Ankush at large

Food producers: Stop thinking India is a monolith

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: India, Cooking

Food producers: Stop thinking India is a monolith
To continue on from my last piece, which questioned whether Indian food companies are targeting the right sort of kitchens—domestic, rather than commercial—it is now important to touch on the current trend among foreign food makers, who are wrongly viewing India as a whole without considering its diversity.

This country has almost 30 states. In Europe, this make-up could easily equate to 30 different countries, such is the geographical and demographic size of each state, as well as their cultural differences. Our states are diverse in their food habits even to the point of great variance within each state.

They have their own recipes, cook using different ingredients and eat differently. The diversity in the foods naturally available as well as religion, weather and culture has meant that culinary ways are diverse and rich.

For example, the variety of rice grown and eaten by people in the southern state of Kerala differs greatly from what is consumed in the northern state of Punjab. It is cooked differently too.

Similarly, while its true that Hindu consumers in the state of Haryana will not touch a beef product, a lot of the Hindus in Kerala will consume beef as an integral part of their diet.

But now, partly due to the destruction of much of India’s biodiversity, there has been a trend to colour India’s culinary habits with one stroke. In this way, many food makers are giving Indian consumers single, one-size-fits all food offerings.

A good example of this is french fry makers who don’t realise that a vast segment of the mid-western states will not touch anything made out of potato. Another is how mint is the favored flavour up north for homemade potato chips, whereas some chip makers seem to believe the globally liked ready salted product will do just fine there.

This is the very reason why I have often written about one trend that is fast developing, albeit stealthily.

It is how next wave of growth in India’s food industry—as well as the biggest challenge for multinational food makers—will come from one major source: the burgeoning regional players coming through smalltown India.

Have your say: Do you agree with Ankush? Let us know in the box below.

Related topics: Markets, South Asia, Asian tastes

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1 comment

Can we get in touch ?

Posted by Ashish,

Hey Ankush, interesting articles from you on the packaged food industry in India. Obviously you've put in a lot of research into it. I'm interested in getting into this market segment and would really appreciate if you could take some time out for some correspondence to guide me on the right path. Thankd

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