Fuure of food: Indian consumers turn focus on health, convenience amid Covid-19, emission concerns

Today, half the habitable land in the world is used for agriculture and contributes significantly to global emissions. (Reuters)

The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked greater focus on health, convenience, and sustainability among consumers as attention turned to proteins and fresh proteins, a Deloitte India survey has found.

The ‘Future of Food’ report, launched today at the CII Agritech conference, highlighted several key trends, such as diet, wellness, and sourcing, that could drive the Indian food industry.

Deloitte India Partner Anand Ramanathan said of the findings: “The pandemic has resulted in a greater focus on health, convenience and sustainability from a consumer standpoint. Rising income levels have also contributed in changes to the food pyramid with increased focus on proteins, fresh produce, and processed foods.”

Covid-19 and poor weather, among others, have pushed food prices higher. The food system will soon face pressure not only from climate change but also rising population and their constantly-evolving preferences, the report said.

“These consumption related changes are contributing to changes in the value chain with increased focus on aspects such as traceability, mechanisation, intensification and regenerative agriculture promoted by investments in the Ag-tech space which is attracting venture and investment capital like never before,” Ramanathan said.

Today, half the habitable land in the world is used for agriculture and contributes significantly to global emissions.

Ramanathan said: “Health-conscious, evolved consumers prefer to have something on their plates that will have a lower environmental footprint.”

“In addition, they have also become more conscious than ever for the ecosystem, apart from their own health.”

Here are some key trends from the ‘Future of Food’ report:

Mindful diet: Grains accounted for 55% of the daily calorie consumption, down from 63% in 1961. Consumption of proteins has increased to 63 gm in 2015-17 from 55.3 gm in 2000-02, while fruits, vegetables, and superfoods like olive oil and green tea are also growing.

Mindful wellness: Nutri-cereals such as millets have started to replace daily staples such as wheat and rice as focus on a healthy lifestyle and preventive health care increases. Consumers are also keen on food fortification to increase nutrition.

Mindful sourcing: Today’s consumers are also concerned about the safety of their food, leading to an affinity for organic food. The Indian organic food sector is expected to clock a compound annual growth rate of 21% to hit Rs 182 billion by 2026 from the current Rs 60 billion currently.

Mindful preferences: Customer preference for food items that appeal to their local tastes has led to the growth of regional brands. This could force brands to be cognisant when planning their product mix. National brands are trying to focus on offering regional variants as well.

Mindful purchase: Customers now prefer to buy packaged staples rather than unpacked supplies. Covid-19 accelerated this trend. Private-label retail brands are witnessing increased traction due to this preference for affordable packaged food.

Mindful convenience: The frozen and ready-to-eat categories have also clocked significant growth. The compound annual growth rate of the online food delivery sector is seen at 28% in 2020-25 and 53% for online grocery.

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