That technology has touched every aspect of life is not new, but what is new and common between Food and Technology was at display in plenty at the recently concluded International Foodtech India show in Mumbai. The event was an eye-opener as far as local innovations happening in the space is concerned. With over 200 participants and above 2,000 visitors attending the show, there was no mistaking that people who think food are also thinking how technology can help improve production, packaging, quality, scale, distribution, etc of food.
But one thing that I found jarring was the lack of foresight and ability to think long term by the participants. There was significant participation from entrepreneurs for setting up of food processing units, but most revolved around units that can make chips, rings and namkeen items. Potato chip manufacturing and related snack food business constituted the bulk. It is quite odd that technology is still being looked at in such a narrow manner. There were also a sprinkling of different food packaging options for sauces, beverages, and non-solid food items.
Basis my interaction with many first and second generations aspirants at the show, the following is what I common :
1. Not too many entrepreneurs are able to think beyond potato chips
2. Is there any more shelf space available at retail counters for products like chips, rings and namkeens - primarily in Metro, Tier 1 & 2 towns?
3. Where is the innovation in food technology here? All this is me too
4. Are government subsidies available for such set ups responsible for everyone thinking in a linear fashion?
5. And if supply is so high, then why can't government just remove subsidies on businesses which have excess supply?
I wish there was more participation from technology suppliers for the bakery business. The bakery business model to many still seems unknown. People still look at bakery for captive consumption, rather than something that can be used to create a brand for both B2B and B2C models.
The beverages category also remains underserved in terms of product in India. There was more representation by packaging and packing technologies for beverages at Foodtech Mumbai. There was no technology to be seen on the product innovation side of beverages to be found. I do believe India is an underserved market and the fight is presently between Parle Agro, Pepsi and Dabur. Hector Beverages with its product Paper Boat and Zinga is one of the youngest player to enter the fray.
FreshOVeg, a farm management company that I am associated with, had put up a stall there. It got phenomenal response from all the participants – never a dull moment. People were even asking help on technology for dealing with eggs and finished egg products – all in all a great learning.
I feel food businesses needs to have a strategist who can tell them how to steer their business. It's easy to put up a manufacturing line, but difficult is figure out a right market for all the me-too products. And more importantly food entrepreneurs need to think big about food technology, definitely beyond chips!
Posted In: Business Transformation