide all the necessary nutrients in a tastier package.

How has the industry been doing, especially for small players with limited local presence?
It’s still quite a bad situation due to the loss of liquidity. Even as the rates of milk products came down, the purchasing power of entrepreneurs is still not high enough. They can’t even take bank loans since they are uncertain about the growth of their business.

What changes are you planning for your association after taking over as president?
The association was already on the right path. The new course of action will completely depend on the challenges that lie before us. We will also remain focussed on aligning ourselves with government initiatives. Where we aren’t aligned, we have to try and convince the government to modify their policies to suit the best interests of the industry.

What are the other challenges such as the supply of SMP that the industry is facing right now?
We have to work on the government e-portal where we can feed in our requirements and they will keep notifying us on the best times or best rates for purchase.

What do you think the government can introduce as relief measures?
The government has already announcing many relief measures to help the economy recover. We need to understand how these can be useful for the ice cream industry. These topics will be discussed when the association meets, whether it’s online or offline.

How has the regulatory scenario been with FSSAI introducing new methods in sample collection, lab testing, adjudication, and licensing and registration of FBOs?
FSSAI regulations totally depend on feedback from industry experts. We have to conduct a meeting with the identified FSSAI technical expert. On the other hand, we plan to launch an ice cream and dairy help centre with a 24x7 helpline number where any member can leave a question to be resolved by an expert panel.

What kind of disruptions can be expected in the ice cream market, for instance, naturals?
We welcome any company, like Naturals, to the market to encourage healthy and fair competition. We respect their expertise.

How big is the ice cream industry in India and at what rate is it growing?
The ice cream industry in India has a bright future and is expected to grow continuously unless another unexpected obstacle comes along. The report finds that the market grew at a CAGR of 14.1% during 2014-2019. The healthy growth of the market can be attributed to several factors: Population growth; Rising disposable incomes; Urbanisation rates; Changing consumer preferences; Improved cold supply chain and growing deep freezer penetration.

The per-capita consumption of ice cream in India is poor. How can this be improved?
The per-capita consumption of ice cream has been continuously increasing every year:

Ice cream growth analysis globally
What new technologies or changes are awaited by Indian ice cream manufacturers?
There are so many technologies that are yet to come that could make our products even more safe and healthy. The industry has to focus on low-cost automation, which will be an affordable and systematic way of manufacturing ice cream that is untouched by humans.
Biological hazards are the greatest challenges faced by the Indian ice cream market today, but with the right technological innovation they can be overcome.
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