Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ready Food & Thoughts

The packaged food section in any retail outlet is worth spending some time these days. Typically in a retail store, the food section is segregated into five shelves – Snacks & Savory (which includes all your biscuits, cookies, chips, chocolates, cakes etc.), Breakfast (which includes cereals, breads, soups etc.), Condiments (which includes ketchups, pickles, mayonnaise, jams, spreads, salad dressing etc.), Cooking Aids (includes tomato-onion paste, ginger-garlic paste, curry paste, biryani paste, instant mixes etc.) and Ready Meals.

In the past few years the last shelf of the food section is getting filled with fancy looking packages of ‘Palak Paneer,’ ‘Dal Makhani,’ ‘Navaratan Korma,’ ‘Chicken Hyderabadi,’ ‘Awadhi Biryani’ and all those yummy dishes which Mom used to cook for us at home once upon a time. ‘Ready-to-Cook’ or ‘Heat-n-Eat,’ whatever you call it is in high demand at present.

So what if mummy cannot cook a good Chinese dish or a great Dal Makhani, ‘we’ll-make-your-mom-a-super-chef’ is every brands big promise. A closer look and this section will give you a clear overview of the changing Indian food habits especially among the urbanites.

Stressful life due to late working hours, working couples hence no time to cook, lack of culinary skills among the new-age home-makers are some common reasons which come to the fore-front in every consumer research. And food brands like Aashirvaad, Knorr, MTR, Priya Foods are quick to respond to this changing food habits with a range of offerings.

Some food for thoughts that brand managers are trying to encash:

Convenience with self care

  • Homemaker is still in control therefore her contribution and value addition is paramount
  • Help the home maker by making speciality dishes easier to prepare thereby offer a wide range of cooking aids which are time consuming and a laborious process

Reinventing the past

  • Bring back retro eating or traditional dishes which grandma’s used to make. For the younger generation and new-age homemakers retro eating as a concept can be fun. There is an association with foods that are additive free, pure and often brings back the nostalgia in a dinner table.


  • In the age of information, consumers will increasingly care more about where their food comes from. Therefore always give a brief history of its origin, nutritional value etc which will only show your transparency

The above three points are the most visible values being offered by most RTE brands at the moment. But the common concern for every brand manager in this category is how to induce more trials? Consumers are still skeptical about ready food packed in retort pouch. The fear factor of preservative and taste haunts them. Are you doing anything to banish that fear?

Since wet sampling is a costly affair and product bundling promotion doesn’t always ensure a repeat purchase probably you should start thinking about “Food Miles” for all your consumers.

Anyone for dinner tonight, at the China Town??

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