Ingredients of change: Food Trends in India – Part 1


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Food is becoming much more than nourishment. In fact, food is assuming a bigger purpose and is ushering in a food revolution of sorts – regional cuisines, home-cooked Desi meals and Ayurveda-based preparations, plant-based protein alternatives, global menu inspirations, convenience foods, DIY meals, and quick takeaways and experimentation with new categories. The culinary exploration is being extended to flavours, spices, ways of cooking, and trying out diverse combinations including exotic ingredients towards a holistic food experience.

In the wake of the pandemic, health considerations in foods with a steep rise in health-conscious consumers would continue to predominate, along with an enhanced focus on taste and desire to explore new food themes. We shall look at some of the food trends in India that are expected to prevail in the near future.


Distinct food consumption segments

A Godrej Foods study highlights the attitude change towards foods – pre-Covid and post-Covid. While pre-COVID, food was considered ‘cool’ to be indulged in by ‘foodies’, post-COVID, food choices became imperative towards long-term immunity building and healthy living. Plus, along with the growing preference for sustainable, humanely sourced ingredients and natural food products, distinct categories of global consumers have emerged, namely those following vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets as follows: 

Global consumer segments in 2020:

Source: Euromonitor

In fact, a CII-Deloitte report adds gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, low-carb, and keto as other variants.

 

Food market in India

As per a report by Omnivore, it is estimated that the Indian consumer would spend an additional $1.3Tn on foods between 2020-30, with consumption patterns being shaped by aspirational foods along with a thrust on healthy, hygiene, and safe solutions.

Further, the Indian diet has demonstrated a strong Indian cultural connection with a preference for regional menus, traditional recipes, and festive season dishes. A Godrej study backs this with 59.6% menus being picked from home style, grandma recipes, 53.5% based on immunity building potential, and 22.2% being driven by travel-inspired regional cooking. All in all a kind of returning to one’s roots with food being the medium. For example, Khichdi is a popular dish with each region having its own distinct localised style of Khichdi. 

 

Key Food Trends in India That are Driving Change

Home is where the hearth is

With travel taking a backseat and work from home being embraced, many caught the ‘cooking bug’, displaying their cooking skills at home. This trend reflected the growing preference for ‘Ghar ka Khana’ and the popularity of cooking at home, followed by sharing videos and posting guides on social media with their community of followers by homemakers, expert cooks, and those with newly discovered cooking skills. The Godrej Study presents the following insights:

• Rediscovering roots through regional dishes, family traditions passed down etc – 57%

• Experimenting with other regional cuisines – 48.1%

• Food exploration through online classes, walk-through videos, etc – 31.6%

• Revival of heirloom dishes and cooking methods – 26.6%

• Trying out restaurant-style dishes – 25.3%

 

Plant-based substitutes

A growing number of consumers are keen to explore menu offerings derived from plant origins.  Going forward, we can expect an expansion in such combinations as well as zero-meat offerings consisting of substitutes like jackfruit and soya towards the discovery of unique tastes. 

Multiple combos: With clean-label and sustainability assuming greater thrust and serving as a differentiation tool, the foods space is set to embrace accelerated culinary experimentation with plant-based ingredients. This would comprise a mix and match set of diverse elements of vegetables, legumes and grains, menus promoting the innate sweetness of fruits and the natural taste of raw nuts. Nutritional blends could be made into beverages and plant-based soya or almond milk could be included in snacks, breakfast and desserts for a healthy twist or as a blend with dairy products like paneer. 

Health is the real wealth: Today’s consumers are health-conscious and keen to incorporate sustainable food choices that reinforce environmental health, control climate change as well as provide the necessary nutritional content. 

Ecological concerns: The convergence of individual health concerns and collective environmental responsibilities driving evolving consumer cuisine preferences has augmented rapid food product innovations with a marked inclination towards plant-sourced components. Innova Market Insights reported a 68% average annual growth in the past five years in food and beverages launched that claim to be plant-based. 

 

Ethical sourcing is equally important

Organic, green, clean label, direct from the farm, zero-preservatives, no chemicals, food traceability etc – these terms are slated to become even more relevant as food trends in India. With the consumer becoming increasingly wellness-driven and inclined towards ‘natural’ foods, the source of the foods would be a key consideration. 

Grow your own produce: Towards the elimination of harmful chemicals, many consumers even resorted to growing fruits and vegetables in their kitchen garden and enhanced the use of superfoods i.e. turmeric, amla etc. In fact, a survey reveals that an estimated 38% of consumers opted to grow produce in their kitchen gardens and a whopping 65.8% preferred ingredients directly from the farmer. 

Good-old Ayurveda: Growing awareness of the benefits of Indian food traditions and the power of Ayurveda would play a key role in driving higher adoption levels of healthy food practices throughout the food chain – from farm to fork. A Deloitte study pegs the organic food consumption to jump from INR 60 Bn in 2021 to INR 182 Bn by 2026, clocking an impressive 21% CAGR. 

 

Rising purchasing power expanding food choices

A CII Deloitte study reveals that the wallet share allocation towards food for the Indian household has risen between 2005 to 2025, clocking a jump from 33.2% to 35.4% respectively. Other factors fuelling the demand for healthy foods are the burgeoning middle class, higher affordability and greater availability of diverse food options with improved food supply chains.

Discerning Indians – urban, semi-urban and rural are more health-conscious than ever and are keen to adopt a balanced diet with staples- rice, wheat, millet etc along with fruits, vegetables, dairy and proteins i.e. legumes etc. A marked decline in the consumption of carbohydrates has been observed. The importance of whole or minimal processed foods towards reducing lifestyle diseases is well known to many, especially the millennials. This has also led to a booming nutraceutical industry. Another study predicts that with global population growth expected to touch 9.7Bn people by 2050, the food demand is predicted to burgeon by over 50%.

  

Rethinking foods from a healthy perspective

Advancing technologies, heightened food safety risks and the demand for immunity-building foods in the wake of the pandemic has encouraged consumers and food players to look beyond taste. Also, foods readily available in abundance are being considered – be it staples like rice, wheat or the TOP basic basket of vegetables i.e. Tomato, Onion, Potato. Here again, the supply-demand forces, affordability, product quality and cost dynamics would be the key drivers.

 

Achieving dietary balance with the right foods

Consumers are rethinking their food choices shaped by ecological considerations and attuning their beliefs, aspirations and values around taste, sustainability and health. Ultimately, the idea behind the future of food should be one that benefits all – planet, people and purpose.

 

It is the need of the hour that food players re-align their business models and product portfolios to the healthy food revolution. In food matters, achieving balance is critical and eating diverse nutrition-based food types in moderation is key to healthy living. In the next article, we shall look at the other food trends in India that are expected to take center stage.


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