Convenience food entering homes of middle class Indians

May 11th, 2010 - 1:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) Convenience food like canned exotic vegetables is making its way into the kitchens of Indian homes in metros and Tier-II cities as working couples find themselves short of cooking time in their lives revving on the speed lane.

“The way lifestyles are changing in urban India, gourmands and couples are looking for quick solutions for food and drinksthat are of high quality and also healthy,” said Anand Khattar, promoter of the 21st century gourmet brand Legend Corporation.

“With vegetarianism on the rise in urban health conscious homes, the demand for canned greens and other convenient alternatives with longer shelf lives is rising,” Khattar told IANS.

As a result, the market for canned exotic and gourmet vegetables like baby peas, baby carrots, baby corn, sweet corn, spinach, french beans, flageolets and sprouts is growing at nearly 25 percent annually in the country, he added.

The processed food promoter introduced this week the niche Liv Minola range of canned mineral-rich gourmet vegetables with a minimum shelf life of three-to-five years in the Indian market.

The company has tied up with one of France’s leading niche processed food brands, CECAB, to source the stock. The brand has started retailing its range from mega stores like Le Marche, 24X7, Spencers and Godrej Nature Foods in Delhi and its neighbouring cities.

The cans are priced at Rs.125 on an average.

“We have an edge over others in terms of reducing production time and food miles,” said Vincent Humeau, sales director of CECAB’s Daucy Long Life, referring to the distance food has to travel from the time of its production to the consumer.

“We process our vegetables grown under stringent European Union guidelines in just four hours, sterilise them in high heat before packing them and shipping them to consumer outlets. This ensures a minimum shelf life of three to five years.”

Humeau felt that the food processing industry required to reduce processing time and food miles to offer customers the best of processed vegetables.

“Most of the vegetable farms in Europe — especially France — are located around the processing and the packing units. It does not take farmers more than an hour and a half to ferry their produce to the processing unit,” he said.

“Moreover, the cultivation is closely monitored by the processing companies to ensure world-class quality.”

The processing scenario in the West is quite unlike India where fresh food like fruits and vegetables have to travel six-to-eight hours to the market or to the processing unit where consignments have to wait another six-to-eight hours before being unloaded.

“By then nearly 30 percent of the food value is lost,” said Khattar.

As per recent studies, In India, only 1.2 percent of farm vegetables are processed and sold in packs, unlike in the West which processes 40 percent of its vegetables.

But the vast distances that Indian vegetables have to travel have become a point of public debate with the concept of food miles gaining currency among the farm and health food activists in India.

The term food miles, first coined by scientist Andrea Paxton, is a factor used when assessing the environmental impact of food, including the impact on global warming.

“Fresh food has to travel for minimum six-to-eight hours on an average. The miles that fresh food have to chart in the country have been instrumental in fuelling the demand for canned farm products,” said Khattar.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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