Frozen food is on an uptrend in India. Amongst the emerging markets, India is nearly last in adopting cold chain technology which is fast and reliable. It is well known that almost 40% of the food consumed in the western world is frozen. For a long time, in India, it has just been ice cream that has made a cold chain necessary. However, that is changing fast.
French fries, parathas, spring rolls, ready-to-cook kebabs, sauces, gravies, pizzas, and more, can be bought from your local grocery store. You can store them in your freezer and use them as and when needed. This change is a difficult one for us to wrap our heads around. I admit, even in my family, food that is “freshly cooked” is healthier and tastes better. Science does not agree. With the right technology, freezing food naturally locks in all the nutrients into the food. Check the back of the packet for any food you buy. As long as it is not high in saturated fats or sodium, it is as healthy as fresh food. (This is not my opinion; these are facts). In the late 1990s, it was normal for any food service business to buy potatoes, peel, cut, parboil and then fry them to make French fries. Today, 95% of food service businesses buy frozen French fries. This has been facilitated by an increasingly robust cold chain.
Companies have sprung up across the country, offering cross-state logistics in refrigerating trucks. Some distributors are setting up vehicle fleets which have freezers on wheels. It has become a lucrative business. To improve consistency and reduce costs, the food service industry is now extensively using these products, including peas, cheese, butter, seafood, meat, sauces, gravies, and frozen snacks. Customers benefit from consistent products, no matter where they are. They also get a price advantage since this process reduces wastage and helps the business’ bottom line.
Another powerful driver is the government’s push to Make in India. Many previously imported products are now manufactured in-house. Examples include French cheese, Italian gelato, cured meats, frozen croissants, frozen pizzas, etc. The push to make these in India has many benefits. For one, it is a significant reduction in costs. Second, with self-sustainable production we cut out the dependence on external factors. The war in Ukraine and the subsequent supply chain disruptions caused many issues with imported food products. But Indian-made products did not suffer and had a dream run.
It is no wonder that companies are doing innovative stuff in this space and I like to believe we are one of them with our frozen croissant dough. Our product is a laminated, pre-cut, pre-rolled croissant sold to hotels, restaurants, and caterers. They need to thaw and bake it, and they can serve freshly baked croissants. Before this, all frozen croissants were imported. Not only does this have significant cost implications, but it is also taxed higher than our product. The other option is to make it from scratch. It is one of the most notoriously difficult products to make consistently according to most bakery chefs. When it comes to croissants, 2+2 is not always equal to 4. Despite making thousands of croissants a month for the past two years, we are still learning new things every day about croissants.
It is reassuring that India is adopting the frozen food revolution, and people’s mind blocks are easing. As the adoption of healthier, more nutritious frozen food grows, we are likely to move towards large-scale adoption of western standards of frozen foods. Indian freezer spaces are increasing, and these signs are very encouraging.