Sales of gourmet and international foods – marked by unique and exciting flavour profiles, high-quality formulations and beautiful packaging – are soaring in India. The category has been growing at a steady healthy clip of 20 per cent CAGR and is set to gather even greater momentum in the days ahead. The growing consumer interest presents a real opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to differentiate themselves from competitors through their authentic, gourmet-inspired offerings.
For some years now, the eating habits of Indian consumers have been evolving – from traditional foods to global food flavours. More than any time before, a large base of consumers now has more sophisticated palates, make higher nutritional demands, have the ability to afford premium products, and the desire to enjoy them on a regular basis. Marketers describe this class of consumers as belonging to ‘gourmet’ category.
Concept Head, Foodhall, Avni Biyani Concept Head, Foodhall, Avni Biyani the premium lifestyle food chain of Future Group, feels that a gourmet is someone who enjoys and understands the fi ner nuances and aspects of food. “Consumers are evolving and asking for exciting options in a new and interesting manner. As a brand specializing in the gourmet format, we are catering to Indians as well as expats who are well-travelled and well-versed with fine foods and have a refined palate.”
“The Indian customer profile is witnessing a rapid change. With over 400 million Gen-Z customers with better education levels, greater exposure to international markets/ travel, along with the penetration of smartphones/ Internet and the media, customers today are more aware than ever before and are open to experimentation with food,” says MD & CEO, SPAR Hypermarkets, Rajeev Krishnan.
“New-age Indians are travelling more within India and abroad, they are acquiring and developing their taste buds for various kinds of food. Also, cooking channels and reality cooking shows have become increasingly popular. Consumers want to eat and cook new cuisines more. There is also a large expatriate population in cities such as Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune who are already well-versed with gourmet foods,” observes Avni.
Industry observers agree that over the past few decades, the base of gourmet consumers in the country has swelled considerably. They point to the drawing cards responsible for the bulge in the number of gourmet consumers.
“Growing aspirations, globalization, changing lifestyles and growth of the organised retail sector along with augmented purchasing power of consumers are providing impetus to the gourmet category and to international food manufacturers in India,” says Vice President – Buying & Merchandising, HyperCITY Retail (India) Ltd, R. Sankaranarayanan.
According to Krishnan, “The efforts of Indian and international food companies in offering price-competitive products are helping to recruit an increasing number of customers into the segment.”
Citing an example, he points to the number of Indian brands entering the olive oil and pasta segment at competitive prices and also off ering customer education. “Such efforts bring in the first-time customers. We are also witnessing increasing quality and ingredient consciousness, which is spurring customers to demand better and more.”
By one industry estimate, the Indian gourmet food market was expected to have crossed US $2,800 million by 2015, and is reckoned to be growing at a CAGR of 20 per cent.
Says MD, Satvikk International, which operates the health food brand Happilo, Vikas D Nahar, “The gourmet market in India is approximately worth Rs 15,000 crore and growing at the rate of 20 per cent per year. If we compare the Indian gourmet industry with that of the US, it is approximately 10 per cent of the US industry. This offers enormous scope for growth considering the population difference between both countries.”
There is no disputing the fact that India is now an attractive market for gourmet and international food products thanks to the constellation of various forces in recent years. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of international cuisine, and their palates are ready and willing to taste and test a lot more. As both Krishnan and Sankaranarayanan observe, the growth in consumer interest and demand for category has impelled many more foreign manufacturers to enter the gourmet and international food segment and bring their merchandise to India as well.
66 Evolution of Gourmet Category
With so much happening and at stake, there have been subtle and significant changes in the market for gourmet and international foods category in India.
“With increased appetite of Indians to experiment with various cuisines, gourmet food retailing in India is now moving to the next level,” points out Avni.
True to her observations, the retail space for this food category has witnessed rapid expansion as well as transformation in recent years. From the traditional, low-cost products dominating this category until about a decade ago, there is now a profusion of premium upgrades.
Consumer receptivity to gourmet products has touched off in a big way also because of the dynamic growth of the natural and health food industry and its cross-fertilization with the gourmet food industry. In fact, this has brought about a greater involvement in gourmet on the part of mainstream food marketers. Growing synergy between the natural and gourmet foods industries coupled with other factors like an expanding retail distribution plus the convenience of products like bottled water, RTD beverages, bagged salads, and refrigerated ‘supermarket sushi’ are all paving the way for urban Indians to adopt tastes from all over the world.
Another significant development favourable to the growth and expansion of the gourmet market has been the emergence of large natural food chains featuring organic produce. In the past two decades, hundreds and thousands of such stores have sprung up across all parts of the country. In their wake, consumers have found themselves facing a plethora of novel choices that did not exist earlier.
The merger between the gourmet and natural/ organic products industries — now nicely established — has resulted in an explosion of food styles, options and variety, which has definitely raised the bar of food retailing in India.
The natural and organic category’s phenomenal growth and mergence with the world of gourmet has meant that today more gourmet products are using natural and organic ingredients. At the same time, more natural foods retailers are carrying upscale, gourmet food and beverage items that meet their quality standards.
55 Urban India Drives Gourmet’s Growth
Urban residents are by and large the major regulars of gourmet food in India. This is because urban populations have higher earnings when compared to their rural equivalents and spend over 40 per cent of their income on food alone, enhancing the quality of products consumed.
“The biggest buyers for gourmet and international products are consumers who are well-travelled, experience seekers (not only price), aspirational, cosmopolitan and digitally aware. We identify and categorize them as PIKU customers who are young individuals with rising incomes and high purchasing power. They are experimental and love to explore and experience new cuisines and products,” says Sankaranarayanan of HyperCITY.
MD, Max Foods and Convenor at Forum of Indian Food Importers, Amit Lohani says: “The best performing markets for gourmet, international and imported foods remain the metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad. The consumption pattern is based on how adventurous and versatile the market is and wherever there is exposure you will find an increase in the consumption of gourmet, international and imported foods.”
According to a study by Mintel, people are willing to spend more money on gourmet gifts for special occasions through personal commitments, such as paying extra for organic or all-natural foods, or simply for their own indulgence. Additionally, more venues are now open to them where they can purchase these products. Where one could formally only buy gourmet products at specialty stores, today you find many of the same products at supermarkets, natural food stores, airport shops, online retailers, mass merchandisers, and big-box stores.
The category’s core target audience is in the age group 16-40 years, comprising people with exposure to taste, familiarity in the usage of gourmet products, and willingness to pay a premium for better culinary taste. Apart from the urban elite consumers, hotels and restaurants are the other major consumers of gourmet food products in India.
“India has a very young population willing to experiment and flirt with new cuisines. Increasing health and nutrition awareness has made gourmet food a huge opportunity in the country. The growing number of Indians coming back from abroad and the expatriate population in the country are also constantly demanding newer specialised products such as gourmet cheeses, artisanal breads, and so on. Juxtaposed against these trends defining urban India, gourmet food retailing is only going to get bigger in the country,” affirms Foodhall’s Avni.
44 Retailers’ Approach to Gourmet
Riding on the back of a booming economy and rising income levels of consumers, gourmet and international foods retailing is on way to becoming the new wave in India. To leverage its growing market potential, retailers are allocating greater shelf space to the category, and expanding their product ranges. Leading food and grocery chains known for their gourmet assortment such as Foodhall, Godrej Nature’s Basket, HyperCITY and SPAR Hypermarkets host a line of premium and niche products in the gourmet and international category.
“We stock everything one can expect to find at any international food store. Our offerings at Foodhall range from tomatillo (green tomatoes of Mexico) to gluten-free breads such as pizza dough, bagels to a range of super-food options such as Greek yoghurts, fat-free organic milk, tofu, gourmet chocolates, oils and vinegars, smoked salmon, mock meats, specialty coldcuts, teas, fresh truffles and various food delights including a variety of Indian foods,” points out Avni.
“In the gourmet category, we stock an exotic assortment of authentic food products across categories like cheese, condiments, breakfast foods/ ingredients, beverages, processed foods, bakery items, canned foods, wines, varieties of olive oil, international sauces, pulses and flour sourced from a variety of places around the world. Among international cuisine, we house Thai, Japanese, Mexican and Mediterranean ingredients and products in stores,” says Sankaranarayanan.
Similarly, SPAR, whose credo ‘Celebrate the World’ is in keeping with its motto of establishing the popularity of gourmet and international foods across the country, promotes popular cuisines of the world. As SPAR has a footprint in over 40 countries, it is able to ensure the exchange of lots of ideas and products and leverage them toward the enhancement of its assortment.
“We stock a wide range of gourmet and international products ranging from cheese, olive oil, pastas, salad dressings, exotic/ imported fruits, vegetables, conserves/ preserves and seafood to name a few,” states Krishnan, adding that SPAR is a natural choice of many expat communities who shop gourmet products.
“With a strong assortment, great quality, attractive price and unbeatable service, we also become a preferred choice for brands to drive their offerings. All this helps us redefine the conventional customer segmentation and offer choices to all our customers.”
The assortment and shelf space for gourmet foods at top retailers varies according to the demand for different product categories and the season. For instance, every SPAR store offers a customized assortment to meet the needs of the local clientele, and this determines the authority of gourmet play, which varies with every catchment. As every store assortment is curated for the particular catchment, there is no single size fits all approach to any category, including gourmet. The assortment also varies largely with the categories and season.
“When we bet on imported Kiwis or celebrate Italian food festival in a particular season, the space allotted naturally goes up. We use a combination of areas – some are permanently earmarked and some are celebratory areas used to amplify the festival or cuisine. We are always on the lookout for countries/ partners who would like to ‘Celebrate the World’ with us and create specific festivals together,” reveals Krishnan.
While gourmet and international products are present across all modern trade stores in some form or the other, the shelf space allocated to the category is comparatively higher at specialist retailers.
“About 60 per cent of the shelf space at Foodhall stores is occupied by gourmet and international range,” discloses Avni.
At Kipps Mart in Ludhiana, almost 60 per cent of the products are imported foods. The non-imported items are the fresh produce range, pulses and the bakery section.
Says Director, Kipps Mart, Hitesh Arora, “Brands such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, Cadbury, Silk, American Garden, Twinning’s, Monin, Real, Tropicana, Trident, Lindt, Lays, 24 Mantra, Eco life, Whole Food and our own bakery products are the most in demand. Under the imported items, we have added kitchenware and have also brought in more breakfast cereals.”
The most noticeable emerging trend at the store is the increasing demand for organic and natural products.
“It is the new market trend with a good business potential. We are trying to create greater customer awareness for this category through various in-store initiatives,” informs Arora, adding that the organic market is growing at a pace of 25-30 per cent per annum but is expected to cross 65 per cent (approx.) in another decade or so.
Owner, Modern Bazaar stores in Delhi-NCR, Kunaal Kumar says, “Almost 60 per cent of the products stocked in our store are imported products. The categories that are really working are chocolates, breakfast cereals and sauces, like pasta sauces. Products from the US and Europe like pasta and pasta sauces, chocolates, etc, are extremely popular with the consumers. Though Asian cuisine was not as popular earlier, awareness is increasing and we now see people stocking up on Japanese products like wasabi and sushi. Every year, the demand for imported foods increases by 10-15 per cent.”
At HyperCITY, 20 per cent of the total shelf space is dedicated to the gourmet and international category, which pulls in about five per cent of the retailer’s overall revenue. However, it is targeting to take the revenue share from this segment to 10 per cent plus in the next six months. The retailer is banking on regular promotions, multiple displays, sampling and hosting international food festivals and other planned activities along similar lines to accelerate sales growth in its stores, which is currently 15 per cent year-on-year.
“We aim to grow at more than 100 per cent with our changing marketing strategies, visual merchandising and, most importantly, the assortment of our current products and the ones in the pipeline. We also aim to be a 10 per cent sales contributor of only international brands in our overall food business portfolio,” reveals Sankaranarayanan.
He believes that strategic range overview and category-wise business plan is what makes each category perform and deliver growth and says that HyperCITY closely monitors the quality, taste and variety of its assortment to drive its customers into making the purchasing decision. “To be abreast with the competition, we ensure that we stock fresh and updated range of products that are the latest in trend.”
33 Best Categories
According to FIFI’s Amit Lohani, “We see a lot of exotic fruits coming in like wild berries and cranberries. A lot of Italian products like truffles are very popular. Cuisines of Japan and South America are also gaining popularity.”
With urbanization and change in eating habits, sauces and condiments have occupied a substantial shelf space in the Indian gourmet outlets.
Apart from this, high volume driven categories in gourmet space, there are newer products/ categories that are being increasingly adopted by the Indian consumer like fresh/ frozen berries, Greek yogurts, preserved lemons, yuzu fruit, gluten-free foods etc.
“There is a huge demand for glutenfree, health foods, and specialty foods. People are also looking out for a lot of international flavours,” says Lohani.
In line with the popular cuisines of the world, retailers are stocking gourmet items to mesh with today’s flavour trends, whether those trends are current or emerging.
“At our SPAR stores, Italian foods are witnessing excellent growth. We are seeing good interest and traction in Mexican foods as well. Asian foods have always enjoyed popularity and customers are trying out new categories and quite open to experimentation. Categories like olive oil, pasta, exotic vegetables and imported fruits are also seeing good growth. In the branded off ering space, the growth is also fueled by the active participation of the Indian brands, which help in recruiting customers to this space,” informs Krishnan.
Explaining the growth and performance of the different categories, he says: “The growth of product categories is very specific to the locale. In certain locations, we are even clocking a strong high double-digit growth. The stores in metro cities are leading the growth for us in categories like olive oil, exotic fruits/ vegetables, etc. However, the stores in cities like Mangalore and Coimbatore are driving recruitment of new customers in categories like pasta, and culinary items where we see a lot of participation from Indian companies in offering products that are price competitive.”
HyperCITY, which exclusively retails UK’s leading brand Waitrose in India, plays to the cachet that international products bring to its urban and aspirational customers.
“The ‘imported’ tag and the brag factor associated with foreign products remains an attractive proposition for the upwardly mobile customers. We retail a vast international product line, which is one of the major reasons why our customers come back to us for their daily food requirements,” points out Sankaranarayanan.
He says that HyperCITY’s leading suppliers for gourmet and international foods are Waitrose, Tree of Life, Suresh Kumar & Co., Pearl Foods, United Distributors, L-Comps and Impex Private Limited and Saksham Impex Private Limited.
“The superfoods category will see the maximum demand in the future. Also, special dietary requirement foods, which include vegan and gluten-free products, are the next big trend we will get to see,” says Avni.
As the health and wellness trend will likely gain more momentum in the days ahead due to better consumer awareness, retailers are responding to meet the evolving needs of the customer.
“At SPAR, we are seeing a lot of consciousness about health and wellness. We see a lot of energy in this space. Healthy snacking is gaining huge popularity. The entire space is getting a lot of traction and products like ‘Trail mixes’, dried exotic fruits and nuts are gaining in demand. We also find a lot of experimentation in sauces – both pure as well as fusion – with Indian flavours meeting international ingredients. There will be a lot of experimentation happening in this space over the next 3–5 years,” predicts Krishnan.
22 Innovation Drivers in the Gourmet Category
Through a deeper understanding of the trends and product profiles that satisfy the gourmet shoppers’ desire for the unique and interesting, manufacturers, and importers are helping to drive a new wave of innovation in the market. Some of these players are:
Greendot Health Foods Pvt. Ltd. was the first company to launch Nacho Crisps in Indian snacks under the brand name Cornitos. The brand has since grown to include many more exciting and interesting product ranges under its banner.
“What makes Cornitos different is its unique preparation and healthy ingredients. Our Nacho Crisps are cooked in healthier corn oil, which no other brand is using,” says Director, Greendot Health Foods Pvt. Ltd., Vikram Agarwal.
The brand will keep making continuous efforts to foray into segments that interest its target audience. We have a couple of new products coming up later this year,” reveals Agarwal.
Satvikk International, a part of Jain India Group, operates the health food gourmet brand Happilo, which offers a complete range of nuts, dried fruits and fusion food, including homegrown and imported products. Headquartered in Bangalore, the company enjoys over four decades of experience in the food industry, dealing in an exclusive range of dry fruits, dried fruits, spices, healthy seeds, trial mixes, festive gift hampers and more.
“We, at Happilo, are one of the largest importers of dry fruits and dried fruits in southern India. Happilo stands for delivering quality food products of international standards. In the past year of operations, we have not received even a single quality complaint. We have been producing and distributing quality nuts and spices since 1969. With a wide variety of products that cater to every budget and taste, our bestsellers have found their way into the homes and hearts of many households. We have a complete range of imported dry fruits, dried fruits, berries and spices in international quality and world class packaging,” says MD, Satvikk International, Vikas D Nahar.
Happilo products have been well received in the market. Its exotic range of dry fruits and unique products, which are a fusion of nuts, dried fruits and healthy seeds have become the bestsellers in its product catalog. Its Brazil nuts, Macadamia nuts, or the recently launched exclusive mixes of exotic dry fruits, dried fruits and health seeds have all been successful in attracting the attention of health-savvy consumers.
“We are striving to give our customers the largest and best collection of dry fruits, dried fruits and health seeds and working on the extra range of exotic dry fruits and dried fruits in our state of the art facilities which has capacity of producing upto 40,000 units per day,” points out Nahar.
“We started with basic range of dry fruits and dried fruits initially and currently have 34 varieties of health foods. The brand is available with almost all top retailers, be it online platforms like Amazon, Bigbasket, Flipkart, Zopnow or offline stores like HyperCITY, Westside, SPAR, Nilgiris, Foodworld, D-Mart and other major modern trade outlets including those in general trade.
The company has clocked 20 per cent plus growth rate every month for the previous year and is sure of notching up even higher numbers on the back of its various product innovations and its all-out efforts to penetrate the market even deeper.
Sri Roda Foods is a successor company of D.D. Industries and has been in the food business for the past 60 years. The company specializes in the imports of canned and packaged food products from all over the world.
“Our main focus, however, is on European foods, imported mainly from Italy and Spain and our main brands include Figaro, Campagna, Italian Garden, Varvello, Novi, Sica, Duchef, and San Marcos,” says MD, Sri Roda Foods, Deepak Asrani.
The company mostly caters to the institutional segment, including five star hotels and fine dining restaurants. However, some of its products are available in retail as well. Its brands, especially Figaro and its Italian Garden products command a strong presence in market.
P&N Business Ventures Pvt. Ltd., established in 2012, is based out of Chennai. In its earlier avatar, the company was known as P&N Foods and was one of the first set of importers when it began operations in 1999.
“We started with the import of culinary herbs and re-packed the same under the brand name ‘Verdew’, which was a novel product a bit ahead of its time for the Indian market,” says Director, P&N Business Ventures Pvt Ltd., Pranay Gambhir.
The company is part of a bigger business group – Tan Business Ventures, which has under its fold other food businesses such as Splendid Fine Foods and online store coldkart.com It has introduced quite a few international products into the Indian market.
P&N’s own products are mainly targeted for the southern market especially Tamil Nadu but its secondary distribution imported products are aimed at an all India market. All its products are known for their exclusive taste profile and are more focused toward modern trade and online platforms. The company works closely with top retailers and collaborates in terms of product promotion and to expand the reach of its products to the consumers.
On1y is a young gourmet seasonings brand that came into the market in 2013. But it traces its lineage to its 77-year-old parent Jayanti – the agro-commodities business group. Capturing the essence of herbs and spice in grinder bottles and sprinkler tins, On1y is an honest attempt to bring the luxury of fresh ground spice to every household.
“Brand On1y has been specially developed keeping in mind the Indian food culture. On1y identifies with the best of industry practices, systematic processes, stringent quality measures and long-term research on innovative packaging,” says AVP, Brand Head, On1y, Viren Desai.
“India has a huge potential to absorb gourmet and imported food products. Living standards are improving; double income group is expanding and with increasing international travel, the craving for exotic food culture is increasing among the youth. With an increasing number of women joining the workforce along with the growth of disposable income, the gourmet and imported food segment is bound to grow,” explains Desai, whose brand has been growing at a healthy clip of over 30 per cent in the past three years.
The brand is constantly working on building an extensive retail outreach. On1y products have a good presence in all major metros, apart from being available in over 50 Indian cities.
Lovely Bake Studio is a premier European inspired bakery, which offers its guests 100 per cent eggless delicacies, a first-of–its–kind concept in north India. Bolstering Lovely Bake Studio’s presence in the food segment is its sibling, Lovely Sweets, a leading manufacturer and retailer of traditional Indian sweets, also in north India.
“Our product range in both the brands performs extremely well in all formats. Cookies sell all the year round and sales of sweets range picks up during the festival season,” says Founder & CEO, Lovely Bake Studio, Shaishav Mittal.
The company is aggressively designing new gifting concepts for the upcoming festival season and will be introducing innovative gifting options for customers. It is also developing a gluten-free range and low-calorie range of cookies.
“Customers are willing to pay a little more if the product is branded, healthy, nicely packed and hygienically manufactured,” asserts Mittal citing market reports and surveys that point to the fact that nowadays customers are bored of consuming regular biscuits and are looking for innovative functional cookies, which are healthy and tasty.
KBB Nuts Pvt. Ltd. is among the largest nuts and dry fruits business group in India and among the top importers. With over four decades of expertise in the nuts and dry fruits segment, the company offers a wide range of raw and flavoured products for consumers, institutions, HoReCa and other sales channels.
“We promote healthy nuts and nutritious dried fruits like prunes, cranberries, etc. Our brands in the gourmet segment are Tulsi, Gourmia and Magic Nuts with Gourmia Trail Mixes being the latest addition. Tulsi is our flagship brand with almonds as our lead product,” says Director, KBB Nuts Pvt. Ltd., Ritesh Bajaj.
The company’s strongest market is north India but its products have a presence in most major cities and towns across India.
The company is rapidly building its sales team for providing better services across all sales channels. “We get good sales primarily through the conventional channels – modern plus traditional trade. We are also offering our products on the company website and other online portals. B+ and above towns are our key markets. Reasonable pricing of products with increased retail outreach is the basic strategy for taking our products to newer markets and demographics,” informs Bajaj.
To extend its retail outreach, KBB Nuts has been collaborating with retailers through competitive pricing of its products, offering
better margins and by beefing up its distribution service. It conducts regular sampling drives to generate customer awareness or its products.
“In terms of product demand, the consumer preference is slowing shifting and replacing the usual products on the kitchen shelf. Consumers are more open to exploring both traditional and modern health and lifestyle products. We are meeting this demand by offering good quality products at optimum prices sourced from the best suppliers around the world,” says Bajaj.
Eon Naturals Pvt. Ltd, established in 2012, is a prominent importer and supplier of refined edible canola oil.
“We are promoting the health benefits of Canola oil through various mediums to create a healthy society and spread out our reach of healthy products to the masses. Canola oil is growing market as consumers are becoming more aware about the necessity to stay fit and healthy. They need healthy cooking oil options in their kitchen and we have that product and we are promoting it in every possible way,” says Director, Eon Naturals Pvt. Ltd., Raman Khanna.
Eon Naturals is currently focused on Canola oil, but it shall be coming up with a lot more imported category products in the next three months.
“Imported products are witnessing a higher acceptance in urban Indian pockets. Th e experimental nature of the shopper is an encouragement for importers and the formats offering imported and gourmet foods,” observes Khanna.
The strongest markets for Eon Natural’s Canola oil are currently Delhi-NCR, Bangalore and Chennai. The company is right now focusing on metro cities, Tier – 1 and Tier – II cities and is tying up with more players in modern trade, general trade and online trade.
“Modern trade and online trade in India are growing extensively. Sales from these newer formats have even surpassed general trade sales for the imported and gourmet food category. Currently, we have good sales in premium gourmet outlets such as Le Marche, Needs Supermart and many more. In online, we have tie-ups with BigBasket and Grocermax. We are planning to enter more modern trade chains for growing our market share and sales. Also, urban areas remain the target segment of our market,” points out Khanna.
Queens Quinoa is the largest producer of quinoa in India. Quinoa is a superfood, which can be enjoyed across all ages after the initial first year.
“We are looking after the production, processing, value-addition, marketing and awareness creation about quinoa. Our existing range of products includes quinoa grain, quinoa flour, gluten-free quinoa pasta and guilt-free quinoa chips. We have been developing new products category based out of quinoa, which is helping different category of users to start adopting quinoa in their lifestyle,” says Co-Founder, Queens Quinoa, CA. Manish Goyal, adding that quinoa grain is its best-selling product.
“As on date, we are listed across all the metro specific modern trade and also pan-India based retailers where our sales are almost equally distributed,” says Goyal.
Antonio Pina Diaz S.L operates the Spanish saffron brand Pina. The ISO-3632 certified company and its importer arm in India – Indian Products Pvt Ltd. – are both engaged in saffron activity under BRC certification, which guarantees that there is no compromise in terms of the quality and purity of its saffron.
“Quality is Pina’s key USP. We use the Freeze Drying technique, which is our patent technology to dry saffron. It keeps the aroma long lasting,” says COO-India, Antonio Pina Diaz S.L., Vipin Aggarwal.
“There is scope for 100 per cent growth. Our brand sales are increasing every year,” reveals Aggarwal. “We are making consumers aware about the purity aspect of saffron. The results are encouraging as people are now gradually becoming very conscious about purity. Earlier, when people bought saffron, price was the key consideration. Now, when they buy it is the quality that plays on their mind. The consumer is today ready to pay if the product is pure. That is why 1 gm of Pina Supreme sells for an MRP of Rs 1,099, and it is the highest selling unit,” notes Aggarwal.
Pina Supreme is also the company’s best-selling saffron category and is available at all gourmet shops and top F&G retailers pan-India.
Mapleleaf Distribution Pvt. Ltd. has over 15 years of experience in retail and wholesale trade of international foods in India.
“We offer a wide range of Oriental, Mexican and Japanese cuisine apart from ready-to-eat products, confectionery and breakfast category range. Our portfolio supports a total of 380 SKUs, which is a complete supermarket range,” says MD, Mapleleaf Distribution Pvt. Ltd., Niraj Murarka.
The company counts Pantai as its strongest brand in India with Pantai sweet chilli sauces, curry paste, coconut milk and cream and rice vermicelli as top-sellers in its portfolio.
“Our experience in retail and wholesale trade and our association with the HoReCa industry gives us an edge in the international food category, which is the fastest growing segment in India,” says Murarka, pointing out that Mapleleaf’s competitive advantage lies in the fact that it has a complete range of Oriental cuisine products.
11 Challenges to Growth
Though the gourmet market is poised to grow owing to both demand and supply forces, there remains quite a few impediments in terms of availability of limited product, segment awareness, management of shrinkage, wastage and vendor management for proper product replenishment, limited product shelf life and restriction on import, to name a few.
According to FIFI’s Amit Lohani, the major challenges are high taxation, clearance issues at airports, and lack of adequate cold storage facilities. He says that India is still a land of stringent food laws, which makes it very difficult for international manufacturers to enter and sustain in the Indian market. Various ministries abide by various rules and regulations to ensure entry and availability of safe products for the consumers. So, while India represents an attractive opportunity for imported food and drink, foreign companies must take heed of the particular challenges of the Indian market if they are to avoid potential pitfalls.
Another big challenge for foreign food companies is product placement and distribution. New brands entering the country need the right partners in the Indian market for distribution, followed by affordable placement. Without the right placement, it is not possible to get started even in the first step of creating a market for the brand. The lack of proper distribution channels becomes all the more glaring in cities like Guwahati, where there are very few distributors. Another major hurdle is the underdeveloped integrated cold chain framework in India. The huge demand and supply gap of support infrastructure acts as a constraint in the supply chain of imported goods.
Some retailers also feel that sourcing challenges need to be mitigated to spur the growth of imported food items, which are incompetent at times, and without any consistency. As a result, the end prices of imported food products (especially from Europe or USA) are much higher than its counterparts in the Indian market, which is due to high ocean freights, duties, etc. It is also extremely difficult for the importers to maintain the shelf life norm as per the rules. This results in prolonged non-availability of imported food products in India. Fluctuating exchange rates also put a huge pressure on the profitability of this business, and products go off the shelves due to blocking of such products by the importers. The good thing from the consumer point of view is that top retailers have been able to get their act together around many of problems.
“We source our gourmet and international products from both distributors and importers depending on the nature of the product, shelf life and throughput. However, the interesting phenomenon that’s happening in this space is the play of Indian FMCG companies, who are now bringing in lots of items into these categories,” says Krishnan of SPAR.
It is expected that going ahead into the future many international manufacturers will be able to figure out the Indian market better and take their association with importers to more collaborative levels.
“We firmly believe that the phenomenon of gourmet and international foods is going to change and become more democratic. We believe that doubling growth every few years should be very doable – across markets – whether Tier 1 or Tier II,” says a confident Krishnan.
All that the stakeholders must remember is that the opportunity areas in the future will revolve around direct sourcing, planting local bases, price betterment, introducing new products, and reaching the untapped markets. If these challenges can be addressed, then the sky is the limit for gourmet and imported food. In times to come, it will get even easier to put good-tasting, easy-to- prepare, nutritious, and internationally inspired food on the table.