Packaged foods are now an indispensable part of our everyday lives. From packaged spices, tomato puree and ginger-garlic pastes to the more ubiquitous frozen foods and ready-to-eat curries – the Indian customer is now relying on packaged foods more than ever. There has been a huge shift in how Indians stock up on their groceries. While earlier it was ruled by fresh and seasonal, it now is decided by availability, convenience and affordability.

The Indian consumer is now more experimental than ever to try new recipes and new cuisines. The pandemic has also been a great push for more people to try new recipes in their kitchens. With all sorts of ingredients now being available readily, the willingness to cook new foods is certainly on the rise. Following the western trend, the Indian consumer is also now stocking up on Frozen, Ready-to-Cook and Ready-to-Eat food items. According to a Report by Market Research and Advisory Firm Technavio, the Ready-to-Eat category is expected to grow in India by US$751.43 Mn from 2021 to 2026.

Convenience may be one of the biggest reasons for this shift but the availability of packaged food is equally responsible for this change in customer behaviour. A few years back the only packaged food item that was probably a staple in Indian households was instant noodles or soup. That has drastically shifted to include Frozen Snacks and Ready-to-Cook Food that ranges from dal to biryani. Not only this, the customer is now demanding pre-packaged meals that are healthy and require little-to-no effort in making.

Ready to Drink Beverages Supermarket

In such a scenario the most important question that comes to the fore is how to ensure freshness and nutrient value in a packaged food item and more importantly how to achieve the above without burdening the environment further.

Indian meals carry a lot of flavours, textures and ingredients – to have one packaging that can keep all of it intact is certainly a challenge that the manufacturers face. Also, the customers’ growing sensitivity towards environment-friendly packaging also puts the onus on the manufacturer to provide sustainable packaging.

Why Ready-to-Eat and Frozen Food Makes Sense?

In a busy urban household, there is a huge paucity of time which means lesser time to cook elaborate meals. But with high disposable incomes, consumers are willing to pay a premium to be able to enjoy good food without having to slog in the kitchen for hours. Ready-to-Cook Food also gives more portion control which in turn reduces food waste. The frozen food items can also be used as per the need and stacked back in the freezer till their shelf-life allows which is a big pro for the always-on-the-go consumers. The nutritional content is maintained in frozen food which appeals to the health-conscious segment and the taste doesn’t get compromised which appeals to the consumers for whom the taste is as important as the nutrition value.

Ready-to-Eat Packaging Trends in India

In the above context, where the consumption of packaged foods is on an unprecedented rise, manufacturers are looking for newer, more innovative ways to package the food to make it more appealing. In bigger packs, resealable packaging has turned out to be of high utility and for a certain section of people, who would like to purchase in bulk, this makes more sense. On the contrary, flexible packaging which is of a small-size, light-weight and compact is also appreciated by people who are probably living alone and thus the consumption is less. Single-use packs make a lot of sense for such consumers and it also gives a sense of better hygiene to the consumer. Furthermore, there is a huge demand for sustainable packaging that is either recyclable or reusable.

Manufacturers are turning to technology to connect physical packaging to virtually-stored information. This enables them to give their consumers access to all information regarding a packaged food item and at the same time maintain the traceability of that commodity. Manufacturers can also use QR codes or other forms of connected packaging to share information regarding the recycling of the packaging with the consumers. Many times, brands run initiatives where they recycle the packaging at their facilities and this information can be easily conveyed to the customer using the latest technology.

Lastly, the issue of packaging waste looms large in light of the rising demand for packaged food. The brands are turning to eco-friendly packaging to create brand loyalty. But, with that being said, there is a lot more that remains to be done, when it comes to sustainable packaging.

About the Author:
Vandana Tandon
Country Manager,
SIG Combibloc India Private Limited

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Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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