5 Things to do Before Entering the Ready-To-Eat Market
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The convenience food concept that has been prevalent in the western countries is quite new to Indians. Factors such as increasing population of working women, growing millennial population, busy work schedules, and on-the-go consumption habits are fuelling the popularity of the packaged food sector in India.
To fulfil the demand of this large section of consumers one will find a lot of new RTE brands in the market. Unlike the giant brands though, the new entrants are trying to create a niche category for themselves, be it breakfast cereals, canned/frozen foods, spreads, chutneys and so on.
Though food is regarded as being insusceptible to any unpredictable market conditions, the segment is extremely competitive and dynamic. Through trial and errors, I learnt that any RTE food brand should work out the following aspects beforehand:
Know Your Target Customers:
In order to create a loyal customer base, the first step is to understand your target audience for the brand. Today’s generation is very conscious about what they put in their body thus, the always look up the nutritional value of a particular product without compromising on the taste. The demand for ready-to-eat (RTE) food products has been increasing over the last few years on account of busier lifestyles and rising income levels in the country. When you give priority to the health factor; the cost of the product increases, but today’s generation is okay to spend a little extra if it means the product is going to be fresh and authentic.
The Indian cooking styles have undergone considerable change over the past few years owing to the advent of modern technology and several other factors such as urbanization, increase in the working population, increase in female work population and augmenting nuclear families. People have been increasingly shifting to ready-to-eat food items in order to save the time involved in preparing meals. Identifying the problem is always tougher than finding a solution. If you can find where the gap is and what your customers are looking for, half the battle is won.
Maintaining the shelf life is one of the major challenges when one introduces the products in retail stores which are preservative free. Setting up an efficient packing unit is one of the most important factors for food safety, easy transportation and distribution. Food packaging ensures the food is not contaminated by any microbial growth from outside and additionally it improves product quality and prolongs the shelf life. One should give special attention to the hygiene, sanitation, air quality in the kitchen & the cooking process which further adds to the shelf-life of the product.
The ingredients used in making the ready -to eat food should always be fresh for a longer shelf life; especially when there are no preservatives added. One should carefully choose the vendors for sourcing the right ingredients whether it is for vegetables, dairy & poultry or spices. Each and every ingredient should be further sent for lab tests to check the quality.
Hiring Skilled Resources:
RTE industry needs skilled people in various stages of the production process. An efficient food technologist is needed to guide on the hygiene rules, sanitizing, maintaining the accurate temperatures while preparing and bottling. A food expert or a chef helps to curate the product with right notes of spices and flavours which suites every taste bud. Additionally, operational managers with a good understanding of merchandising, logistics and cost control are required, in order to move items from stores or production facilities into the hands of consumers.
Manufacturing and Warehouse Unit
The production and packaging of ready-to-eat food requires advanced machines and equipment which calls for a large space. Air quality of the kitchen needs to be kept clean for which regular sanitization is a must. Post production, the packages have to be stored carefully for longer shelf life. If a bigger space at a prime locality is high on budget, it could be set up at the outskirts and the corporate team can sit closer to the retail stores for regular scrutiny and client meetings.
Surround Yourself with Advisors and Industry Veterans:
Last but the most important thing to consider, is to find experienced advisors who can guide you every step of the way. Handpick the team to ensure you have smart, motivated people who are not afraid of challenges.