Scope of frozen food in the Indian market

Mithun Appaiah

In an interview with Mr. Mithun Appaiah, CEO, Innovative Food Ltd. with Food Maketing and Technology magazine he taked about the scope of frozen food in the Indian market. Their food is marketed under Sumeru brand.

1 With your long experience with FMCG companies, could you give us five key trends you foresee in the sector in the next few years?

The future of food globally and in India is changing in five key areas – How we eat, shop, and engage with food. This is bound to influence the FMCG and frozen food sector as a whole. Fast and fit Millennials and Gen-Z consumers are increasingly looking for convenience but not at the cost of health. Which is why I see the coming years will be driven by:

• Mainstreaming Pure Growing

Consumers today want to know where their food is coming from, how it is grown. There is an increase in demand for more natural and organic food. This is changing the way FMCG companies source their produce.

• Speed and Scratch

This form of cooking uses convenience, or ready-made products and adding a few fresh ingredients to personalise the meal. Time poor consumers driving are this trend, using convenience products and recipes that call for only a handful of fresh ingredients to create fast, nutritious meals.

• Change in Format

There is going to be a rise in smaller format stores and shelf sets along with e-commerce and digital formats. Frozen food players will need to have clearer on- and off-line strategies.

• Small Quick Meals

Millennials tend to snack multiple times during the day. Increased snacking will also drive small quick meals – smeals. They are also more open to discovering or trying out exotic flavours. These trends will drive more product innovation in the frozen food sector.

• Companies will need to build digital leadership to engage consumers on their preferred medium/channel.

2 How big is the Indian frozen food market?

A steady growth in demand in India is driving the processed and frozen food market. Globally the frozen food market is expected to reach $309.98 billion1 growing at a CAGR of 6.15 percent by 2021. Developing markets like ours is likely to experience a higher growth. India’s frozen food market which stood at $310 million in 2017 is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 16 percent to reach $754 million by 20232.

3 There is always a debate about frozen food being unhealthy. Is there a way you can process frozen food differently to make it more healthy and nutritious?

There are a lot of misconceptions around frozen food and the process itself. Consumers in general think that foods automatically lose nutrients when they’re frozen, or that all frozen produce have preservatives. This isn’t necessarily the case. When farmers and growers freeze these items, they tend to freeze them at their peak nutritional value and ripeness. Fresh fruits and veggies that we see at the 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 your grocery store. This means they are picked before their peak, giving you less nutrients for your money.

Frozen foods are typically cleaned using nothing but boiling water, and since they are frozen no preservatives are needed. While you should read labels and watch out for veggies and fruits that have extra sugar or salt, most products don’t need preservatives or additives since advanced IQF (Individual Quick Freezing) technology locks in the freshness and nutrients as well as preserves the taste and texture.

Categories like snacks may be calorie high but it is no more than what is found in regular processed food. Meals are always a nutritious and healthier alternative to snacks, which is why we have introduced combo meals, and healthy range of parathas which are made from traditional Indian ingredients like Turmeric, Ajwain, Methi and Beetroot that are high on the nutrition index. Our recently launched Kebab range curated with Celebrity Chef and Master Chef Judge Ajay Chopra is frozen food product that is made from fresh ingredients with no added colours or preservatives. These products are a testimonial to our ability to innovate and provide healthier options on the shelf next to snacks and to our commitment to provide consumers with better, nutritious offerings that are healthier too.

All Sumeru products are made from the freshest of ingredients picked or sourced at their peak and frozen using the latest IQF technology our factories that follow the highest standards of cleanliness and transparency. We even webcast the process live through our website for consumers to watch how their food is processed.

4 What was the idea behind bringing Chef Alfred Prasad to Sumeru? What new products can we expect from the company in the near future?

Alfred Prasad is highly celebrated chef in the UK and around the world. He is the youngest Indian chef to receive a Michelin Star at the age of 29 and retain it for 13 consecutive years. Highly lauded for his original take on traditional Indian cuisine, his mouth-watering seasonal menus have won many accolades over the world. Few of us have the opportunity to taste Chef Alfred Prasad’s creations and unless you’re lucky to score a chance invite, it is unlikely that most of us would get to sample this Michelin Star chef’s delectable creations. We, at Sumeru, want to change that.

In a first of its kind collaboration in the country, Sumeru has joined hands with Chef Alfred Prasad to introduce an exclusive range of gourmet frozen meals to the Indian dining table. The launch is our pioneering effort to bring into the homes of people culinary recipes by popular chefs. Through this collaboration, we are the first food brand in the country to have ushered in the global trend of chefs licensing their names to frozen food brands. Chef Alfred has spent considerable time with our R&D team to develop some exciting recipes which will mark a new trend in the frozen food category. Some of the SKUs that will be launched as a part of this gourmet range include the Signature Pepper Chicken, Coromandel Roasted Chicken, and Super Millet Khichdi.

5 How is your QSR business faring? How different is it to service QSR clients than individual customers?

The food services business is all about providing customised solutions to QSRs – it is a growing business segment for us. Sumeru Innovative Foods Ltd.’s top class R&D facilities help us create recipes which meet the standards set by large MNCs and our Indian QSR partners. Our state of the art manufacturing facilities includes our brand-new factory in Chitoor.

While individual customers look for brand recognition, QSR customers value a service provider whose product delivery meets their requirements for quality, pricing, good logistics, and on-time delivery.

6 The majority of food exports from India, especially in the ready-to-eat segment, are targeted for people of Indian origin. How cluttered is this market? Do you have any other target audience in mind to create a niche for your products?

The Indian ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat segment is largely a cluttered place across the globe as much as it’s Indian counterpart. The demand is driven by Asian customers looking for Indian recipes. There is a lot of competition in this space from brands from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, UAE as well as Pakistan. Invariably, there are also locally manufactured brands available across the US markets and other markets where Indians are large in number.
Our target audience is primarily the Indian woman looking to experience authentic flavours which remind her of India and to some extent fill the void created from being so far away from home.

We are also creating a distinguished range with some of the world’s best chefs, with a twist to regular Indian cuisines.

7 Do you have a plan to open specialised outlets like other frozen food companies?

At this moment, probably not. However, we are open to ideas where entrepreneurs can leverage our brand strength to create such platforms. Our versatile product range can be used in QSR/Kisoks or even as specialised outlets.

8 How much of your production is managed through company owned factories and through private labelling?

Most of our products that we market today are manufactured in-house, in our factories based in Kochi and Chitoor. The plant in Chitoor is dedicated to manufacturing only vegetarian products. Our recipes developed by our R&D team. We currently don’t do any private labelling; however, we are open to providing this service as we do have sufficient space capacity.

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