Food Consumption Trends in one of the World’s largest Market- CEOs Synopsis

Few weeks ago I was invited to conduct a Masterclass on Shopper Driven Category Management at the India Food Forum ( annually held in Mumbai) but more interestingly to also moderate the panel of circa 10 prominent CEOs from the world of Food & Retail. The focus of the discussion was on the Future potential of the Food business in India. It was indeed an honour and I flew from London for  a quick few days in India.

The power of the panel was astounding with CEOs of the three biggest Retail chains , MDs of leading Out of Home eating franchises, owner/directors from leading food companies etc forming the think tank. I was also honoured to co-moderate this session with my dear friend, Sadashiv Nayak, the CEO of Big Bazaar( Future Group). We structured the discussion using 2 key questions :

  1. What in your view are the key disruptions( if any) in the Food Industry in the last 12 months?
  2. How would you attract/cater to a 20 year old in 4 years time when He or She get their first salary?

It resulted in quite a dynamic discussion with points of view at both end of the spectrum being debated, the crux however resulted in the following synopsis:

  • At Home Consumption:

    • Centre of the plate has hardly changed– The core components of consumption at home such as Dal(Lentils), Roti ( Bread), Chawal ( Rice) etc largely still remain the same. There have been some light experiments with the staples in the plate such as different flavour garnishings  ( schezwani tadka was mentioned) but by and large eating @ home hasn’t changed much. Companies that are providing a variation to existing consumption habits are seeing good success such as Capital foods with “Desi Chinese” concept or more organic/natural focused products such as Patanjali. Evolution not Revolution seems to be the trend here.
    • Cooking as a Celebration has joined Cooking for Subsistence– Although cooking is largely still for subsistence, social media has given rise to celebratory cooking as well. More mealtimes per week are getting converted to occasions where pride in cooking is exhibited and celebrated through pictures and videos on social media. There is a good opportunity for brands to capitalise on the trend.
    • Easier provision of semi-cooked/freshly cooked meals@ Home– There has been a tremendous rise of delivery startups who have provided an ecosystem for delivery of fresh home made food for consumers unable or unwilling to cook themselves. The consumption is still@home , still largely with centre of the plate staples, however, the opportunity for consumer to experiment is larger. This is also giving rise to Modern Retail focusing on providing Ready to cook solutions such as Idli/Dosa batters capitalising on the trend for Easy to cook/Freshly cooked solutions. Important point to note is that although Freshly Cooked & Delivered/Ready to Cook is gaining traction, packaged Ready to Eat still has some way to go before being properly adopted as a mainstream trend.
  • Out of Home Consumption:

    • New Cuisines and experiences are being embraced– This is where the desire for experimenting is larger, adoption of variations & New cuisines is much higher. While you see consumers enjoying Paneer Tikka pizzas , you can also see openness to try new Mexican, Lebanese or other cuisines, this is also evident in the recent emergence of casual diners across the country offering world cuisines. Experimenting with traditional Indian cuisines is also much more open. There is potential to use consumer behaviour of openness to experiment/change in Out of home to also influence changes in At Home consumption.
    • Technology has a key role to play– There is potential for further connection and interaction with the consumer, provision of better experience e.g: delivery and higher focus on health using technology.

Above are some of the key pointers from the discussion which could potentially be instrumental as Food brands in India or those that are planning to come to India could utilise as they develop future plans. You can also view the full discussion at the following link:


( Ankur Shiv Bhandari is the Global MD of Asbicon Group, (www.asbicon.com) based in Berkshire, United Kingdom. Asbicon specialises in providing Retail & Distribution effectiveness for Consumer Goods & Services organisations)

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