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Indian food industry needs to listen more: Report

By Ankush Chibber , 24-Jul-2012
Last updated the 24-Jul-2012 at 19:29 GMT

Is the Indian food industry doing enough to listen?
Is the Indian food industry doing enough to listen?

The India food and beverage industry should reach out to its consumers and involve them in designing their food products, says a paper by a faculty member of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

According to the paper, Eat, drink and be Healthy, the Indian food and beverage industry has not yet established strong and vibrant linkages with the local communities to develop value added products and share the benefits. 

The paper, which lists seven models for building such linkages range including mass sourcing the ideas, is aimed at involving people at different stages of value chain, or to different degrees and with various kinds of reciprocity.

User-driven innovations can be key to growth

User-driven innovations have enormous potential for influencing the choice of not just the producers but also the consumers - and there are some companies which have made a small foray in this direction. 

“For instance, PepsiCo India [the food major’s Indian subsidiary] asked people to come out with recipes made by using their snack, Kurkure,” prof Gupta, author of the paper and executive vice-chair of the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), told FoodNavigator-Asia.

“They then published their names with photograph of the respondents found outstanding along with the recipe,” he added.

However, Gupta lamented in his paper that not many companies have yet started mass sourcing product leads, process improvement and collaborative design either through awards or through licensing routes. 

“This is an enormous opportunity waiting to be tapped by food and beverage makers in the country,” he remarked.

Models a many

Gupta suggested many models in his paper, including one where ideas are sourced from thousands of people either with or without their identity being protected from the public.

“Only the selected ones are either rewarded or acknowledged on the package or otherwise.  The company retains the IPRs if there are any.  This is one time transaction and no follow up is planned,” the paper said.

Another model suggested that ideas and product leads are not only sourced but also co-produced with the users, supply chain members or other lead providers including farmers, tribals and others. 

“The processing may partly take place in-situ and partly at centralized level or completely at centralized level.  Marketing may be through both rural and urban distribution channels,” it said.  

Also talking of using traditional knowledge and skills in designing food products, Gupta told us of a range of a range of nutritional biscuits launched by the NIF in collaboration with food and retail major Future Group last year.

“The biscuits are made from natural ingredients such as arrowroot and buckwheat which are eaten in fasts, kodra millet, corn and different varieties of grains which are traditionally known to have beneficial properties,” said Gupta.

Gupta revealed that the two entities have decided to set up an incorporated joint venture company as part of their collaboration, where the royalty will benefit the communities that grow these varieties of crops.

“We will also launch a range of other products based on traditional knowledge that are documented at NIF,” said Gupta.  

The paper and information on the other models is available here

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