Case for an In­dian Food Rev­o­lu­tion

In­dian pack­aged food has a global po­ten­tial

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

In­dia’s tra­di­tional snacks, it turns out, are mak­ing huge in­roads and even poised to over­take west­ern ones, in the coun­try’s pack­aged foods mar­ket. If this de­serves only two cheers, it is be­cause desi snacks should be rul­ing shop shelves not just in In­dia but across the world. Sug­ary soda and potato wafers have suc­cess­fully in­vaded ev­ery mar­ket and no movie is com­plete in any cin­ema, whether in Delhi, Shang­hai or Dhaka, with­out pop­corn. Su­pe­rior mar­ket­ing has al­lowed medi­ocre fare to be­come sta­ples of the good life in any cul­ture. Sup­pose such so­phis­ti­cated mar­ket­ing, along with hy­gienic pro­duc­tion and snazzy pack­ag­ing, could be brought to bear on tra­di­tional In­dian snacks.

In­dia’s re­gional and cul­tural diver­sity also means a great va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent kinds of food: crunchy, soft, spicy, steamed, bland, fin­ger food, bakes, fries, pre­serves, pick­les, roasts, meats, veg­e­tar­ian savouries and an end­less ar­ray of sweet dishes, rang­ing from runny payas, kheer and prathaman to chunky barfis and pedas and amor­phous halwa. Ready-to-cook foods are gain­ing ground in ur­ban In­dia, as dou­ble-in­come fam­i­lies look for qual­ity and con­ve­nience. The likes of ITC and Amul have the mus­cle and the en­trepreneurial en­ergy to brand them and mar­ket them around the world, even as a large num­ber of smaller com­pa­nies cater to the de­mand from the desi di­as­pora. In­dian food re­mains rel­a­tively un­tapped ter­rain for star­tups. Glob­ally present In­dian food would not just add to In­dia’s soft power but also en­rich the In­dian farmer and grow a vast food-pro­cess­ing in­dus­try.

In­dia’s di­verse agro-cli­matic con­di­tions per­mit di­verse crops, to each of which con­sid­er­able value can be added, with a step-up in tech­nol­ogy, as com­pared to tra­di­tional method of pro­cess­ing. With sup­port from the food reg­u­la­tor to en­sure qual­ity and trace­abil­ity, con­tin­u­ous power sup­ply to run cold stor­ages and food pro­cess­ing plants in ru­ral ar­eas, and good roads for trans­port­ing ru­ral pro­duce fast to ur­ban mar­kets and ports for ex­ports, there is no rea­son why In­dia’s food pro­cess­ing in­dus­try should not pro­duce a global cham­pion.

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