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India's burgeoning 'ready-to-eat' segment stands out While Nestle has entered the space, domestic foods companies are also expanding footprint

By Prasannata Patwa

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It is well known that to be in the right place at the right time is the perfect recipe for success, and even global FMCG heavyweights operating in India are now realizing that the "ready-to-eat' is definitely that space. While there are many reasons, but most important is the fact that this space is being driven by consumption pattern of the millennials—30 per cent of India's population.

The Indian ready-to-eat market is dominated by domestic foods companies, but even Nestle India too has now ventured into the space under its brand Maggi, a synonym for instant noodles.

Nestle launched instant poha and upma in December. The two local breakfast dishes were launched in the ready-to-eat format to expand Maggi's portfolio and take on the local rivals. Maggi poha and upma starts at INR 20 per packet.

"With the advent of modern lifestyles and changes in consumer behaviour Maggi has expanded its offering in the ready-to-eat segment in India with the launch of Maggi Ghee Tadka Upma Express and Maggi Masala Onion Poha Express, providing convenience and taste to our consumers, especially millennials," said a Nestle India spokesperson on email.

The ready-to-eat segment—which includes parathas, idli and dosa batters, instant poha, and khichadi—is led by Bengaluru-based MTR Foods and iD Fresh Foods, among others, and the space is evolving with newer dishes being added on offering.

iD Fresh Foods, which till now had presence only in southern India, is now expanding in other regions of the country and recently launched in Kolkata to expand in the east Indian market.

The ready-to-eat meals market has been growing at a compounded annual rate of 3-5 per cent.

The early adopters of ready-to-eat foods were mostly students going abroad, and working professionals going on business trips. "The convenience factor of finding local food also attracted the Indian diaspora living across 27 countries. But today, with niche players developing tasty and preservative-free ready-to-eat meals, people will start considering ready-to-eat options as good as fresh-made food," said Harish Bijoor, brand strategy specialist, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Organic Roots is one such niche player which claims to sell organic and preservative-free one-pot traditional meals. The options include moth dal and bajra khichadi, millet upma, bisi belle baath, and mixed bean khichadi. A 40-45 gms box is available for INR 125-200.

Millennials and working professionals, who have busy schedules and do not have time to cook, have a preference for healthy and quick meal options. "With discounts on food delivery platforms going down, people with busy schedules are looking at healthier ready-to-eat options," said Ishit Saurabh Pilani, founder at Organic Roots.

Apart from working professionals, ready-to-eat foods also have takers among students living in on-campus accommodations, and away from home, said Pilani.

"Today, big brands are associated with having preservatives and niche brands are considered as preservative free. If a big brand is not using any chemicals then they need to highlight this fact strongly in their ad campaigns," said Bijoor.

Apart from MTR Foods and iD Foods, others companies in the ready-to-eat food segment are Gits, Marico-owned Saffola, Kolkata-based ITC, and Adani Wilmar-owned Fortune.
Prasannata Patwa

Entrepreneur Staff

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