International food

A friend just returned from the states after a long stay. Like kids we were waiting for the Santa Claus to open his goodie bag to see what is in it for us. Imagine his shock when on seeing loads and loads of chocolates all of us walked away continuing our mundane work. He must have imagined all us would have pounced on his goodie bag just like the good old days when he as a kid used to do. Little did he know that India has come a long way in consumption of international food, thanks to retail? Every brand once seen in the baggage of our NRI cousins or for a few lucky ones on their visits abroad is now present in the aisles of our very own stores.

With more and more Indians travelling abroad, exposure to international cuisines has increased. The potential was exposed by a few retailers who catered to the high margin niche category. Exclusive stores specializing in international cuisines have opened. I personally enjoy visiting such stores, for such stores are full of activities. These stores act as the perfect platform for the international cuisines. Saw a initiative organized by Japan’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministry in cooperation with the foreign affairs ministry,. A sushi class was conducted. Various restaurants offered Japanese Food at affordable prices The aim being the increase the access to Japanese food and not just the limited to the high end Even a Japanese recipe contest was conducted

Attended a American Food Festival which had a chef teaching us to make the juiciest burger, pan cakes, waffles. Yet another cuisine which is getting popular is the Middle Eastern food. The falafels, hummus, the pita bread have entered the traditional kitchen alongwith the dosas, poha & the parathas. Infact even a traditional food lover like me has started preparing hummus at home.Hummus is food which can be gorged on by 10 month old baby to an 80 old granny.

While the cuisines have gained popularity so are products bought across the shelves. The topmost of the products bought (of course apart from the chocolates) are the pastas (varieties of them spaghetti, fussili, lasagna, macaroni, penne, farfalle) olive oil, the spreads, the corn chips and the list goes on and includes wide variety of imported fruits . This category has gained prominence mostly because of the pricing strategy e.g. 50% off on olive oil,) and the activations at the stores with sampling as well as educating customers. These brands have invested heavily in building the brands by changing the very food habits of Indians. The keep the prices at the lowest possible so that Indians atleast try the product, over a period once customers are habituated to it they charge exorbitant prices.

Why do retailers push International food? High price points as to increase the average bill value, high margins, and efforts by the brand/importer to improve sales and most importantly to have a first mover advantage and differentiate from competitors,

Witnessed in a store. While a lady in her 20’s picked up a jar of hazelnut spread, her mother in her 50s asked as to what the product was and what is it used for? The young lady replies it is used as spread with dosa, chapathi or breads. Mother asked about the price for the same. On hearing the price the mother said instead of buying the spread why can’t she prepare some dry chutney or some jam at home which is healthier and less expensive?

Finally she mumbled while her generation believed on saving more this generation believes in earning more and thereby spending more,

Do you know of any product which was alien to us but now become a part of our food habits/culture? Any international brand strategy which was tracked since inception?

Please share with me.


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