The Indian food industry is the second largest in the world after China and enjoys a lion’s share of two-thirds of the entire retail sector in the country. While post-independence emphasis was laid on improvement in the field of agriculture through introduction of better farming techniques and initiation of the green revolution, the onus of the food industry soon shifted to other sectors with the passage of years. The current standing of the Indian food industry could be described as being satisfactory and this is measured by not just the improvement of quality and quantity of exports but also by the growth of other related sectors.
Like an octopus which features a single head and eight arms emanating from it in different directions, agriculture could be described as the single central blob of this industry from which radiates a number of dependent sectors. While the most prominent branches are fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, plantation and health food grains on going further down the list one is likely to encounter recently added headings like fast food, snacks, ready-to-eat meals and consumer products like confectionary, chocolates, soya products and so on.
True to the law of nature that a mammoth organism supports and sustains other smaller life forms as well, it is the unhindered momentum of growth in the food industry which has propelled the growth, development and modernization of ancillary industries like food processing, packaging, refrigeration, thermo processing, canning and specialty processing.
Since India is basically an agricultural nation with its farming roots going as far back as the Indus Valley civilization, this sector forms the main focus of the food industry. Some of the major products of extensive agricultural cultivation are food-grains like rice, wheat and barley along with different types of fruits and vegetables which are classified as health foods. The distribution of fruit cultivation varies in accordance with the climatic factors and owing to this reason people residing in North India enjoy a large variety of fruits while those living in coastal areas like Kerala and Goa get only selected fruits like coconuts and cashew-nuts. Comparatively, the vegetable cultivation is more wide-spread with common vegetables like potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage accounting for more than half the produce.
The umbrella of the Indian food industry includes meat, poultry and fishery under its circumference as well and due to a consistent rise in the production of eggs and broilers over the past few years, India occupies the fifth position in the world as a producer of eggs and eighteenth as that of broilers. Thanks to the long coastline on its eastern and western flanks, India is proud to be the third largest producer of fish and the catch in this sector is a mixture of a variety of marine life comprising of fresh water and sea-water fishes and crustaceans like prawns, crabs and lobsters.
Any discussion pertaining to the Indian food industry would be incomplete without the mention of Amul, the largest distributor of dairy products in the country. India itself happens to be the largest producer of milk in the world and maximum output of this industry is consumed within the country itself as Indians by nature love milk and dairy products.
No Indian food is considered as being complete without the addition of spices and this section of the Indian food industry comes under the purview of plantations wherein hectares of land is dedicated to the cultivation of medicinal plants and aromatic herbs like ginger, garlic, turmeric, cardamom and black pepper. The total output from these plantations is approximated at 9500 spices many of which are meant solely for export.
A recent trend which has been observed in the Indian food industry pertains to the inclusion of processed foods in form of ready-to-eat and ready-to cook meals. This change has been attributed to the transformed lifestyle of contemporary Indians who do not believe in spending more than a few minutes in the kitchen after having attended office whole day long. Another contributory factor is also the increase in the spending power of people as when both members of the household are earning they find it easier to resort to ready-to-eat meals rather than cook the fresh and healthy food which has for so long been a part of the Indian tradition.
Likewise, the processed food industry is facing a boom in its sales as well due to a large number of Indians traveling abroad and therefore relying on semi-processed foods for their meals. This is the changing face of the Indian food industry which is in keeping with the current trend and demand of the situation and therefore worthy of investment. However, it is the health and nutritional aspects which remain to be seen as these are the primary objectives of the Indian food industry.