The Indian food processing industry is one of the biggest and busiest in the world. According to United Nations Industrial Development Organization's data, India produces more than 600 million tonnes of food products. Further, the data also states that the Indian food processing industry accounts for a whopping 22% of the country's GDP. Therefore, the food processing industry is a critical part of our country and its economy.
Being a leader of the industry, India needs to stay on top of all trends and technological advancements introduced to the field and make the most of them retain its position. Thus, to keep up with the developments in recent times, the industry has introduced an enhanced use of technology in its processes. For example, the snack segment, one of the major segments of the food processing industry in India, is rapidly adopting the automation of processes. The benefits of this shift can be seen in the surge that the sector is showing, as discussed below.
Covid and its impact on the Indian food industry
Traditionally, Indian people were more inclined to unpackaged foods as they felt wary of processed foods and snacks. Thus, most people purchased loose food products from their long-trusted shopkeepers. However, the advent of the global pandemic has transformed the landscape of the Indian food market. Covid has necessitated greater attention towards sanitation, consequently changing the preference of the market. People are now more incentivized to buy packaged snacks that have had minimal handling and come along with the additional protection of the packaging. The packets also label the product and make the purchasing process easier by stating all relevant information on the cover. Additionally, the packaging allows easy and hygienic transportation of food across places, thereby opening up the market of lesser developed areas.
The intervention of technology in food processing
The trend of automation is fast picking up in today's times. According to a report by Meticulous Research, the global food automation market is expected to reach US $ 29.4 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 9.5%. The report further states that the Asia Pacific region is one of the leading areas of development, with India being a notable presence in the group.
As per an Invest India report, the output of the Indian food processing industry is expected to reach US $ 535 billion by 2025-26. To achieve and enhance this growth, there is a need to make the processes more efficient and quicker. Thus, the industry has started leaning on technology for the extra help needed to increase operations' efficacy further.
The food manufacturing process is long and complex. It extends to include several smaller tasks ranging from cooking to packing. With a surge in the technological sectors, it has become possible for food processing industries to introduce technology for assistance in their processes.
Benefits of automation
In recent times, automation has been infused into the food and snack processing industry to increase the efficacy of how work is done. Since the automation of processes eliminates recruiting and maintaining several human resources, it helps save money. A machine can easily do small, repetitive tasks for long hours with competence. Further, machines are immune to feelings of fatigue, sickness, or boredom that may hinder a human's productivity. It should also be noted that machines take no holidays and require minimal maintenance. All this helps make a big cutback on the expenditure of both money and time.
Apart from the savings in terms of time and money, as stated above, automation also leads to lesser use of ingredients without affecting the look or taste of the product. In addition to this, it helps fulfill the safety and quality norms related to food products. Lastly, since a machine is performing the task, there is uniformity in the work done and thus, the chance of mistakes or gaps in food quality or taste is minimized.
Even from a customer point of view, this move is a win as the reduction in the company's monetary and time-based costs would ultimately reflect in lesser prices and easier accessibility of food products for the customers.
All these factors are evidence that machines are a much-suited option for the processes included in food processing and that automation is the future of this industry.
Technology and automation were already growing in the food processing industry; however, the pandemic has quickened the process. More and more people have come to trust and like processed foods and snacks, leading the food processing industry to skyrocket in recent times. Judging by the trends, it can be said that the industry can expect further automation, even in the most intricate of its processes. As the industry becomes more and more reliant on technical and mechanical help for its several complex processes, the efficiency and profits of the food processing sector are expected to go up.
Vikas Kumar Gupta, president- Technical, Kanchan Metals