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    Future of foreign food in India

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    While discussing the topic set for the second session at 2009 – Progressive Food Retailers Conclave, all the panelists shared their views on whether India is ready to accept foreign food products.

    Sumit Saran, director, , described India as a ‘market of contrasts’. He mentioned how India though a country which stood divided on various grounds is united in projecting itself as a country bonded together by ‘aspiration’. Considering this, the Indian market has a good potential for international products.

    While talking about how the consuming patterns in India are changing, Saran observed that today Indians are becoming more health conscious and the trend to move towards packaged foods is being observed. According to Saran, the key constraints in the Indian market today are cold chains, trade relationships, ability to supply, multiple markets, understanding the changing Indian consumers, policies and duties and price.

    BVK Raju, partner, shared the success of his stores down south on the format adopted. He mentioned that the products displayed compel customers to indulge in impulsive shopping. Raju further opined that the staff has to imbibe the quality of ‘ownership’ and only then would the store be able to perform at its best.

    Having a right value and suiting the palette of the consumers determines the success of any food product — be it Indian or international, according to K Radhakrishnan, CEO, Reliance Hypermarket.

    Ajay Gupta, MD, Capital Foods highlighted, “A speciality of north India may be treated as ‘foreign’ in any other parts of the country and vice-versa. Hence the debate of ‘international’ foods doing well in the country actually does not make sense.”

    According to from Nuts ‘n’ Spices, any product imported from abroad has a scope to do well provided a right atmosphere is provided for its sale. He emphasised the need for specialty stores in the country.

    The panelists felt that India, no doubt, had a market for niche, premium and imported products but the important factor to be kept in mind is the right kind of retail environment.

    — Zainab Morbiwala, Mumbai Bureau