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The Growth In Indian Frozen Food Market Is Getting Warmer

The frozen food industry, in particular, is seeing innovative product offerings as well as disruptions across the spectrum.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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A famous saying goes like this – FOOD IS THE INGREDIENT THAT BINDS US TOGETHER. 

Any place, any time – good food is one thing nobody would say no to. And when made nutritiously, yet, satiating the taste buds, nothing like it. The mushrooming of food outlets coupled with the growing popularity of food delivery options, it is only anybody’s imagination what the future holds in store. 

While the Indian food segment, overall, is witnessing buoyancy, the frozen food market is slowly and making heads turn towards it. The Indian frozen food market is poised to grow 2x from $310 million (2017) to reach $754 million by 2023, a CAGR of over 16 percent. To capitalize on this boom, the industry has to become future-ready with the rapid adoption of innovative practices and technologies that will give it the edge in a burgeoning and competitive global market, pegged to reach $309.98 billion by 2021.

Demystifying myths
There are a lot of misconceptions around frozen food and the process. Consumers think that frozen food automatically loses nutrients when they’re frozen, or that all frozen produce have preservatives. However, this isn’t true. When farmers and meat producers freeze these with the right technology they tend to freeze them at their peak nutritional value and ripeness. Fresh fruits and vegetables that we purchase at our neighbourhood grocery store, or sometimes at the local farmer’s market are usually picked when they aren’t ripe, to allow for transportation time and processing by the time they reach the shelves of the store. This means they are picked before their peak, giving you less nutrients for your money. 

Today, young moms and professionals alike are reaching out for ready-to-eat food products as it is convenient and saves time. At the same time, the discerning customer is aware of nutritional benefits and is looking for foods that not only tick the boxes on convenience, access, or cost, but also on health and nutrition. This awareness is causing frozen food companies to constantly innovate with their food processes and products. 

Growth and Innovations
The Frozen food industry is also witnessing an increase in demand for more premium, sustainable and healthier products. There is high expectation in terms of quality, taste, origin of products and ethical brand practices. A recent Nielsen study found that 81% of millennials and 78% Generation Z are willing to pay more for foods which meet these expectations. Millennials are more likely to spend on sustainable brands that offer organic products, high protein and follow fair trade/souring practices.

The growth in the segment has also brought many innovations. Let us take a look at some of them. 

Product Innovation
One of the most visible innovation is the increasing product portfolio. Until a few years ago, frozen foods comprised of seafood, chicken, snacks, and vegetables. Today, mainline foods like Pizza, Biryani, meal solutions are coming into the frame of frozen foods. Changing lifestyles, rising double incomes, long working hours and shortened home time have also played a role in food manufacturers drumming up innovative products.  For example Sumeru has launched grated coconut, kebabs, and Michelin star curated meals to name a few in the domestic market. The most recent launch is that of Frozen momo’s. This would be first of its kind launched by a national FMCG brand in India. 

Innovative Technologies
The most important aspect for frozen foods is freezing technology. This technology has evolved over the years. Today, most sought-after freezing technology is the IQF – Individual Quick Freezing. As the term suggests, it stands for the quick freezing of individual pieces of product, as opposed to bulk or block freezing. It keeps the food fresh and nutritious until the time it reaches the consumer’s table. 

Fresh vegetables produce enzymes that cause loss of colour, flavour and nutrients. Simple freezing leads to the formation of large ice crystals in the cells of the product / produce, thereby leading to loss of nutrients, texture and taste. However, IQF deactivates enzymes and prevents the formation of large ice crystals in cells of the produce thereby preserving the taste, texture and nutrients in them. And what is really the icing on the cake, is that the consumer doesn’t have to contend with one single block of frozen food, but can actually see and use each piece individually. IQF is suitable for all types of food products – be it vegetables or meat or sea food or even a simple snack. 

Sumeru follows stringent norms in cold chain logistics. Our vehicles are fitted with GPS enabled temperature-controlled systems which allow us to remotely locate and check the temperature of our vehicles which transports these products.

Packaging
A key component of this industry is Packaging. Flexible packaging is one of the innovations in the food industry. Flexible packaging contains multi-layered laminated sheets of
 single or a combination of substrates such as plastic, paper or aluminium foils. Flexible Packaging fulfils the diverse role from protecting products, preventing spoilage, contamination, extending shelf life, ensuring safe storage thereby helping to make them readily available to consumers.

Cold Chain Logistics
By its nature, frozen foods warrant robust packaging. Hence it needs appropriate transportation till the last mile. In a country like India where infrastructure is one of the major challenges, cold chain plays a critical role. The Indian cold chain market was worth INR 1,121 Billion in 2018. The market is further projected to reach INR 2,618 Billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 14.8% during 2019-2024. Fleet expansions, quicker transportation of goods is the key to frozen foods.

Emergence Of Super And Hyper Markets
The growth in the food sector has also led to a surge in the emergence of Supermarkets and
 Hypermarkets. Large format supermarkets and hypermarkets offer the required space and
 infrastructure for the storage of frozen foods. Today’s discerning consumer’s choice for grocery
 and food shopping are such large-format stores. Markets in the west have a large presence for
 frozen food and Indian shoppers there consume everything frozen from fish to jackfruit seeds.

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

Conclusion
Going global, yet being local is the mantra today. The food space will always show a positive trend with changes in the environment and consumer perceptions. Global trends are catching up and Indian brands are making their cut internationally. 

The frozen food industry, in particular, is seeing innovative product offerings as well as disruptions across the spectrum. While consumers myths will break slowly, its up to the brands in this category to build consumer trust for frozen food and grow this industry. We have just begun this. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
frozen foods

Mithun Appaiah

The author is CEO - Innovative Foods Limited, Brand Sumeru

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