U Purnachand, India business manager for the soy ingredients maker told FoodNavigator-Asia at the Food Ingredients India (Fi India) exhibition in Mumbai that the market for these products is almost negligible in India when compared to western nations.
“The market is very, very small and confined to urban centres for now. We do not see the market for these products expand out of these areas in a big way for at least the next five years,” he said.
In January this year, Solae opened a food application centre in Shanghai to target food processors in the fast-growing Asian economies such as China and India as well as established markets like Japan and Australia.
But while these other markets have seen an uptake on the back of increased consumption of soy products, India seems to lag behind in terms of acceptance, said Purnachand.
“This has a lot to do with the Indian concept of taste when it comes to food products. If the food is not tasty according to what tradition dictates, Indians will not buy it,” he added.
Purnachand also said that unlike western customers, Indian customers are yet to indulge in food purchasing on the back of health and wellness concerns, which is the norm in other developing economies as well.
He added that only very recently, there has been a slight increase in demand for protein bars and soymilk in India, but only amongst a very small minority of urban individuals who are aware of the benefit of soy proteins.
“Increasing awareness is the biggest challenge in this market. If the Indian customer was better informed of the benefits of soy, I do think the market would increase gradually,” he said.
Purnachand revealed though that besides bars and beverages, protein supplements containing soy protein are the next category where there has been a significant growth over past three to four years and it is growing fast.
Purnachand added that much like China, India too has a growing upper middle class that would see “income levels rise over the next decade as well, creating a situation where individuals will have more disposable income to then consider buying products for health and wellness reasons as well.”