Lets take the Frozen ShortCut...Frozen Food...Changing Trends in Indian Food Habits

By Harshada

Who doesn’t like shortcuts?Especially in Kitchen…. Ask that to a tired working woman just back home ,already apprehensive about planning dinner and evening snacks. Or for that matter , a homemaker, juggling with her routine and dispensing hectic homemaker duties or a bachelor missing home cooked meal.....Most of us at some point of time wished, we had a genie who could just get us a nice hot snack or a meal with an “Abra Ca Dabra”…Of course, it’s not that difficult in this home delivery culture, where a snack or a meal is just a phone call away. But it just lacks that “Made at Home” touch and freshness! We all had been at some point of time dependent on the versatile “Maggi Noodles”…a niche product launched by Nestle a few decades ago, that took the country by storm, and over the years has become a staple, especially with bachelors and children. Many others tried the formula, but failed to recreate the same magic as “Meri Masala Maggi”! Just when we thought this was it…..there entered a whole new segment of ready to cook frozen foods.

Not so long ago, frozen foods had been a taboo in a country that traditionally advocated eating hot and fresh home cooked meals. However, with the rising population of working women and young professionals staying alone, away from family, a packaged frozen food that can be microwaved, baked or just fried, came as a natural choice.

With more and more global food chains entering the Indian market, the young population is more exposed to the western palate, and want to cook those at home too. With an Indian Mother’s dictum of serving “Home cooked Food”, these frozen ready to cook meals serve the purpose, almost replicating the same taste as a café or restaurant bought product. Packaged foods also made gourmet foods accessible for the modern middle class  (with disposable income at hand) eager to  whip up a good international spread at home. Be it those Cold Cuts ,Sausages Bacons , the non-Indian seafood like,Tuna,Salmon or Basa , or Whipping cream or Mascarpone Cheese for the dessert loving , the Supermarkets are stocking them all in their Frozen Foods aisle!

The frozen food market isn’t just restricted to the western style Fries, Nuggets, Cold Cuts or Burger patties….It’s perfectly customised for the Indian Meal as well…A wide variety of frozen Parathas, Chicken Tikkas, Premarinated meats, Paneer ,Green Peas etc. ,have been assisting modern homemakers in times of kitchen crisis( be it unexpected guests, Children’s party or Maid holidays) And what more, you  have a variety perfected for  every Indian palate (for every culinary background), be it the North Indian Chicken Masalas, Samosas and Dals or the South Indian Sambars , or the frozen fish and prawns for the fish craving coastal Indians. What’s remarkable is the hygiene maintained in packaging the easily perishable and delicate seafood items. The perfectly deveined shelled Prawns and the clean cut Rawas or Kingfish fillets, are a sure competition for the local fishermen and women, especially in the hot weathers where the shelf life and freshness of seafood is severely altered.

Perhaps, Ice cream was the first frozen packaged item purchased by an Indian consumer. The availability was restricted to a few parlors or small super markets,boasting of the modern refrigeration facility to store the limited variety of Vanillas ,artificially flavoured and coloured  Starwberry or Pista Icecream slabs, or the more exotic at that time, the Butterscotch.  Modern technology and rising demand for exotic desserts, added a new dimension to the Ice cream business. We now have an unlimited variety of lollies, be it those choco covered or filled, fruit flavoured or just ice based or  the pre packaged ice cream cones , frozen yogurts, popsicles….there seems to end to its adabtability. And then for the elite class there are those premium tubs, boasting of using only the exotic ingredients, like the choicest cocoas from Ghana , or the best berries from Europe. For Indians, a Sitafal is no more restricted to just a rabadi , or Mangoes are not just for aamras…Ice creams, cheesecakes,fruit candies ……the possibilities are endless, all thanks to the booming frozen food business.

When it comes to Indian meals, how can a Breakfast, considered the most important meal of the day, in Indian context, be spared? The microwaveable frozen Idli Sambar, Ready to cook Aloo Parathas, come handy for a time starved modern working woman or a homemaker, Juggling putting up breakfast and packing lunch boxes within a few hours in the morning.

A couple of decades ago, the average Indian consumer was just getting used to using Frozen Green peas , Paneer from Amul or the Goodrej’sReal Good Frozen Raw Chicken. An Indian home cook was comfortable using only the raw frozen foods that can be cooked and processed at home. What was not comfortable was the partially or fully cooked heat and eat segment. The recently launched, the Mc Cain French fries, Smiles and ready to eat Idlis or the now aggressively launched Venky’s Chicken Range changed a consumer’s perspective. Devouring the hot homemade French fries, Nuggets, burgers, Indian population has now discovered the unmatched  taste, hygience and convenience these packaged frozen foods offer.

Of course, there’s no alternative to “Khar Ka Khana”, or Maa Ki Dal, however, these simple alternatives, can surely add an occasional magic to your meals, thereby giving you a much needed break from the routine “Roti Subji khana “offering some respite to the otherwise kitchen stuck mother or wife!

Considering the International trend so far, we are still at a nascent stage. Considering the variety the Indian Cuisine has to offer and the wide scope therein there’s a lot more to happen in this segment. More and more players are keen to enter the indian market, to cater the booming indian population. The otherwise traditional Indian consumer, after  accepting and enjoying them is waiting for more … What would be interesting to see is how well this segment penetrates into the regional culinary market.

For the sceptical, or the health freaks, we share a set of guidelines and tips on buying, storing and cooking packaged frozen foods, which should put off some of the doubts and questions on your mind.





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