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India: A growing market for new flavours’ snacks

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Young India’s preference for on-the-go, dry has gone several notches up in the past decade. Foreign brands entering India post-liberalization, in the ‘90s, have acted as the chief propeller for this trend. Although, the Indian market continues to be dominated by potato chips, salted savory and traditional sweets, new flavors are on the rise. Thanks to the changing tastes of the Millennials and the emerging health trends, the consumer is willing to experiment and has become receptive to fresher, newer ideas. A number of factors like mass media, social media and frequent international vacations, have become the catalysts for fostering these changes. These platforms are introducing the Indian taste buds to new global delicacies and flavours, and gaining access to information about them is just a click away.

The category of gourmet snacks is fast gaining acceptance with more and more Indians owing to globalization, overseas travel, and exposure to new products and flavors. International gourmet snacks are now widely available at supermarkets and modern trade stores. But this wasn’t always the case. Tortilla chips and nachos are culinary delights from Mexico and are independent product categories in markets such as the United States and Mexico. Establishing them as strong product categories in India has its own share of challenges. First, there are diffi culties in gaining wide consumer acceptance for these products. Nachos have also been at times equated with the humble papad, as it a close culinary reference point for Indians. Consumer preference and choices are changing slowly. This is evident from the fact that earlier nachos and similar products were displayed alongside international gourmet products by modern trade channels such as Easyday and Spencer’s. Now this has changed and these products are displayed alongside domestic chips and other snack products. This clearly shows that gourmet food has moved into the domestic snack food category and there is a growing acceptance for new and innovative products.

Snacking has been on the rise for several years, but the last two years have been marked by notable growth. Today, consumers want a variety of easy-to-carry, price-effective snacks that do not compromise on taste and nutrition. A versatile player in this category is nachos; the variety varies from the modern style served in restaurants to the quick and easy nachos sold at kiosks in stadiums or cinema halls. Busy shoppers view snacks as mini-meals and are snacking more than ever before. Consumers looking for healthy alternatives to classic fried potato chips are sampling options that include nachos, dehydrated vegetable chips, roasted and baked chips and popcorn. The veggie chip market is showing a 17 percent annual growth. Indian demography, by its virtue, holds a prominent place for vegetarians by choice or customs, especially in and around northern India. We would be prudent to remember that this segment is also a huge consumer of packed potato chips and such snacks. More so, when there are all vegetarian no-garlic, no-onion options to go along with, this category is bound to grow in leaps and bounds, as it is about meeting the growing consumers’ needs. The nachos category is growing 14 percent less in 2018 as compared to the past year because consumers are now adopting healthier and innovative snacks like veggie nachos, which are made using a vegetable extract blended with corn.

Another important aspect for the category is product innovation. Companies and brands should look at providing healthier snacking options with an extended shelf life. A longer shelf life helps retailers to avoid issues related to expiry of products. According to studies, analysts forecast the global tortilla chips market will grow at a CAGR of 7.42 percent during the period 2017-2021.

In the snacks segment, new launches and investments have followed a set pattern – there is a tendency to follow leader brands. This has led to the growth of me-too brands. The blue ocean strategy, which involves putting a differentiator brand or idea in place and creating more value for the consumers, should be followed.

The Hotel/Restaurant/Café (HORECA) revolution going on India is also opening up new avenues for nachos. Tapas bars and quick service restaurants (QSR) are ruling the roost and they are depending on such products as important elements of their offerings. The new India has developed a taste for worldly flavors and consumers are becoming conscious of what they are consuming. In this scenario, nachos, as the healthier snacking option, is catching up quickly as the supreme snack of new India.