The sustainable packaged food sector in India is evolving rapidly to meet the changing preferences of eco-conscious consumers. These trends reflect a growing awareness of the environmental and health impacts of food choices, driving innovation and positive change within the industry
Ready-to-eat food in India has seen remarkable growth due to urbanisation and changing lifestyles, offering both convenience and nutrition. Modern options include home-cooked, healthy and comfort meals with real ingredients, eliminating the guilt associated with convenience food. Over the next decade, the market will evolve to meet consumer preferences, driven by technology and sustainability.
Here are a few key trends that will shape the sustainable packaged food sector in India.
Wellness and mindful eating: Consumer focus on wellness is reshaping the ready-to-eat landscape, a trend set to continue in the coming decade. Heightened awareness is driving demand for healthier choices, including low-sodium, low-sugar, organic, and gluten-free options. According to Mintel, over 70% of Indian consumers are willing to pay extra for healthier ready-to-eat offerings by 2025. There is a growing emphasis on reducing the sugar and salt content in packaged foods to address health concerns. Brands are offering healthier alternatives with reduced levels of these ingredients. The future of ready-to-eat lies in balanced nutrition and natural ingredients. Moreover, these products may evolve to incorporate functional ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and bioactive compounds, targeting specific health and wellness objectives beyond mere nutrition. This shift aligns with consumers' growing commitment to healthier lifestyles.
Indian Superfoods and recipes: The ready-to-eat market is also realising the potential of Indian recipes and superfoods. Packaged foods are embracing Indian superfoods and traditional ingredients known for their health benefits. Items like khichdi, poha, dals, and Upma are now available as convenient ready-to-eat options. Superfoods such as moringa, amaranth, turmeric, and ashwagandha are becoming common additions to various packaged products. Ready-to-eat offerings will capitalise on these ingredients, offering unique flavors, nutritional advantages, and a nostalgic culinary experience. Furthermore, incorporating locally sourced ingredients to support regional farmers and sustainability will become a compelling selling point, appealing to ethically-conscious consumers.
Sustainability and local produce: Sustainability has assumed a prominent role in the post-pandemic era, profoundly shaping our dietary choices. Heightened climate change awareness has fostered consumer loyalty towards environmentally conscious brands. People are actively seeking sustainably sourced, locally produced packaged goods, a practice benefiting both farmers and the planet. This preference reduces carbon emissions linked to long-distance transportation while championing regional agriculture. As consumers increasingly favor products crafted from locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, packaged food sector will witness increased localised meals and native recipes.
Smart snacking: Smart snacking has become a significant part of the Indian lifestyle, spanning teatime treats to post-meal cravings. The post-Covid era has witnessed a shift towards more mindful indulgence. Consumers now prioritise clean, healthy snacks, often opting for frequent munching over traditional three-square meals. This trend reflects a growing consciousness about nutrition, as people seek satisfying, nutritious snack options that align with their wellness goals and daily routines. This will continue to reshape sustainable, packaged food sector.
Sustainable packaged food in sustainable packaging: In response to environmental concerns, brands are actively working to minimise packaging waste by adopting eco-friendly materials like biodegradable plastics, compostable packaging and recyclable options. There's a growing preference for minimalist packaging designs that prioritise both functionality and sustainability. This shift towards eco-conscious packaging aligns with consumer preferences for waste reduction and reduced carbon footprint. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation projects a substantial $624 billion opportunity in India by 2030 through the adoption of circular economy principles. Advancements in packaging technology, driven by the rise of e-commerce and Q-commerce, will emphasise sustainable and transparent packaging for RTE food. Improved materials will extend product shelf life while maintaining convenience and quality. Furthermore, clear ingredient labelling will continue to raise awareness of clean, healthy products.
The sustainable packaged food sector in India is evolving rapidly to meet the changing preferences of eco-conscious consumers. These trends reflect a growing awareness of the environmental and health impacts of food choices, driving innovation and positive change within the industry. As consumers continue to prioritise sustainability and healthier options, the sector is expected to expand further in the coming year.
(Ishit Saurabh Pilani is the Co-Founder, Organic Roots.)