Already a supplier of choice to HoReCA businesses nationwide, McCain Foods India is also accelerating its retail footprint, which is set to touch 50,000 points in five years’ time. Vikas Mittal, MD, McCain Foods (India) speaks to IMAGES Group magazine Progressive Grocer about the opportunities and challenges.
“Modern food trade today is a direct outcome of the evolving life style of contemporary women and the time paucity faced in our daily lives. We have experienced positive growth trends and increased in-home consumption of processed food riding on the consumer need for convenient lifestyle options. As more and more people find it difficult to cook every meal from scratch, McCain is poised for greater share of sun shine in the industry,” Mittal says.
According to Mittal, the trend towards processed food has evolved two dimensionally; it includes localisation of global food and globalisation of local taste buds. “We are also also seeing most QSRs and hotel chains offer all day menu solutions starting from breakfast to lunch to evening snacks to dinner,” he adds.
As a frozen food supplier, however, despite the opportunities, McCain does face challenges on the consumer perception front. “This category in India is still at a nascent stage, primarily because frozen food is laden with many myths regarding the nutritional value and preservative content,” Mittal says. “Although the Indian customer is gradually getting familiar with frozen foods, it will be a while before there is 100% endorsement of these products. This market is evolving gradually and is very crucial for us.”
About 2/3rds McCain’s India business comes from institutional sales with customers in leading national and international QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) and HORECA (Hotels, Restaurants, Caterers/ Canteens). About 1/3rd comprises retail and exports.
Having entered the Indian market in 1998, McCain has been continuously expanding its distribution network. Currently, McCain products are available in around 10,000 outlets across tier I and II cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ludhiana, Goa, Pune, Indore, Kanpur, Mangalore, Mysore, Solan, Panchkula, Shillong etc. The company is now targeting to expand its retail network to about 50,000 outlets in the next five years.
“Our strategy is fairly simple. We have customised our products to appeal to local Indian taste buds. Localization is our forte. Our endeavour is to serve both quantity and quality and simultaneously reduce effort and wastage that occurs when preparing food from scratch,” Mittay says.
In terms of product innovation, the company recently launched Veggie Fingers for institutional customers; stuffed with corn, peas and carrots in a crunchy coating, this range is the latest addition to the current ‘Veggie’ range of McCain Veggie Nuggets and Veggie Burger Patty.
“India obviously is a very big and lucrative market for us. It is very encouraging in the respect that consumers here appreciate our versatility that is a forte of this segment in general and McCain in particular,” Mittal says, elaborating further on Mcain’s portfolio customisation for this country.
“From potato specialty, we have today diversified into an entire vegetable portfolio and are still growing. Our range of products today include Veggie Fingers, Veggie Nuggets, Aloo Tikki, Veggie Burger Patty, Potato Cheese Shots, Chilli Garlic Potato Bites, Classic Fries, Masala Fries, and Smiles,” he adds.
Referring to the almost-legendary cold chain bottlenecks in India, Mittal agrees that frozen food penetration in any country is fully dependent on the infrastructure and cold supply chain facilities. “It is also complex market scenario considering that each outlet must have a freezer and 24 hours electricity supply. We have worked closely with third party cold chain operators to implement latest infrastructural technologies and cold chain refrigerated transportation so as to increase the reach of our products,” he states.