Clarence Birdseye’s 1924 invention of quick cooling to preserve and distribute food, proved to be a harbinger to the growth of the Frozen processed food industry world-wide. Its’ easy and quick preparation backed by continuing technological up-gradations and with increasing women joining the workforce, has changed food preferences to make it a favourite in kitchens world-wide. The global frozen food market is projected to reach USD 293.7 billion by the end of 2019 as the market gravitates from fresh to frozen.
The Indian frozen food market was valued at USD 310 million in 2017 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 16% to reach USD 754 million by 2023. Its continuing growth is due to increasing demand from middle class consumers with increasing disposable income; rising urbanization; increasing number of refrigeration facilities in small retail shops and rural households and growing cold chain industry. The frozen processed food market is segmented into dairy, fruits and vegetable processing; meat and poultry processing; fisheries and consumer foods including packaged foods, beverages and packaged drinking water. Even though 75% of its value sales are through Supermarkets and hypermarkets, growing organized retail and e-commerce industry will further propel demand.
The major challenge the frozen food market in India faces is that though customer perception regarding frozen food has not changed completely with preferences of raw frozen food items prevailing over semi-cooked and fully-cooked ones, the consumer’s expectations are growing, whether at home or for quick eat-outs. One must however acknowledge that a lot of ground has been traversed from the limited edition offerings of peas, vegetables, non-vegetarian items and ice-creams only! The Indian F&B market is still heavily influenced by uncertain weather conditions, which greatly affects the quality and availability of basic food ingredients.
In order to increase awareness, industry protagonists continue to organise large-scale samplings at points-of-sale; meetings for chefs, HORECA and caterers; participation in B2B food events and customer advertising through B2B magazines to enhance trials and provide impetus to expansion of frozen foods in the country.
However, the frozen food market penetration has been limited due to infrastructure. An inadequate supply-chain system, limited transportation facilities, nascent refrigerated containers carrying perishable products, and limited cold chain facilities pose a huge bottleneck for the F&B segment in India especially with respect to frozen foods, mostly in semi-urban and rural areas. Today, there are very few specialised distribution companies providing refrigerated transport and warehousing for perishable produce/processed food products. Improvements in refrigeration technology is crucial as maintaining a standard temperature is vital to avoid any possible temperature variance that may compromise product shelf-life and raise several HACCP and other safety issues.
The high demand-supply gap in the availability of cold storage, preservation and cold logistic facilities in India cannot be ignored. India’s Cold Chain Market, which at present is mostly un-organised at 95%, is expected to reach INR 470 billion by 2022. As per UNDP estimates, almost 40 percent of India’s total food production is lost in transit, wasted by consumers or damaged.
As India migrates in its food habits, increased infrastructural facilities to cater to frozen foods can herald a new chapter in the growth of this new “sunrise category” and will also help in curbing wastage of farm products and form the bulwark of the frozen food industry in India.