Indians are unlikely to get adventurous in their core meal - the typically elaborate and multi-textured lunch or dinner. Not so with their quasi meals or snacks. So, train your guns on idlis, dosas, pav bhaji and lighter snacks, a report has suggested to the Indian food processing sector.
The report, India's Changing Dinner Plate, by the Confederation of Indian Industry and ACNielsen ORG-MARG on challenges and opportunities for food and beverages in the Indian market, said the greatest scope for innovation was in the heavy and light snacks segment, because Indians were unlikely to shift to processed food for their core meal.
The core meal, typically composed of 'ethnic staples' which include a balance of cereals (rice, chappati), pulses (dal, rajma) and often vegetables and accompaniments (pickles, papads), will continue to resist change. This is because freshness is of primary concern to ingredients as well as prepared food, and there is powerful symbology around the preparation process.
The report was released in Chennai on Monday during a conference on food business, 'From the Farm Gate to the Dinner Plate,' organised by CII as part of Foodpro '05. With lifestyles having undergone a radical change, the consumer is in need of and is willing to spend on new, processed alternatives in both these areas, the report said.
Activity-filled lifestyle, long distance commuting, increasing number of working adults have created a shift towards the quasi meal, which in many cases has replaced a core meal, the report said. One of the biggest opportunities in food is in this segment, given that there is greater openness to experiment and the target is young population.
There is a huge opportunity in each of the five typical quasi meals - school tiffin box, late afternoon/early evening snack among children, lunch substitute among adults, evening snack at work, and break fast, the report said.
Ditto with snacks and indulgences. There are two trends - a move towards healthier options and a move towards uninhibited indulgence - that are likely to influence consumption and choices in the next few years, the report said.
Broadly, the report said the outlook for the next five years looked upbeat. However, a large part of current growth came from changes in consumer demand, resulting from growing affluence, the rise in working women, younger population and greater global connectivity, rather than from improvements in supply chain and marketing. Improved retailing and removing supply chain inefficiencies would help the country become more competitive in food business, the report said.