A fast changing Indian market, which is being boosted by rising income levels, has opened up the ready-to-eat, frozen foods segment in the country for players like McCain Foods India.
KS Narayanan, managing director, McCain Foods India, told FoodNavigator-Asia that the Indian market has been on an upswing because of increased disposable incomes, which has had a direct impact on people’s lifestyle and food habits.
According to Narayanan, Indian consumers have gone through a dramatic transformation in the past few years by moving from traditional spending on food and groceries to lifestyle and convenience food products.
“This has led to growth in home consumption of frozen foods, with consumers appreciating the convenience of stocking up and keeping easily-prepared food at hand,” said Narayanan.
Narayanan added that quick service restaurants have equally contributed to the growth of these ready-to-eat foods, as many chefs have begun treating them not just as ‘fall back’ options but also ‘ready reckoners.’
Local tastes key to success in India
McCain Foods India offers a number of potato-based products in India, mostly because potatoes form a significant staple in the diet of Indian families and there is huge consumption of potato preparations for both snacks and meals, he added.
These include products like McCain Aloo Tikki (combination of mashed potatoes and authentic Indian spices), McCain Super Wedges and McCain Crunchy Potato Bites, according to the company.
Apart from Aloo Tikki, McCain also offers many other frozen, ready-to-eat traditional Indian products like the McCain Tandoori Veggie Nuggets, McCain Veggie Burger and McCain 3-Minute Rice Idli, the company said.
“Localizing the products is a key strategic initiative of McCain. We have developed the ethnic range to suit the local taste and these offerings are growing well and registering good acceptance,” he said.
Awareness a challenge
Narayanan added that the company's research with consumers has shown that they have certain misconceptions about frozen foods, particularly they are not aware of the benefits that freezing as a method of preservation offers.
“The fact that freezing is a natural method of food preservation without the use of any preservatives or chemicals and that it locks freshness and maintains the nutritive value of food is not known to most consumers,” he said.
According to Narayanan, the mindset is bound to gradually change with trial and experience of frozen foods, for which reason, the company is pricing its products in an affordable range to let customers try the product.
“That’s why we have introduced trial packs for three of our most popular products - McCain French Fries, McCain Smiles and McCain Aloo Tikki - at 25 rupees [US$0.50] to enable consumers to try out our products,” he said.