A couple of generations ago, convenience foods or Ready to Eat/ Ready to Cook food was an absolutely unimaginable concept – the only form of cooking was making it from scratch. Fast forward a few decades– convenience foods have not only become daily needs of homemakers but also chefs who are not leveraging the benefits of convenience packaged foods. Preservative-free and natural packaged foods are causing a revolution in the HORECA industry by providing consistency, lower wastage and higher yield.
The Growth of RTE and TRC categories
Ready to Cook and Ready to Eat foods have been gaining immense popularity because of the convenience and the eclectic variety that they offer. Today, several brands offer food options that reflect the authentic taste of Indian dishes. With rapidly changing socio-economic factors, the demand for convenience foods is increasing steadily. Not only are the millennials buying them, but contemporary parents are also turning to these pre-cooked meals to tackle the time crunch caused by accelerated lifestyles. Anamalgamation of factors like rapid rate of urbanization, diminishing culinary skills, rising income, and an increase in the millennial work force have amplified the growth of this industry. Furthermore, the rise in the number of Indian travelers and students who prefer to carry along the taste of their favourite comfort food across oceans has helped drive this growth further. Food technology has been one of the most rapidly evolving sectors. Today it is possible to preserve food without preservatives by using technologies such retort sterilization, High Pressure Processing (HPP), freezing and several more. These technologies enable fully cooked food to be shelf stable at room temperature or controlled temperatures for weeks or months. Moreover, good quality fresh raw materials negate the need of adding any artificial ingredients such as MSG, artificial colors etc. Several reputed brands are using cutting edge technology to stick to their all-natural promise. Moreover, companies are going the extra mile to source daily fresh frame produce to get fresh tasting products without any additives.
Go healthy or go home
Consumers wish to indulge in healthy yet tasty meals. Brands are making the best use of super-nutritious ingredients like brown rice, ragi, flax seeds, oats, etc. to keep up with the consumer trends. Moreover, brands are now even picking up global trends and offering organic and vegan Indian products for these niche consumers.
Uplifting the HORECA sectors
The HORECA sectors (Hotel/Restaurant/Café) are making optimum use of RTE/ RTC foods in a bid to cultivate consistency, great taste and innovative flavours across all their outlets around the globe. This has enabled global QSR chains to ensure their food tastes nearly the same -whether in India or in USA. It has indeed helped in overcoming geographic limitations whilst enabling them to serve consumers in a quicker, more efficient manner. Brands are especially catering to this industry by rolling out smarter and more innovative options to equip chefs with increased ease of preparing these dishes, proving to be great time-savers for everyone. Convenience foods are finding greater application in leading in-flight kitchens, restaurant chains, QSRs, hospitals, caterers and so on. RTE/ RTC foods are not threats to chefs but are aids that let a chef do his/her magic better by leaving the mundane jobs to packaged foods.Chefs have more time to focus on innovation and speed. Using convenience foods as a base, the uniformity and authenticity of various signature dishes can be retained seamlessly. The future is very promising for the collaboration between convenience foods and HORECA industry.
Innovation is the future
In any industry, innovation is the real game changer. In the RTE and RTC space, players have reinvented their products in multiple ways, rangingfrom healthy snacks, vegan meals, allergic and, gluten- free to even superfoods. The future of India’s convenience food industry in most has numerous opportunities and possibilities for growth, development and innovation. We are yet scratching the surface; Indian food has gotten very popular amongst foreigners over the past decade and you can now find Indian Ready Meals across international chains such as Walmart, Costco, Whole foods, etc. India will play a major role in shaping the future of the global food industry going forward.