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Packaged Sweets Revolutionizing Packaged Food Industry

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The packaged food industry has been through a major revolution, especially during the times of Corona. Over the past one-year, people have started giving more importance to the quality packaging more than the food inside. Here, Manish Aggarwal, Director, Bikano, writes his thoughts on how Packaged Sweets Revolutionizing Packaged Food Industry.

A piece by Manish Aggarwal, Director, Bikano

With packaged food industry evolving and maturing in the country in recent years, packaged sweets have come to register as an integral part of that process. In fact, the traditional popularity of sweets coupled with an increased consumer consciousness of hygiene and cleanliness has made sure that packaged sweets have acquired extraordinary traction.

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The popularity of sweets offered in a hygienic package itself, in a way, is giving a fillip to the packaged food industry in the country. In other words, packaged sweets are revolutionizing the packaged food industry. With authorities increasingly clamping down and tightening norms around food labeling and general safety and hygiene, this is further serving the cause of packaged food industry.

The emerging packaged food landscape

Even before Covid-19 had ‘bared its fangs,’ the Indian packaged food sector had been on a positive trajectory. For instance, last year, the packaged food industry had recorded an impressive over 14% growth for April to August period. However, what is particularly notable is that this growth had occurred despite the wider consumption slowdown. In more recent times, while western snacks have been a high growth category, RTE has emerged as a high potential category. In terms of sales, tier 1 and metro markets have been the best performers, with rural and urban areas contributing almost similarly. Therefore, with a permanently large middle class with increasingly hectic schedules and busy lifestyles, the room for ready-to-serve packaged food can never be enough for the Indian market, and there will always be room for growth.

The sheer range of sweets available is a hugely motivating factor.

Representing both traditional and the modern, the Indian sweet market is characterized by an extraordinary array of offerings. From traditional milk-based sweets and open mithais offered by unorganized and traditional sweet shops to sweets and confectionery products prepared by organized bakeries, to specialized milk-based products by dairy establishments to luxury mithai brands promoted by new-age confectioners to organic sweets by modern food brands, the range of sweets products available in the country is simply mindboggling. Growing at a CAGR of over 12% for almost a decade, the confectionery market alone is estimated at $1.5 billion.  Another research estimates that the confectionery and snack market grows by over 10% between 2020 and 2025. This huge array of items would definitely give a massive stimulus to the packaged food and the packaging industry in the country.

The growing packaging industry itself

Simultaneously, with increasing investment in food processing industries, the rapid expansion of organized retail, and the rising export market, the packaging industry itself has seen considerable gain. The need for improvement in shelf life and the maintenance of the production pace while upholding quality necessarily require high standardized and quality packaging. With the improvement in packaging methods and technologies such as the emergence of eco-friendly packaging such as biodegradable technologies, nanofabrication technologies, and the shift from rigid to flexible packaging, the packaging industry is undergoing considerable upgrading change. It has been forecast that the Indian food and beverage packaging market is set to cross USD 122 billion by 2025 from about USD 26 billion in 2019 at a CAGR of nearly 30%.

Government tightening norms

With food regulatory authorities increasingly raising the bar for quality and hygiene for sweet products and even snack category, the packaged food industry would receive a further boost. Only in February this year it was reported how local sweet shops had to display ‘best before date mandatorily,’ and the date of manufacturing on non-packaged and loose sweets kept in a container or tray, a more stringent norm than the then existing labeling rules, which required these details for pre-packaged/pre-packed sweets only. Such measures could only add to the push for the packaged food industry. Significantly, prompted by sustainable environmental concerns, the government is also adopting policies to promote recyclable technologies for packaging.

Therefore, as Covid-19 has precipitated an all-out migration to packaged food away from open, loose, and perceivably unhygienic food and snack culture, packaged sweets and confectionery category would impart the strongest push to the packaged food industry. Despite the recent societal and consumerist drive for healthy and nutritional snacking, the sweets and mithais would continue to form an indispensable part of the country’s food culture, which in turn would give a sustained thrust to the packaged food industry. Given that small packs of Rs 5/10 contribute to 70-80% of the snacks category’s sales, this is encouraging. After all, guilty pleasures can be derived from small packs since one can never really wish them away.

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