Experts trust healthy snacking segment in India to boom even post pandemic


The snacking industry in India has been growing at 10 per cent year on year

At FICCI’s ‘Unlocking the Future of Nutrition Webinar Series’ on ‘Perspectives on healthy snacking: Opportunities and Future of Snacking’, the panelists underscored that the Indian market has been increasingly growing in consumption of packaged snacks, with an approximate Y-o-Y growth rate of 10 per cent, and that the demand for healthy packaged snacking range has only further leapfrogged in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moderating the session, Siraj Chaudhry, MD & CEO, NCML, welcomed the panelists Signe Causse, Global Marketing Leader, Digestive, Health and Bakery, DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences; Salil Murthy, MD, India and SEA, General Mills; Kalpesh Parmar, Country General Manager, Mars Wrigley India; Vikram Kelkar, Group MD, Hexagon Nutrition

Chaudhry expressed that the Covid-19 pandemic induced an expectation of the immunity-boosting aspect in foods within the consumers. “Snacking so far was seen as an indulgence,” but it has revolutionised to become mindful indulgence now. “A lot of Indian snacking has been outside of the house but it is changing now to more of in-home consumption,” he added. He asked how the pandemic year treated the panelists and their organisations to improvise.

Causse responded, “We have had a very close eye on what is happening globally. A lot of trends that we have been working on have already continued and accelerated. Something that has changed dramatically is the decline in the foodservice segment for which we had to see how retail channels could be viable. Consumers are now of course thinking about immunity and showcase higher awareness about fortification, muscle recovery aiding foods, gut health balancing foods, plant proteins, fat reduction, etc., there is a host of opportunities across the health segment. Connecting it with snacking is a great combination. It has increased tremendously in the last 4 years. There has been an overall rise of 10 per cent in the snacking industry in India and 6 per cent globally year on year. Affordability has been at the forefront for both food manufacturers and consumers that came in the light of Covid-19.”

Murthy noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated and also decelerated certain aspects for businesses. “In-home consumption has particularly grown. Be it rice, soups, flour, etc., they all have grown in consumption. The traditional bakery biz has gone down. Some data represent that how home consumption will continue to grow for some time and hence the innovation will also happen in that regard. A lot of boundaries have blurred. We see people work a lot more at home and also snack a lot more. Shoppers are consuming more economically,” he added.

Being termed as a non-essential product Parmar opined that with the onset of the pandemic, they had to retool and reimagine their business. He expressed, “Packaged food was much safer than indulgence out of the house, which the consumers soon picked up and so did the demand for our products. Snacking in smaller proportions is what we propagate. We have been doing well once the consumer got busy at home and started snacking at home. In terms of opportunity for India, the growth trajectory remains in India, given that it has grown from a US$1bn industry to be US$13 to 14 bn industry now in just a couple of years. Healthy snacking has a lot to teach to consumers.”

Not being a snacking company, but being a key supplier of micronutrient premixes to them, the pandemic stirred the business dynamics for Hexagon Nutrition too, informed Kelkar. “Driven to follow the quick standards, the new normal is to sit at home. Social distancing and WFH has reduced on-the-go consumption and the pandemic has made people move in the direction of healthy snacking. Indian snacking industry has been performing well due to the evolving consumer trends. Customers are now looking at health and wellness. Brands are taking cognisance and are opting for natural sweeteners, colours, etc. Demand for snacks that encourage health and wellness with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, etc., has been on the rise. More focus on micronutrient fortified snacks will be the key moving forward.”

When asked about the channels to communicate with the target consumers, Parmar highlighted that the whole consumer media has changed with the reach seen in digital media. “We want to be more experimentative. Some people have even fully switched to OTT. A big focus will be on non-traditional media.”

Causse expressed, “We have been looking at ways to engage with our consumers through online channels. That is the challenge and the opportunity to see how do we get the human touch via a screen. We have to operate in boundaries that we are having.”

About the supply chain woes faced during the lockdown period, Murthy elucidated that things have changed dramatically overnight. “Three big things we had to contend with – labour, laws and their implementation which changed drastically and logistics. Safety of our people and our food were the two guiding principles. Logistics was a big issue as freight got expensive during the period. The imbalance of trade has been there. The pandemic has taught us to be a lot more agile. The level of collaboration we have seen has been higher. Bringing out some kind of redundancy is what we have been looking at,” he echoed.

Kelkar pointed, “The major challenge, in the beginning, was the clarity for the govt to label what is essential and non-essential. The food industry was allowed to operate, but we being food industry suppliers, did not have a clear picture to operate or not. Several companies like is lost about a month in this confusion.”

Voicing views about the trend of global packaged snacking in India moving ahead, Murthy said that weight gain has been a concern and a lot of healthy snacking range has its way of moving ahead even after the pandemic. “We will be seeing at mindful snacking. Consumers are increasingly becoming aware, there is a clear picture with packaged snacks with specific ingredients and it will continue to gain steam moving forward.”

Causse told, “The need for more targeted package food is rising in India and globally. Targeted segments or specific needs, age group, etc., I have seen a lot of opportunities there.”

Parmar concluded, “Local cuisine is what drives people usually. While we focus on wellbeing more, consumers have the time where they can think and read about how do they manage themselves better. More and more India-relevant food will be moving forward. We have launched Doublemint with Paan flavour. The more we do that, the more we are acceptable to the masses in the country. We are the only country where we have vegetarian Snickers.”


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