Rising technology demands of the Indian food processing industry
Many businesses have been affected in some way by the Covid-19 pandemic. The food processing and packaging industries are no different. The pandemic, however, has sparked a wave of innovation within the food industry and pushed food processing and manufacturing to new heights. Moreover, these challenges have nudged food companies to update their processes, especially in terms of automation. Therefore, automation is becoming the 'need of the hour' to meet international benchmarks and make the processes more efficient and effective to cater to consumer demands.
To address the rising technology and automation demands with regards to the current pandemic and growing food processing industry, ANUTEC - International FoodTec India, a leading B2B trade fair, and the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (AFST) - Mumbai Chapter presented a webinar on "Rising technology demands of the Indian F&B processing industry" on 8 September 2021.
The webinar agenda included - the pandemic's impact on the food and beverage processing industry; change in consumption pattern; an increase in demand for modern technology; role of packaging and packaging machinery in the food processing industry; and Indian Government policies and support.
Indian food processing industry – A sunshine industry
Subhaprada Nishtala, chapter president, AFST, gave a kickstart to the session with a note, "The forward-thinking government policies and sharp focus have pushed the Indian food processing sector in a fast-track mode of growth. It is a sunrise industry. Even during the tough times of the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry has come together to ensure food availability to everyone. Despite major disruptions, it is one of the sectors that have seen a significantly less negative impact. Also benefitted from the pandemic, many segments of the food industry have witnessed double-digit growth."
Speaking on the rising demand for automation in the Indian food processing industry, she highlighted, "With the fast-growing industry, automation is becoming a need of the hour. It helps the manufacturers to meet national and international regulations as well as consumer and industry expectations."
According to her, evolving consumer preferences, packaging as a strong influencer, nutraceuticals and ayurvedic foods, emphasis on healthier ingredients, adaptation with covid, innovation and start-ups will be notable upcoming trends. Further, she believes that homogenization with expectations, traceability, flexible capacity at minimal risk, agility and ability are extremely important for India.
Automation – A need of the hour
Nishant Bansal, managing director, Fabcon Machines, stated, "The Indian food processing industry is going through a boom. The focus remains on farm to fork, and more and more food is processed with least wastage. During Covid-19 pandemic, the food industry has been able to adapt to the scenario of offering hygienically packed products quickly."
According to him, the future of the Indian F&B industry holds massive potential and is expected to experience exponential annual growth in the timeframe of 2021 to 2025. "Big brands are investing in the Indian food processing sector because they see a big potential here. Homegrown manufacturers are also reaping the benefits because of the consumers' increasing disposable incomes and affordability," he added.
According to Bansal, during the lockdown, businesses struggled with labor migration. Therefore, many companies took to complete automation and mechanism to ensure that the production is taking place in a more hygienic and smooth setting. He added, "More and more companies are demanding top-of-the-line technologies. We are always devising ways to augment the design of our machinery that can deliver the same performance in the future as it delivering at present. We hope that together we can provide a better scenario worldwide and in India to increase the level of automation."
Safe packaging, safe food
Prof Dr Tanweer Alam, director of- Indian Institute of Packaging, enlightened the audience with the latest packaging trends of the Indian industry, technological advancements, challenges and opportunities. He said, "The Indian packaging industry is US $ 50.5 billion market and growing at a 15 to 18%. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges and we have converted these challenges into opportunities."
According to him, the food processing and packaging industry is also witnessing increased demand for automation. This demand is mainly driven by scarcity of workforce due to the pandemic and less human intervention for meeting hygiene and global standards. He added, "The packaging industry needs to adopt new technologies, which will help to reduce cost and improve quality. As product safety grows, foreign manufacturers have a significant opportunity to introduce smart packaging and improve packaging standards across the sector."
The webinar concluded with insightful information regarding the Indian food processing industry and its increasing demands and expectations regarding automation in hygiene solutions. According to speakers, changing lifestyles and increasing disposable incomes will further help the industry grow into leaps and bounds. Proximity to key export destinations and greater integration with the global economy are further opportunities where the industry can grow. This becomes very important today as Indian manufacturers compete with global suppliers and serve international customers' needs.