Mumbai: With an increasing number of women opting to work outside their homes, it has become evident that fewer of them would have the time or inclination to cook mouth-watering delicacies for the family. Thus, over the past 10 years, a gradual change has been seen happening in Indian middle-class households.
The change in Indian food habits started with the introduction of convenience foods like 2-minute noodles, which Nestle introduced many years ago. After this Nestle came up packaged ready-to-cook soups, which were not very successful probably because soups do not form part of Indian cuisine.
The next product introduced in the convenience foods range was packaged ginger garlic paste and tomato puree. Ginger garlic paste was initiated by small players and is now dominated by Dabur with its Hommade brand. Godrej first marketed packaged tomato puree; later Hindustan Lever followed suit with its Kisan brand. However, ginger garlic paste and tomato puree cannot be classed as convenience foods totally, as they constitute ingredients and are not foods on their own.
Ready-to-cook foods basically comprise food items that just need to be heated in order to serve, with very little cooking time. Players like Nestle with Maggi 2-minute noodles, Venkys Chicken, Gits, Tasty Bite and MTR Foods earlier dominated this market. The Indian foods market is estimated to be of the order of Rs 1,00,000 crore a year and the middle class alone spends a mind-boggling Rs 37,800 crore per annum on food and groceries alone.
The ready-to-cook foods market, the size of which is estimated at Rs 500 crore, saw a fair amount of activity in 2001 by the entry of a number of new players. The most notable of these was ITCs foods division, which introduced its Kitchens of India brand and the product under it Dal Bukhara.
Corporate sources in ITC say buoyed by the success of Dal Bukhara, ITCs foods division is planning to launch a number of items within the next few months, including a special dal from the famous Dakshin Restaurants, Kundan Kalia from Dum Phukt, and other vegetable kormas and non-vegetarian dishes. Kitchens of India is the most premium label in the category today.
On one hand while players like Wimpys and Nirulas began to market packaged foods, companies like Dabur Foods have announced plans to get into ethnic foods in a big way. Daburs product range will include ready mixes as well as packaged food, ready to be put in a microwave or boiled. In the mixes segment, the company has already launched tomato puree under the Hommade brand.
Satnam Overseas, the Rs 340-crore rice exporter selling the Kohinoor brand of rice, has re-launched its premix ready-to-cook pulao Rice & Spice in four flavours vegetable, tomato, masala and mushroom. In the pipeline are plans to launch paranthas and vegetables like dum aloo, palak paneer, dal makhni, kadhi, aloo matar and rajma. LT Overseas also has plans to introduce rice in five flavours lemon, masala, methi, tomato and biryani. These will be launched under the Dawaat brand.
Other existing players in the segment, like the Pune-based Tasty Bite, have recently launched pao bhaji and south Indian snacks, adding to its palak paneer and navrattan korma menu, while the Bangalore-based MTR Foods has forayed into north Indian cuisine with kharabath, biryani mix and idli mix.
The factors pushing demand in this market are convenience, rising double-income households, reduced cooking time, and good taste all these companies are getting into typically Indian cuisine, which appeals to Indian taste buds.
And, finally, the rising penetration of consumer durables like oven toaster grills and microwave ovens further provides an impetus to convenience foods.