Frozen foods exist in a plethora of cuisines and cater to an enormous portion of the market. Whether as the value-added French fries, samosas, spring rolls, or chicken nuggets, they are an efficient, delicious, and time-saving option compared to fresh produce.
In 1924, Clarence Birdseye, a former fur trader discovered that fish that were consumed after preservation, months after when they were caught, tasted as good as when they were first caught. He theorized that food should be frozen very quickly in order for it to retain the same taste and texture.
Consumers in developed countries identify frozen products as useful home meal solutions and appreciate the ease and quickness of preparation. This is considered to be the main USP of any frozen product available in the market. However, in India, consumption of frozen food is still close to negligible. The frozen food segment comprises of ready-to-cook/fry and heat-and-eat vegetarian and non-vegetarian food products. The market is largely dominated by select national brands and some regional players.
The Frozen Foods Market is generally segregated into processed frozen vegetables, vegetarian snacks, poultry, fish and seafood and red meat. In the frozen veggies/vegetables segment, garden peas continued to be the most popular frozen processed vegetable bought across India
Despite limitations of cold chain access, penetration, and reliability, the frozen food market is expected to grow due to consumer demand and new players entering the industry. These new players will bring newer products and variants to fuel demand. Frozen foods have grown with the evolution and growth in modern retail. Today, modern trade retail is a more favoured shopping destination as urban consumers find greater variety, quality and convenient pack sizes. Modern trade provides space for better brand visibility and communication. Some of the best performing retail stores which have extensive cold storage facilities are Easyday, Tesco, HyperCity, Spencer’s, DMart, and Food Bazaar.
International food chains have a total dependence on frozen foods. During the past two decades, many international food chains have entered India. International brands like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dominos, KFC and Subway are household names. These brands have grown in India by adapting their menus to cater to Indian tastes, supplied through the Indian frozen foods market. They depend on frozen foods due to year-long supplies, standardised products, convenience, dependability, storability and almost fresh as fresh products.
Frozen vegetables and frozen snacks contribute to 85% of the market share for the frozen foods market in India. The frozen snacking market is expected to double in the next 5 years due to supply and demand side growth. Innovation and differentiation will be the key for brands vying for the market share; more ‘glocal’ offering will occupy greater space in refrigerators.
Frozen snacks dominate demand for frozen food in the country and the segment is expected to continue growing through 2021. India has had a challenge with affordable and dependable cold chain. Developments in cold chain are critical to grow the frozen food market. Indian cold chain industry is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of more than 24% in coming years.
The top four frozen foods brands are, Mother Dairy (50% market share), Venky’s, Al-Kabeer and Sumeru. Other brands include McCain, Godrej, Gadré, Cambay Tiger, IFB, ITC, Buffet, Big Sam’s, Mrs. Paul & Gortons. North India is the top consuming market for frozen food. This can be attributed to growth in employment opportunities, heightened migration and a more open and exploratory mindset when it comes to food.
Frozen foods have become more relevant and significant within Indian society because of the continuously evolving Indian lifestyle. Value-added, taste-enhanced non-veg snacks with sauces, spices and masalas are gaining in popularity. There is a willingness to buy as there is no easy home substitute. Product offerings include cold cuts, meatballs, hot dogs and sausages, samosas, kebabs, jalapeno and cheese sticks, spring rolls, nuggets, French fries, fillets, breaded fingers, patties and cutlets, among others, some of which are available in vegetarian, chicken, and mutton variants. Value-added poultry is most popular with breaded chicken snacks at 50% of the frozen poultry category, sausages at 35% and kebabs at 15% of the frozen poultry category. Ready-to-cook snacks like breaded chicken and fish which are more popular than frozen raw fish and chicken.
The growing demand for frozen foods can be linked to the following trends:
- Increasing penetration of refrigerator and microwaves
- Urbanisation and change in mindset and attitudes towards eating out
- Growing familiarity and openness to try new foods
- Openness and experimentation, increased travel and exposure to more regional and international foods
- More women working out of home and higher disposable incomes
- Interest in cooking due to popular food with local and global cuisines, a variety of ingredients
- Need for food that can be prepared quickly, efficiently, and effortlessly by everyone in the home
- Availability of daily foods like stuffed frozen parathas offers taste and flavour options
- Increase in home socialising
Frozen foods are seen to advantageous for a number of reasons:
- Offer convenience and time-saving
- Branded frozen non-vegetarian food is clean, processed and hygienic
- Does away with the need for expertise in selection, price awareness and ‘haggling’
- Compact and can be stored easily in the freezer
- Offers a consistent taste – they withhold a standard quality.
- Does away with individual buying, sorting, cleaning, cutting and chopping in fresh foods
Frozen foods are perceived to have disadvantages if consumed frequently
- Concerns on chemical preservatives, additives in frozen foods, which lowers nutritive value.
- They are more expensive than fresh foods.
- They must be consumed within a short span of time once opened.
- Cutting back on deep-fried frozen snacks
The barriers to frozen foods adoption are:
- Quality – Fresh non-veg believers who have greater confidence in the quality if it is slaughtered in front of them.
- Taste – They believe fresh non-veg tastes better
- Habit – Those who eat fish daily prefer to buy weekly produce, clean, sort and bag their freeze the daily portions
- Power supply – Concern to in buying frozen meat, stored in refrigerators, due to unreliability of electrical power in India
Despite some concerns associated with frozen foods, familiarity and convenience will promote consumption. Children and youth drive consumption of frozen foods resulting in greater readiness and openness to consume frozen food. The consumer is ready for product offerings that assure taste, variety, quality and healthy choices options in frozen non-veg food in particular and seasonal fresh foods that are available all year round at affordable prices. Well-penetrated, reliable cold chains will grow the frozen foods demand in the coming years.