There is more to Indian dinner plate than roti and curry, says study

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Indian dinner plate is changing character faster than one could say McDonald's, a study on food consumption patterns by the Confederation of Indian Industries, A.C. Nielsen and ORG-MARG shows.

Apart from drawing attention to the substitution of conventional food consumption patterns with straight-from-the-packet options, the study also trace the evolution of packaged food industry in the country.

`India's Changing Dinner Plate' was released by Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai here on Monday.

Growing affluence among consumers (even rural ones), the coming of age of the working woman, a financially assertive younger population, greater global connectivity and faster percolation of trends had all contributed to the positioning of the food industry as the fastest growing FMCG sector.

But inequities persisted: "supply chain inefficiencies, lack of a regulatory environment, lack of investments in infrastructure, a back-end isolated from the market, high fixed costs and lack of market-driven linkages."

Foods made up 72 per cent of the incremental FMCG value in 2004 over 2000, much of it coming from packaged basics like cooking oil, atta, rice and ghee, an indication of the growing relevance of the commodity-to-branding movement.

"The Indian diet has changed from a cereal-dominant one to one with a greater proportion of meat, milk, vegetables and fruit... . the per capita consumption of meat (is estimated to) rise from 5.6 kg in 2004 to 6.6 kg in 2009 and consumption of vegetables over the same period will rise from 78 to 94 kg,'' the study found.

Consumption of processed foods had improved dramatically. While 63 per cent of Indian households used at least three processed food categories, 28 per cent consumed at least five out of a group comprising jams, ketchup, cheese, noodles, pickles, ready-to-eat meals, biscuits, salted snacks, milk powders, soups and mineral water.

As against 6.6 per cent of SEC A (socio economic classification A) consumers who ate out at least once a week in 1999, in 2004, 8 per cent claimed to be eating out.

Working women and youth are emerging as niche customers. The former were found to be opting for convenience out of sheer necessity and the freedom to make choices.

They were spending more on packaged commodities and resorted to impulse buying as they had higher incomes at their disposal.

The youth demanded a combination of convenience, snacking and meals-on-the go. They were more deal-prone, sought out promotional offers and based their buying decision on choice of outlets.

Indulgence food

Consumption of indulgence foods was also on the rise: retail offtake of chocolates had grown by 5 per cent and sale of ice-creams had gone up from 22 to 29 per cent in the last four years.

The explosion of the retail industry is expected to fuel the boom - 22 new malls will be opened in Mumbai this year and coffee shop Barista is planning 1,000 outlets by 2010.

The study also showcases two brand success stories - Frito-Lays and Maggi Atta Noodles - as an indication of the way the Indian processed food industry is evolving.

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