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Frozen Foods: Challenges for India’s New Sunrise Category

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has the potential to become the ‘sunrise category’ of the future. Food service operators are realising the value in using frozen products to cater to the growing needs of consumers. The advantages of cost, consistency, quality and variety are leading to more customers converting from ‘fresh to frozen’. The category is poised to grow, though it is still new in the country. Bridging the gap between demand and supply of cold storage facilities will definitely give a boost to the segment.

Over the past decade, the ‘eating out’ concept has become an essential part of the Indian consumer’s life due to rising incomes, paucity of time and growing urbanisation. While this is great news for the food industry, it also means that the consumer’s expectations are growing.

To meet the rising demand for a quick and tasty bite throughout the day, QSRs, pubs, hotels and caterers are now focussing on reasonable cost and high-speed consistent solutions. Amongst the various options available in the market, ‘frozen foods’ are quick, easy to prepare and serve as a versatile base for custom creations and therefore have become a one-stop solution for the food service segment in India.

Ranging from the simplest to the most exotic, the list of ready-to-cook frozen foods in India is simply unbelievable! From vegetarian products such as peas and French fries to non-vegetarian items like chicken, seafood and cocktail sausages, one can find a variety of frozen products. Frozen varieties of ethnic snacks such as aloo tikki, samosas and idlis have also helped the segment cater to all needs.

According to trade estimates, the Indian frozen food market is expected to evolve at a CAGR of 45 percent to reach Rs 12,520 crore by 2014-2015. Although the frozen food sector in India is in the early stages of development, the growing ‘out-of-home consumption’ trend today points towards a successful innings.
 
McCain entered India in 1998 when the concept of using pre-prepared frozen snacks was relatively unknown in Indian market at that time. The only frozen foods used then by the industry were peas, vegetables, non-vegetarian items and ice-creams. It was a huge challenge to introduce this category and convince institutional customers to choose ‘frozen over fresh’ ingredients. Being global leaders, we were aware of these issues and knew the steps needed to tackle them. So, McCain decided to work closely with customers to first understand their needs and offer solutions that worked for them.
 
Our industry research brought out the fact that the Indian F&B market was heavily influenced by uncertain weather conditions, which greatly affected the quality and availability of basic food ingredients.

McCain is today actively engaged in organising large-scale samplings at points-of-sale; meets for chefs, HORECA and caterers; participation in B2B food events and customer advertising through B2B magazines to enhance trials and provide impetus to expansion of frozen foods in the country.

An inadequate transport system and limited cold chain facilities pose a huge bottleneck for the F&B segment in India especially with respect to frozen foods. Today, there are very few specialised distribution companies providing refrigerated transport and warehousing for perishable produce/processed food products.

For frozen products, maintaining a standard temperature is most important as any temperature variance from that stipulated for storage leads to reduced product shelf-life and safety issues.

The high demand-supply gap in the availability of cold storage, preservation and cold logistic facilities in India can be ignored only at the peril of the F&B sector. Increased infrastructural facilities can herald a new chapter in the growth of this new category and will also help in curbing wastage of farm products.