Health, safety, sustainability and the rise of the new F&B consumer

Updated on Aug 14, 2020 06:29 PM IST

In an exclusive interview, Saumya Tyagi, Marketing Director, Tetra Pak South Asia, talks about the emerging trends in the beverage industry and the use of technology to keep pace with a post-Covid world.

Post the pandemic, a far greater number of consumers seem to be getting favourably inclined towards packaged beverages, which come with less human contact and are considered “safe” and “free of any contamination.
Post the pandemic, a far greater number of consumers seem to be getting favourably inclined towards packaged beverages, which come with less human contact and are considered “safe” and “free of any contamination.

It is well established, that the current pandemic is changing consumer mindsets and behaviour like never before. With the heightened need for safety and hygiene, consumers are increasingly looking at food and beverage options that not only fulfil their nutritional requirements but also score high on these needs. Traditionally, a lot of beverage categories in our country have been sold ‘loose’ in the market- think of fresh milk, fruit juice and buttermilk. Post the pandemic, a far greater number of consumers seem to be getting favourably inclined towards packaged beverages, which come with less human contact and are considered “safe” and “free of any contamination.

The shift towards packaged food

The last few months have seen a significant increase in the sale of UHT or ‘long-life’ packaged milk and the same is true for some other beverages like ready-to-drink ORS, “India has always been a strong market for loose milk . One of the most significant changes that we have observed in the last 4-5 months of lockdown is the increase in awareness and sale of packaged milk, especially UHT milk. This is because packaged milk is seen to be safe, hygienic as well as more conducive to widespread distribution in a vast country like ours, especially since it does not need a cold chain for distribution. We are also seeing a similar trend emerge in other categories like ready to drink ORS, coconut water and dairy beverages,” says Saumya Tyagi, Director Marketing, Tetra Pak South Asia.

Google Trends: Approximate 500% increase in searches for immunity in food and drink worldwide by week, following the onset of COVID-19.

Consumers are more focussed than ever on their health & nutrition and immunity boosting food and drinks top the popularity charts. “Focus on products that help boost immunity and improve overall health and wellness is another trend we are seeing globally, as well as in India. This is manifested in multiple launches that we have seen in the market in this space like fortified fruit juices to help boost immunity , haldi, tulsi, ginger based milk beverages, drinks with traditional ingredients like amla and giloy, all in a ready-to-drink format. The consumption behaviour has also shifted to more in-home vs. out of home, as one can imagine in the current times” Tyagi adds.

Restricted mobility and people movement have also led to tremendous growth of the e-tail channel. A lot of FMCG companies are accordingly looking at altering their go-to-market plans with increased focus on these and have increased focus and resources on e-retail and pharmacies.

Early signs of revival

The FMCG industry is also showing early signs of revival and this is led by a stronger growth in rural and smaller markets. As per the recently released data by Nielsen, overall consumer goods sales in rural India grew by 12 per cent in the month of June versus a year ago. This growth is driven by multiple factors like proactive government measures to increase allocation to MNREGA, good monsoon, reverse migration from cities to villages and overall a lower incidence of Covid-19. Second half of 2020 should continue to see growth revival especially given the multitude of big festivals coming up across India.

Increasing convergence of health and sustainability

Some global trends are also fast catching up in the country, affecting the way that food & beverages are thought of and consumed. “We are seeing the growth of the Conscious Consumer who has a higher inclination for authenticity, individuality and sustainability through tapping into local credentials and cultural aspects. This trend is driving the rise of local brands especially in developing markets. We can see both new players adding the local touch and multinationals adapting to fit the needs of consumers from different cultures and geographies. Packaging can play an interesting role to become more distinct, expressing the uniqueness of its content and where the pack visuals could be inspired by its origin. Brands can also communicate these benefits to consumers through enhanced transparency and traceability to help the consumer know more about the origin of the product. One such example is Smart Packaging based on Dynamic QR codes that has already launched in India by Tetra Pak,” he said.

There is also a visible merger of Health and Sustainability resulting in ‘responsible consumption’. Consider plant-based dairy alternatives and alternate protein options like soy milk and almond milk that have found their way into Indian supermarkets, even though the concept is still niche and limited to the urban centres.

One of the most significant shifts we are observing is increasing consciousness about the environmental impact of individual actions. Consumers are beginning to demand a higher level of responsibility from the F&B companies in minimizing the environmental impact of their operations. “This is what makes our proposition even stronger. More than 70 per cent of the Tetra Pak beverage carton is made from paperboard, and the entire pack is recyclable, making it an environmentally sound, sustainable packaging option for the consumer. We pride ourselves in being industry leaders in promoting a low carbon circular economy. We are also constantly working to develop new products to build further in this vital area. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of their actions on the environment and are looking to make informed choices. Through recyclable, paper-based packaging, that brings them their favourite liquid foods safely, we strongly believe that we have the perfect solution that is good for you and good for the earth,” says Tyagi

Opportunities galore for the packaged food industry

The key focus of F&B remains ensuring that the food that is brought to the consumers is safe, convenient, affordable and offers true value. “Our research shows that we have 100 billion litres of liquid foods consumed in India. Less than 50% of that is packaged. Combine that with a low overall penetration and one can clearly see that there is tremendous opportunity across almost all categories like dairy beverages, fruit-based drinks, re-hydration drinks etc. As a packaging industry leader, this is a massive opportunity for us to partner with F&B brands and bring the best possible products to consumers across the country,” he says.

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