Health, variety key drivers for Indian cooking

Emergence of multicultural nuclear families, exposure to new varieties of food, availability of imported ingredients, and a greater health consciousness are key drivers


A distinct trend that is emerging is that there are more men in the kitchen today, even if only occasionally. Photo: iStockphoto
A distinct trend that is emerging is that there are more men in the kitchen today, even if only occasionally. Photo: iStockphoto

The emergence of multicultural nuclear families, exposure to new varieties of food, availability of imported ingredients, and a greater consciousness about health are some of the key drivers shaping what India cooks and eats today.

These are some of the findings of research conducted by the innovation cell at Godrej Appliances Ltd.

For a start, the research says that nuclear families can afford to be more flexible in their food habits, especially while eating out when compared to joint families. It also says that for women, cooking is no more the most important activity of their daily lives.

The study also shows that there is a big trend towards healthy eating in view of the increasing incidence of lifestyle diseases. “An important highlight of the research is that the awareness about healthy cooking at home is increasing,” says Nishant Bhaskar, head of the innovation cell at Godrej Appliances.

Musthafa P.C., co-founder and chief executive of iD Fresh Food India Pvt. Ltd, agrees. “People want 100% natural (food) and no chemicals,” he adds. Bengaluru-based iD Fresh Food, the ready-to-cook foods company known for its idli and dosa batter, is targeting Rs250 crore in revenue next year, up from Rs150 crore this year.

The increased focus on healthy cooking does not mean Indian families don’t indulge. “Evening snacks are indulgence meals,” says Paru Minocha, managing director at research firm Kantar IMRB which carries out studies on consumption habits for its clients. Interestingly, research shows that children are great influencers of what gets cooked at home. This is different from how things were some years ago when the head of the household was the one around whom the cooking decisions revolved.

Today, the kitchens are governed by the choice of children. “Consequently, there is variety and newness in food inside the home as it is outside,” says Minocha. Food at home is going international. Chinese and Italian were always part of Indian kitchens, so much so that one can argue that both noodles and pasta are Indian. Now, even salads and grills are in. “You find such food not just in the higher socio-economic classes; it is more inclusive,” says Minocha.

Kannan Sitaram, chief executive, Innovative Foods Ltd, which markets the Sumeru brand of frozen food products, says that the sheer variety of food that people cook has changed. “The range of meats they use has changed. People who eat chicken are now trying sea food. North Indians are trying fish. There are services in the north that supply fresh fish,” he says.

The focus on different cuisines is also a result of the influence of popular cookery shows on television, YouTube videos, gourmet websites, eating out and travelling. “People share stuff on Instagram. The joy of cooking today is in sharing,” says Godrej’s Bhaskar.

Convenience is another element that consumers are driven by. People don’t want to spend too much time cooking. They want the process to be simpler. Since lives are getting busier, people are careful about where they invest their energy. Interestingly, the time they spend on food preparation has gone down. In fact, the Godrej research says that among different stages of food preparation, people like cooking the most. They cook for pleasure.

Last but not the least, a distinct trend that is emerging is that there are more men in the kitchen today, even if only occasionally.

“Of course, since most men cook either once a week or once a month, it is neither drudgery nor responsibility for them. However, men cook special meals,” says Minocha. Besides, when they cook, it is more like a family exercise and the kitchen becomes the focal point of the house, she adds.

Kitchens may also be becoming gender-neutral because of the availability of convenience foods. While companies such iD Food offer fresh batter, Sumeru offers cleaned and partially pre-cooked meat products. Clearly non-routine cooking or creativity in cooking has got the men interested.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff

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