Sakal Times

Frozen Foods

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According to the India Frozen Food Market Outlook, 2021, the frozen food market of India is growing with a CAGR of 15-20% in the last four years.

As urban dynamics change and families become nuclear, there is a marked shift towards frozen foods. With the current trends in the market where both members of the family are working, more nuclear families being established, real estate becoming more and more expensive and kitchens becoming smaller, there is a huge rise in convenience foods is on an all-time high. Frozen foods are among the top order as stalking them is much more convenient and usage also is varied.

Demand Drivers

The Indian frozen food industry started with frozen vegetables and fries. Today it delivers a wide variety of products, ranging from fruits and  vegetables  to  frozen  meat  and  ready-to-cook,  snacking  and  full  meal  options. Among these, frozen snacks and vegetables are the largest categories in terms of sales volume (65%) whereas frozen poultry, seafood and red meat are increasingly becoming popular among the Indian retail consumers. Sunil Nair, CEO, Snowman Logistics explains, “owing to urbanization and increased the income of people, western India has the largest share in the frozen food market. North India will show a steady growth in the forecast period and the Southern market will increase as a result of the growing popularity of frozen such as ready to eat idli sambar. Frozen vegetables and frozen snacks are anticipated to remain the most popular product categories capturing a majority of the market share across India.” Being the new category in India earlier frozen had misconceptions in consumers mind about its healthiness, but with growing awareness about the freezing as the best way to preserve food, consumers now knows frozen foods have some real benefits that go beyond convenience. “Freezing means less waste, which is a sad fate of a large percentage of all food produced in India. And concerns about preservatives and other ingredients have been lessened by the assumption that if products are natural or organic, they must be more nutritious,” says Chandrakant K, Head of Sales & Marketing, Chevon Agrotech Pvt. Ltd.

Source - India Food Report 2018
Source – India Food Report 2018

Health Matters

A tag attached to frozen foods is that it is unhealthy however this is not really true for all the categories. There is a large fresh frozen category in which vegetables, meats, fish or seafood are individually quick frozen (IQF) from their freshest source at a temperature shift from 4 degrees to -18 degrees in less than 5 minutes and then transported around the world. “That makes it completely hygienic and safe to consume for long periods of time provided the cold chain isn’t broken. The need for frozen foods is primarily convenience and it does come with certain don’ts. If there is frozen food supplied where industrial freezing units aren’t deployed then the food quality definitely deteriorates, also logistics plays a vital role in this game and can make or break a brand if their cold chain logistics are not sorted,” says Chef Ajay Chopra, Founder Zion Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. Fresh vegetables may lose up to 45 percent of their nutrients from the time they are harvested to the time they are purchased at a grocery store. Mithun Appaiah, CEO, Sumeru Foods explains, “as consumers become more aware, they are exploring other categories in this segment, which are not necessarily calorie rich and are more wholesome and healthier than snacks like the combo meals that are nutritious and far less calorie intensive. Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness on the consumer front about the fact that freezing as a process eliminates the need for a lot of preservatives.  There are healthier options available to the consumer today, like our quick meals range which includes parathas in turmeric, beetroot, methi and ajwain variants that retain the goodness of these traditional Indian health foods.”

Source - Chevon Agrotech Pvt Ltd
Source – Chevon Agrotech Pvt Ltd

Non Vegetarian Angle

The retail market used to be largely frozen vegetables like peas and sweet corn till five-six years ago. Now, snacks such as chicken sausages, French fries and other potato products, kebabs, breaded products like burger patties and pops are becoming very popular. It is a myth that non vegetarian food is not as healthy as the vegetarian counterparts. Seshu Kumar Tirumala, Head – Buying and Merchandising, bigbasket adds, “it is important to consider the ingredients used in various products before labelling them as healthy or otherwise. Avoid foods that are high calories, sugar, fat, and sodium, or carry little nutritional value.” Indian consumers are starting to live in an internet-based world, which is enabling them to have an online shopping experience across categories. The same is also happening for food and grocery, which is yet to realize its true potential with Indian consumers. Today, the category stands at INR 3,900 crore and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 45-50% till 2020.

Debunking Myths

  • Frozen food could sometimes lose out on some nutritional value but the reality is that they are generally more nutritious than the fresh food that is available at the grocery store. Microbes cannot grow on any food that is at a temperature less than 0°F.
  • While grocery freezers are packed with unhealthy frozen dinners, there are some great healthy choices one can make.
  • Frozen food does not remove nutrients.
  • Generally, it is less expensive than fresh food. For example, most fruits and vegetables that are not in season are priced very high but stocking up frozen fruits and vegetables can actually save money on your grocery bills.
  • While there are plenty of foods that can be frozen and yet retain the original texture and flavor, this is not the case with all food. There are certain foods that tend to lose its flavor when frozen and these include cream-based sauces and fruits and vegetables that contain high water content.
  • Frozen foods have a longer lifespan but it can lose taste and quality when stored for too long. However, there are some ways in which the storage life of frozen food can be extended and this is done by blanching vegetables before freezing and covering the food in moisture-proof packaging.

    Pic Snowman Logistics
    Pic Snowman Logistics

Fun Facts

  • Frozen food was invented by Clarence Birdseye.
  • March is National Frozen Food Month.
  • Chinese are known to have used ice cellars to freeze foods around 1000BC.

This story first appeared in Sakal Times dated 15th Oct 2018 here:

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