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Enviable scenario of Indian sweets market
Tuesday, 09 April, 2024, 14 : 00 PM [IST]
Shivam Bhagat
For generations, sweets have been an integral part of Indian culture, symbolising joy, prosperity, and togetherness. However, in today's fast-paced world, where convenience and health consciousness reign supreme, the sweet market in India faces a unique set of challenges. Balancing tradition with innovation and authenticity with accessibility, the industry is in a state of flux, adapting to changing consumer preferences while staying true to its rich culinary heritage.

Evolving consumer preferences
One of the most significant factors shaping the sweet market in India is consumers' evolving preferences. With an increasing emphasis on health and wellness, there has been a growing demand for sweets that are not only delicious but also nutritious. As a result, manufacturers are exploring innovative ingredients and formulations to cater to this health-conscious segment of the market. From sugar-free sweets to those enriched with natural sweeteners like jaggery and ingredients like nuts, fruits, and seeds, there is a noticeable shift towards healthier options.

Moreover, changing lifestyle patterns, particularly in urban areas, have led to a rise in demand for convenience foods, including sweets. Ready-to-eat and on-the-go sweet snacks are gaining popularity among busy professionals and millennials who seek indulgence without compromising on convenience. Consequently, manufacturers invest in packaging innovations and product diversification to tap into this burgeoning market segment.

Introduction of new flavours
In India, the food processing sector is among the biggest in terms of imports, production, and consumption. The market is expanding as a result of Indian food manufacturers' rising need for food flavours. India has a constant need for food flavours due to the country's growing usage of herbs and spices.

Food tastes like cardamom, ghee, and rasamalai have been observed to have a high demand in the Indian sweet industry recently. The market for seasonal Indian sweets is expanding, and with it is the need for sweets with intriguing new flavours. When it comes to consumers' selections of food and drink, flavour is generally the most significant consideration, therefore it is understandable that innovators keep experimenting with taste profiles to offer new experiences and appease sweet tooth.

Twist to Indian sweets
Indian sweets hold a special place in the hearts of many, often concluding meals on a delightful note. Nowadays, there's a growing trend of infusing traditional Indian sweetmeats with Western culinary influences, transforming them into gourmet desserts. Popular Indian sweets like Rasgulla cake and Eggless Ghulkand cakes are getting revamped, alongside creations like Gulkand truffles, Rasmalai cake paired with Rabadi, and Indian mithai cake topped with Thandai frosting. Additionally, there are inventive treats such as Gulab Jamun mix cookies, adding a unique spin to the usual array of pastries and baked goods.

Evolution of the market for processed Indian Traditional Sweets
Traditional Indian sweets have gained significant recognition due to their widespread consumption and deep-rooted cultural significance. They have always held a special place in the diets of both Indians and people worldwide. The processed versions of these traditional sweets are experiencing a surge in popularity, driven by factors such as enhanced quality and safety standards, extended shelf life, diverse varieties, convenience, and attractive packaging. The Indian traditional sweets market is currently valued at USD 6 billion, with packaged foods constituting USD 4.2 billion of this market share. This segment also contributes significantly, accounting for 8–10% of the country’s packaged food sector. Various players in the market have established their foothold by leveraging one or more of these factors to their advantage.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the industry's embrace of digital marketing and delivery platforms, leading to novel partnerships with organized retailers. There has been a notable shift from loose, unpackaged sweets to packaged variants as a measure to mitigate the risk of infection. Additionally, continuous advancements in packaging technologies for sweets, including the adoption of biodegradable materials, nano-fabrication techniques, and flexible packaging solutions, are expected to further propel the growth of the Indian packaged sweets market in the foreseeable future.

Expanding e-commerce landscape for confectionery products
The surge in online grocery shopping, which had already been on an upward trajectory before the pandemic, experienced a significant boost due to shifts in lifestyle and consumer preferences brought about by the global health crisis. This momentum is anticipated to persist, propelling the demand for packaged, ready-to-eat foods through e-commerce platforms.

Likewise, the Indian sweets and chocolates e-commerce market is poised for substantial growth, with projections indicating a rise to US$340.2 million by 2024, constituting 16.5% of India's Food Cupboard e-commerce sector. Forecasts suggest continued expansion in the coming years, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR 2024-2028) of 18.8%. By 2028, the market volume is expected to reach an impressive US$676.8 million, underscoring the significant potential for further development in this segment.

Technological advancements
In an era defined by technological innovation, the sweet market in India is not untouched by the transformative power of technology. Technology is revolutionizing every aspect of the manufacturing process from automated production lines to state-of-the-art packaging solutions. Advanced machinery and equipment have not only improved efficiency and productivity but also enabled manufacturers to maintain the highest standards of quality and hygiene.

Furthermore, the advent of e-commerce and digital marketing platforms has opened up new avenues for sweet manufacturers to reach consumers directly. With the click of a button, consumers can explore a wide range of sweets from the comfort of their homes, leading to increased market accessibility and visibility for manufacturers.

Opportunities and challenges
Despite the promising prospects, the sweets market in India faces its share of challenges. Chief among them is the issue of food safety and hygiene, particularly in the unorganized sector where small-scale producers operate without adequate regulatory oversight. Ensuring compliance with food safety standards and building consumer trust are paramount for the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Additionally, rising input costs, fluctuating commodity prices, and supply chain disruptions pose challenges for manufacturers, impacting production costs and profit margins. However, these challenges also present opportunities for innovation and efficiency optimization, driving industry players to adopt sustainable practices and streamline operations.

Looking ahead, the sweet market in India is poised for continued growth and innovation. With a rich culinary heritage, a burgeoning consumer base, and a spirit of entrepreneurship, the industry is well-positioned to navigate the complexities of the modern marketplace and emerge stronger than ever before. As tastes evolve and trends shift, one thing remains constant – the timeless allure of sweets, transcending borders, cultures, and generations.

(The author is director at Bhagat Halwai)
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