By Kishore Kumar*
Soup Market in India
The Indian soup market valued at around USD 310 million in 2020 is expected to grow at a CAGR of above 5 per cent in the time frame 2020 to 2025. India is positioned 16th in the global soup market, with average per capita consumption at about 0.09 Kg volume of about 9.9 kilo tonnes in 2019 and expected to reach 11 kilo tonnes in 2020. Tomato based soup is the most popular flavour in India.
Rasam and Sorbha are Indian style traditional soups often served with steamed rice, thus mistaken to be a gravy category packaged food. Different culinary cuisines have brought a variety of different flavours to fine quality soups now available in the Indian market.
Making simple clear soup is easy but a restaurant style consomme, bisque or a creamy soup requires time and master culinary skills. As the processed food industry gets developed, soups are no longer just an appetizer on the menu in hotels and food service stations. There is a wide range starting with simple clear soup, restaurant style soups, and the Pan-Asia ‘Raman’ – an East Asian noodle soup served with various toppings plays catch-up to current soup trends in India. Bouillon and stock cubes are imported products and not of much interest to the Indian consumer.
With change in product positioning soups which were popular in winter are now seen as a healthy option in between meals. Consumer behavior has shown a dynamic shift over the last 10 years. Soup consumption has evolved over time as market shelves are stocked with convenient and easy options such as concentrated dehydrated soups and instant soup mix; products have the right consistency and flavour to mimic a variety of restaurant style soups and are trending in a premium range.
Preservatives in Soup
Product listing of ingredients with too many preservatives creates a negative perception among consumers. Consumers have increasing awareness and are looking for healthy eating lifestyle changes. Clean labels which mention simple ingredients, real vegetables, no added preservatives or preservative free are necessary for the growth and development of this segment.
Urbanization, working parents, evening quick healthy snack, weight management, low calorie diet, healthy alternative for coffee and tea in workplace breaks shows a significant demand for preservative free soup consumption.
In recent times key manufacturers such as Unilever, Nestle, Ching’s Secret have launched number of products, adding growth to the market. Knorr Soup introduced in 1996 with claims of no added preservatives and different SKU’s as its main strategy; is available in 20 tasty and exciting flavours, with 100 per cent real vegetables, in single serve packs and at affordable prices. Nestle Maggie Cup-a-licious soups in 6 unique flavours is using convenient formats as its main business strategy. Marico offers diet management, healthy eating options and gourmet style products in convenient format to claim market share. Capital Food’s Indo-Chinese style soups are emerging as a strong competitor with a pricing strategy of affordable yet slightly higher than rival products. Strong advertisement and promotional campaigns with regional celebrities drew positive response from consumers. The popularity and acceptance of Chinese Indian fusion cuisine all over India has made a huge difference to their year-on-year sales growth.
FSSAI Draft on New Labeling and Displaying Regulations 2019. Foods containing high fat sugar salt (HFSS) content levels is mandatory to display red colour coding on label on front of packet for all packaged food products. This regulation will have a great effect on dehydrated and instant soup products if not reformulated in line with government policy. Flavour enhancer used for salt reduction, natural spice and condiments along with acidity regulator acts as preservative alternatives, which need not be mentioned as ‘added preservatives’ on the product label; though the sodium content used in Indian soup products is higher than RDA guidelines.
Single serve packs, instant cup of soup. microwave packs and travel packs with reasonable prices and more convenience than large serving packs attract better sales; claims with visually clear graphics on the front of the package differentiates preservative free soup from other products building trust for this segment. Online e-commerce platforms like Amazon on their website avail these filter options to promote the product.
Pricing is an important factor. Single serve packs are sold for INR 10-12 and single serve premium products are sold for INR 20-30. High protein meal soups prices range between INR 280-350 per 4 servings. Pricing can make a big difference in sales as the rounded off priced products win the race.
Food processing companies have recently adopted high pressure processing (HPP) for the first time on traditional food categories. Very soon this technology will be used for RTE soups giving positive impact on preserving shelf life with real taste and health benefits without additives. However HPP is a costly process requiring high maintenance which is a drawback.
Cocooning Consumer Trend
Due to COVID 19 the work from home phenomenon has created a new cocooning consumer trend. Soup is one category which received a positive impact at the end of February – demand for soup suddenly surged and may show a stable demand for months. Panic relating to the symptoms of common cold and COVID 19 caused consumers to eat soup, to get rid of common cold symptoms before consulting a doctor. High demand for instant food categories offering quick and convenient formats will continue to increase in the current pandemic condition.
Innovative packaging is happening to increase curiosity and build on consumer engagement – microwave packs, DIY kits inside packs, convenient RTE soup cups are the best examples. Minimal processed simple ingredients, eco-friendly labels, and aseptic packaging with affordable price with see increasing demand giving sustainable growth to the segment.
The preservative free soup industry will undergo dramatic change in the near future with vast opportunity yet to be addressed in areas of health and convenience. Other pan-Asia flavours such as Vietnamese, Indonesian. Thai and Japanese culinary soups have a chance to slowly penetrate the market. New fusion flavours such as Ching’s Secret would do well as consumers are always interested in a new tasting experience.
Soup manufacturers are targeting the vast population of milk tea drinkers to convert them into healthy soup consumers; by drawing attention to the negativity of consuming sugary milk based hot beverages as compared to the health benefits of consuming soup. However the industry is still in infant stage and producers will continue innovations on functional ingredients and packaging formats. Reduced salt and low calorie healthy ingredients without comprising taste and flavours will be the winning recipe for gaining market share pan India.
* Author is a market research associate at Firstmr Business Analytics – a food, pharmaceutical and chemical ingredients business research consulting company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org