As the world's palate globalises, multi-cultural foods have ceased to be exotic. With this observation on the most significant shift in the world's food market, Sanjiva Rishi, Vice-President (Brand & Market Development), Satnam Overseas, started his presentation at the IFE-Poland 2006 conference on 'India's Processed Foods Industry: Ready for Generation Next?' at Warsaw last week.
Rishi pointed out that 18 million Indians live outside their home country and Indian food had found an audience much larger than the offshore Indian community, which explains why Britain and the US have more Indian restaurants - 11,000 and 8,000 respectively - than India . This emerging market is what Satnam Overseas (turnover: Rs 5,000 million and growing) is eyeing as it diversifies from being India's most important basmati rice producer and exporter present in 60 countries (market share: 35%) to a very important player in the ready-to-eat convenience foods market.
Satnam's ready-to-eat brand, Kohinoor, whose vast range extends from rice and curry combo meals to sandwich spreads and frozen snacks, already occupies shelf space in reputed chains like Tesco, Carrefour, Somerfield, Krogers and Whole Foods.
Its market is set to grow, Rishi predicts confidently, because of three drivers - changing consumer demographics, evolving mainstream tastes, altering global experiences, and a worldwide rise in disposable income levels. Says Rishi: "Multicultural foods no longer are a speciality. They are regular ingredients of the diet of a rapidly changing, diverse population."
Rishi's confidence is borne out by two significant bits of statistics:
- For every US$8.50 spent by American consumers on personal food consumption, US$1 went to multi-cultural foods.
- The growth rate recorded by the multi-cultural food segment in the past five years in the US has averaged 6-7%, compared with 2.4% clocked by the food industry overall.
- And this growth rate is expected to rise to 8.5% by the year 2008.
The message of the market is loud and clear. As different ethnic communities integrate into major markets, and as people travel more often to more place, the yearning for a variety of flavours and culinary experiences gets stronger across the world. Here's an emerging global market waiting to be tapped and the good news is that Indian food is right behind Italian and Chinese in the pecking order of international preferences.
Rishi's observations were borne out by the shelves at Warsaw 's hypermarkets. In a city teeming with vast retail spaces offering an array of international cuisine experiences - from Tesco and Carrefour to Auchon and Kliff - the variety of food options on the packed shelves was startling. As our guide, a representative of De Care, a Polish distributor of food products, told us: "Ten years ago, the only spices we knew were salt, pepper and what came with Maggi two-minute noodles. Today, you can ask for Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Indian food products and get them without any sweat."
You don't have to travel farther than Warsaw to see the market that makes Rishi so bullish.