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Emerging trends in the Indian food processing industry

“In the last decade, the industry has underwent a major transformation by revisiting and restructuring the product portfolio majorly to align with the consumer tastes and preferences - Nirupama Raghavan”

Emerging trends in Indian food industry by Nirupama Raghavan
written for Smart Complianz

Increased awareness among consumer groups on the affects of unhealthy diet patterns has resulted in a paradigm shift in their tastes and preferences. Aligning to these dynamics, the industry is revisiting their strategies to accommodate the taste, novelty, convenience and nutrition into the overall product portfolio. Therefore, we are witnessing the convergence of innovative technologies, Indian traditional wisdom, regional culinary styles and effective communications to cater the consumer healthier choices. Given the context, being in the industry for 15 years I would like to dwell on the latest trends in the food processing sectors at a macro level.

1) Clean label is more than a trend

With rapid sensitization about health and wellness, there is an anxiety among consumers with regard to innumerable additives declared on the list of ingredients. Moreover, there are huge numbers of millennials who are scanning the labels before making the purchase decision. Hence, with increased end-user consciousness, we are seeing products not using (or minimizing) preservatives and natural processing has become the USP for many brands. Some buzz words in the industry whiteboard sessions are – “reduce the sugar and the salt contents”, “shift to healthier fats”, “introduce whole grains and millets in the multigrain products”, “natural antioxidants” and “natural flavourings”. Although, start ups (incl. organic food brands) are taking lead in this development, established brands are revisiting their recipes to quickly embrace this trend. As per a  survey commissioned by specialty PR agency Ingredient Communications, 73 percent of consumers are happy to pay a higher retail price for a food or drink product made with ingredients they recognize and trust. 

2) Increased focus on healthier and traditional ingredients

India has a vast knowledge of food grains and traditionally it has been passed on to generations. However, in the recent past with invasion of western food in the Indian markets (especially junk food) traditional foods have been ignored. Largely, this trend of ingesting food with high fat, sugar and salt is often ascribed as the reason for the chronic diseases in all age groups.  There are several studies from credible sources ascertaining the same.  So, as a solution to address this growing concern, consumers have started looking for healthy alternatives like millets and coarse grains in place of conventional rice and wheat. For instance, millets like Ragi and Jowar is earning a significant position in the ingredient list of mainstream snacks, breakfast products, health drink mixes, instant mixes and baby foods. Quinoa which was once restricted to only South American region is now being widely consumed and cultivated in India. Currently, many snack and health product brands are successfully testing Quinoa as an ingredient in their products.  Long forgotten fox nuts, basil seeds are finding their due place and have become exciting additions for the new age food and beverages. 

It is very encouraging to witness the recent market launches in the baby food and health drinks segment, using our own Jaggery and dry fruit powder as a substitute to refined sugar. These trends clearly demonstrate that looking inward into traditional Indian food habits is becoming imperative. In addition to the above, there are lot more coarse grains, seeds, oils, fruits and vegetables waiting to come into the main stream. Lastly, these developments would create an immense ecological and economic benefit to our farming community apart from offering healthier choice to consumers and adding value to the processed food business.

3) Demand for innovative technologies retaining the product nutrient values

Clean labels and healthier food trends have also pushed processors to look for healthier processing technologies that retain nutrients and increase shelf life. Among many, High pressure processing is currently prevalent in the beverage sector as this process involves microbial pasteurization under high pressure and avoids usage of high temperature or chemical preservatives. As a result, this helps in retaining the sensory and nutritional attributes of the fruit juices in comparison to the conventional processing techniques. Further, vacuum fried snacks are another ingenious technology that is giving scope to a newer range of exotic snacks particularly of fruit and vegetable based.  Another newer technology, microwave assisted thermal sterilization helps pack curries and fruit pulps that are way better than the traditional retorted foods in terms of both sensory and nutritional quality. Modified atmosphere packaging is extending the shelf life of our traditional sweets by a few more weeks and months and that is creating new business opportunities in this sector. These products are grossing good reception from the consumers as they appreciate the quality in spite of higher pricing. Finally, traditional cold pressing and expeller pressing techniques to extract pressed oils are also catching on as people are keen to go back to the roots.

4) Organic products would be the future  

With the gazette notification from the FSSAI with regard to the rules for organic processing, certification, labelling and monitoring (Jan, 2018), Indian government has brought clarity and interest to this segment. Moreover, the area under organic cultivation is growing at a CAGR* of 6% and the domestic organic market has been predicted to expand at 20-25%* for 2017-2020. With the global organic food industry too expecting to reach US $156.3 billion* by 2020, opportunities for the Indian food processing sector is immense in this category. Owing to existence of various agro-climatic zones there is tremendous scope for expansion of cultivation areas for organic farming. With increasing support from the state, this is definitely a sunrise sector

5) Functional and eco-friendly packaging

Stringent regulatory policies around the ban of plastic in the major cities is forcing the industry to look for more eco-friendly and recyclable option. Moreover, from the business side, packing is seen as an important factor from the perspective of both promotion and brand security (mitigating food defence & counterfeiting threats). Glass is definitely making a comeback across many categories. Paper board based rigid packaging is having a good traction in premium snacks segment, on the go ‘Ready to make’ product categories etc. R&D departments of many food businesses are working with the packaging houses on recyclable, eco-friendly packaging options that also offer extended shelf life. In addition, functional packaging that introduces alternate uses apart from its primary purpose is fast catching up in food processing industry. Label that also functions as re-sealable lid, pouches that also work as measuring cup, grinder type spice jars, spout that makes the vada are only tip of the recent trends.  In this direction, there are constant trials to arrive at a suitable and sustainable solution that retain the product novelty and enhance the consumer experience. 

To conclude, Food technologists are coming out with innovative, delightful and quality food products to continuously gratify the consumers. In addition to the efforts of industry, the Indian food regulator is also playing a critical role by sensitizing the consumer in the healthy food choices and at the same time encouraging industry by standardizing the norms along with pragmatic guidelines. Therefore, I personally believe that it is definitely a wonderful time now for the Indian food industry from the   perspectives of both the food business and the consumer 

About the Author: Nirupama is a seasoned professional in the food & beverage sector. She is a food technologist from CFTRI, Mysore. Besides quality management, her core expertise lies in new product development and technical management. Further, She worked on the innovation of products in the categories like culinary products, fruit based beverages, breakfast cereals, extruded snacks. She is interested to interact with budding food technologists on the emerging trends in the industry. She can be reached at, @linkedin -

(All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site)

Issue 27

Is functional packaging going to be the future

Why clean labels are important in food industry

What are new methods to retain product shelflife and nutrients


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