The rapid emergence of Asia’s consumer class has created many opportunities for food processors in the region. In India, the organised food and grocery retail market is expected to reach $60 billion by 2025, with driving factors including higher incomes and changing consumer preferences.

As a global leader in food processing solutions, Marel is constantly innovating to help processors in the retail and foodservice industry adapt to shifting trends. We spoke with Greg Bulluss, Regional Sales Director for Marel in Asia and Oceania, to learn more about the company and how Indian processors can maximise their share in this rising market.

Supporting the production of high-quality, affordable food

Marel provides equipment, software, and services that help poultry, meat, and fish processors gain a competitive edge. The company also recently added a fourth business segment focused on plant-based proteins, pet food, and aqua feed.

Bulluss says that Marel has much to offer Indian companies. “We provide the solutions and expertise for all types of processors, from small start-ups to large-scale producers. We have everything from entry-level standalone equipment to advanced full-fledged factory systems. Solutions for portioning, coating, frying, cooking, grading, batching, and packaging may be of great help for Indian producers.”

Bulluss also emphasises that Marel’s approach is about more than just equipment. “We do not believe in just selling a bit of stainless steel. We sell solutions. We work in close partnership with our customers to understand their specific needs and deliver the best possible outcomes.”

Bulluss visited India in September as part of Marel’s mission to boost the company’s presence in the region. “Our aim is to have sales teams on the ground that can be available for the customer anytime. For poultry and fish, we already have direct sales teams in India, but we want to do more in all other areas of business, such as foodservice. Being close to customers ensures that we have the best understanding of their needs and challenges.” 

Rapid growth of retail foodservice in the Asian market

Asia’s consumer class is growing rapidly. Around 3 billion people, or 70% of Asia’s total population, are expected to be part of this class by 2030.

In India, an increase in dual-income families and urbanisation are driving growth, with a shift towards greater demand for fast, easy-to-prepare, packaged foods. Instead of making frequent trips to local kirana stores and traditional markets, the younger generation is increasingly heading to supermarkets where they can stock up on their favourite convenience foods and pay with credit cards.

Bulluss can attest to these changes. “We’ve seen healthy growth in the convenience food segment. Consumption has gone up after COVID as more people depend on convenience food.”

According to McKinsey & Company, the grocery retail market is likely to grow at a rate of 6-7% annually until 2025. However, the share of traditional retail will likely decline to around 65% from its current 85% over the next four to five years. Other channels such as e-commerce and modern trade retailers are expected to gain around 30% of the market.

Indian processors will need to be adaptable and agile to meet the needs of the next generation of consumers. Labour is a challenge, and unorganised food retail still dominates, despite the shift towards more modern shopping. Moreover, one-size-fits-all approaches will not suffice amidst India’s vast regional, cultural, and socioeconomic differences.

Vital first steps towards automation and digitalisation

Greater automation and digitalisation are necessary to tackle the challenges of the near future. A cultural shift is needed: embracing new technology can give processors a competitive edge, whereas delaying necessary changes leaves them at risk of being left behind. Company leaders should therefore engage with different stakeholders to move organisations forward together.

Marel offers the full range of software and automated solutions to support processors on this journey. “We have software to ensure full product traceability, which is a big plus as food safety standards tighten and more consumers want to know where their products come from”, says Bulluss. “We also have cutting-edge, data-driven systems to help maximise resources and minimise waste.”

While progress is necessary, Bulluss says that automation and digitalisation do not need to happen all at once. “The first step can be as easy as starting with a standalone machine to cover one process. Then as a company adapts, it can automate other processes at its own pace.”

Ensuring sustainability for continued prosperity

As the population grows and climate change worsens, Indian processors face an urgent need to improve sustainability in their operations. Making these improvements not only protects the environment, but also helps to create the most value from raw materials and resources used in production.

To ensure sustainable practices, processors in the retail and foodservice sectors must partner with companies that share these values. For Marel, sustainability has been at the core of its business model right from the start. Through its innovative solutions, the company is able to reduce waste and improve yields for its customers.

“We operate with utmost responsibility to take care of all sustainability factors. We design solutions that use minimum resources such as water and electricity, while returning high outputs”, explains Bulluss. “To give an example, in the 1970s fish processors were turning just 50% of each piece of fish into sold products. With the help of Marel’s solutions, fish processors are now able to utilise 90-95% of their yields.”

 Bulluss says that these improvements have been enabled in large by in-line processing systems that can take care of main products and quickly refrigerate valuable by-products.

Overall, the coming years will be a time for Indian processors to improve automation and prepare for the next opportunities on the horizon. For those looking to take the next steps, Marel will be close by to make the journey as smooth and successful as possible.