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    Industry experts discuss innovations and inspirations at Food Forum India


    At the Food Forum India 2008 inaugural session, SS Chahal, director, ministry of food processing industries, government of India, said, “The food processing sector generates significant employment. The multiplier effect of investment in this industry on employment generation is 2.5 times than other industrial sectors, higher than any other sector. The food processing industry in the country has showed its vast potential and is emerging as one of the major drivers of economic growth. It is encouraging to note that while the country’s GDP growth rate had increased from 3.5 per cent in 2002-03 to 9 per cent in 2006-07, the food-processing sector had grown from 7 per cent to 13.1 per cent during the same period.”

    “We are establishing mega food parks in different parts of the country, which will be run by a special purpose vehicle created by all the stakeholders to create an integrated value chain from the farm gate to the consumer. The mega food park envisages complete backward and forward linkages along with common processing facilities, in which public investment could be of about USD 12.36 million. This public investment is expected to leverage private investment of about USD 74.17 million in one mega food park. Another strategic initiative our country has taken is to establish cold chain facilities including refrigerated vans all over the country to provide relief to the farmers to enhance the shelf life of their produce and retain its quality,” he said.

    The session on ‘Food Innovations – With Food Brands & Retailers’, anchored by Ravi Naware (CEO, ) with international observer Dr Kristian Moeller (MD, GlobalGAP, Germany), revolved around new ideas, products and concepts. The expert panel comprising (MD, ), Gunendar Kapur (president and chief executive, Food Business, RIL), Munish Manocha (consultant chef, Breakthrough Innovations, Premier Foods, UK), Sachin Gopal (COO, Agro Tech Foods), Oliver Mirza (MD, Dr Oetkar India), and Anand G Deo (Sr VP & SBU Head [CPD], Cadila) discussed some of the most important innovations that have gained maximum popularity over the years and possibilities for the near future.

    Naware said, “India is among the top three emerging markets in the world. India’s food expenditure is estimated at $500 billion a year.” Subramanian stressed on maintaining the cost efficiency to reduce wastage of food.

    The second, and concluding, day of Food Forum India saw an informative session on ‘Supermarkets in Emerging Markets and Perishable Products Procurement: Lessons for Indian Retailers and Suppliers’. Prof. Thomas Reardon, Michigan State University, USA, & co-director, IFPRI/MSU Joint Program, presented the different phases in the global surge of supermarkets. He stressed that India’s retail growth is fuelled by massive domestic investments and that Indian retail market is growing five times the GDP.

    Taking the presentation ahead, , director, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA, spoke of the challenges and need for innovation to achieve further growth in the supermarket industry. He highlighted the different business models used by various brands for product procurement and mass empowerment. Praveen Dwivedi, head, Horticulture Business, ITC, concluded the session saying, “There are issues and concerns for the growth of the industry, but there are opportunities as well. Ultimately, the retailer needs to adapt to the model in which all the stakeholders can survive.”

    The session on ‘Food Value Chain’ began with an insight on the challenges of speed to market, supply chain visibility and sustainability. Joe Andraski, president and CEO, Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association (USA), said, “We need a supply network where everyone is communicating with each other. We might have a great business model, but cannot succeed if we fail to make each and every employee move with the same objective.”

    Purvin Patel, CEO, Radhakrishna Foodland, said that after making the product available in the stores, the ability to deliver the products to the right target customers at the right time will determine success. Abhijit Malkani, director, ProLogis India, added that while there is no dearth of knowledge, lack of logistics like infrastructure for retailers is the main hurdle. China is one example whose success is coming from logistical infrastructure.

    An Open Conclave of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) was held wherein the first session was on ‘Food Space’ with panellists comprising Henrik Andersen (CEO, SSP, Middle East and Asia), Dhiren Kanwar (chief of F&B, Operations and Design, KIAC), and Sunil Kapur (MD, Blue Foods) discussing emerging quality spaces in shopping centres, food courts, forecourts, hotels, airports, railway stations, metro and bus terminals, hospitals, highways, education and work places offering immense possibilities for new food retail concepts.

    The second session was on ‘Restaurants & Catering Concepts’ with panellists comprising (CEO & MD, ), Partha Duttagupta (CEO, ), (MD, Yo! China), (MD, Impresario Entertainment [Mocha]), (CMD, Speciality Restaurants [Mainland China]), and Monish Gujral (CMD, Moti Mahal). They shared their experiences and learnings from fast food, takeaways and home delivery, dining in restaurants, ice cream parlours, cafes and bars, fine dining and inflight/rail/party catering services. Both the sessions were anchored by Vikram Bakshi (MD, McDonald’s [North & East India], and president, Restaurants Association of India) with international observer Gretel Weiss (publisher & editor-in-chief, Food Service Europe & Middle East).

    In the session on ‘Benchmarking Food Retail Concepts’, Gareth Ackerman, Pick n Pay Holdings Ltd, and chairman, CIES World Food Business Summit Committee, made a presentation on the need to give back to the community. He emphasised the importance of corporate social responsibility and the need to focus on the three main pillars of ‘economy, environment and society’ for any company to grow. He said, “Each of these pillars must be addressed if a company is to be regarded as having adopted an integrated, sustainable business practice.” Borrowing from the principles of how he was running the very successful Pick ‘n’ Pay Holdings, he further underlined the need of having a transparent and fair approach to sustain long-term shareholder value, while also emphasising ‘Doing good is good business’.

    Food Forum India 2008 concluded with a Mega Open Conclave of national and international food brands and retailers. The participants included eminent personalities like Damodar Mall (CEO, Innovation & Incubation, ), Nimish Shah (VP, Spencer’s), Marc Eyres (VP, Modern Trade, HUL), Hemant Malik (head, Marketing, ITC Foods), and Rahul Murgai (head, Channel Management, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages), amongst others. The one-hour session concluded with the brands and the retailers agreeing that modern retail is here to stay. Some of the areas of improvement that were emphasised during the session were the need for appropriate communication, innovation and experimentation, the need to drive consumption, improvisation on supply chain management, need for both the partners to manage change, and most importantly, the need to have sustainable collaboration throughout the year and not just during promotional periods.