Scope for ready-to-eat frozen meat sector is huge in India
The convenience of ready meat is unparalleled, being able to procure a readymade dish which requires only simple heating up and can be served directly for consumption. Due to Covid-19 this makes all the difference as there is minimal contact as the consumer would have to order from only one vendor rather than procure separate ingredients from different vendors. This is also ideal for people living without domestic help as these dishes minimise cleaning and have simple preparation methods. Though we would expect this segment to be very large we find it in its beginning stages due to lack of cold chain infrastructure and high costs of setting up.
Many Indians want to eat meat but have no knowledge of how to prepare from scratch. Sourcing good quality raw meat and procuring all the other items required to make a final dish is a cumbersome task. This is more apparent with meats from larger animals such as pork and mutton as certain cuts are best for certain preparations. Marinating the meat can require a day or more, so the consumer would have to think in advance before satiating their craving. Eliminating these hurdles, ready-to-eat frozen meats offer a solution to all whom desire to consume a meaty delight without any of the constraints and most importantly on demand.
Value addition to the products
By producing large volumes of a single product ensures a competitive price which is great value for money, often procuring the ingredients separately would be more expensive. The value addition to these products is amazing, clients whom understand this are hooked on and continue to experiment within the segment trying different brands and product variations. Products can be bought in advance for use on a later date or a specialty of a different region as frozen products can be transported thousands of miles away to sell, and have shelf life of up to 2 years.
Historically the popular products include sausages, salamis, tikkas, non-vegetarian stuffed parathas, burger patties and non-vegetarian samosas. The tikka segment especially, seekh kebabs had shown tremendous growth over the years, expanding to include many different flavours. The advantage of this product was its low price as it does not require a high meat content and easy warming up. This also allows the consumer to enjoy a barbeque flavoured product without the hassle of cooking over charcoal.
During the lockdown one product stood above others was the frozen non-vegetarian momo, a seasoned meat mixture encased in a flour dough, which can be prepared by either steaming, pan frying or deep frying. Though this product has long been a favourite in eastern Asian nations it has only grown in popularity in India in the past 1-2 years, once it was adapted and marketed as a momo instead of a dumpling, as it is known in other parts of the world. Hence, it’s safe to expect that the frozen dumpling and dim-sum segment will see growth as seen with the tikkas in the past.
Ready-to-eat frozen meat sector nascent
From the success of the momo we can make two assumptions. Firstly, the ready-to-eat frozen meat sector is nascent in India as frozen dumplings have been selling well in other countries for more than 30 years. Secondly, it is very important to adapt the product to Indian tastes and market the product with a name which is easily relatable to the Indian consumer.
The cold chain in India is fairly under-developed, therefore only larger companies whom can invest on their own cold chain or partner with logistics firms to set up an exclusive supply chain have the ability to distribute the products efficiently. Smaller firms are limited to sell their products in areas close to their processing facility. As we see the development of the cold chain to accommodate smaller players whom would prefer to use part-loads in a temperature-controlled vehicle there is opportunity for innovation and progress in this sector.
India, having a large population of vegetarians requires meat to be kept separately throughout the process of storage, transportation and store display. In some cases, cold storages do not offer their services for meat products or require that a separate section be taken for their storage. This trickles down to a point of sale which has to assign additional space for separate freezers for each type of meat. Keeping the sensitivities of consumers in mind, there is an added cost to selling frozen meat.
The outdated perception of Indians thinking fresh food is more nutritional and hygienic than frozen food is a myth that needs to be rectified. In reality frozen food is proven to be more hygienic as it is processed in facilities with strict sanitary norms and regular checks are taken to ensure the safety of the product. Blast freezing technology has allowed nutritional value to be maintained for extended periods of time.
With the growth of population in cities and dual income families the scope for ready-to-eat frozen meat sector is huge as it is yet to reach its full potential, the assortment of products in India pales in comparison to others. The Indian market has to evolve, the only question is, which product will be best adapted to suit the modern Indian lifestyle?