Rising urbanisation, increase in population of working women, changing lifestyles, greater per capita income, and rising awareness about health and wellness have strongly impacted the way today’s urban Indians eat and drink.
A growing interest in healthy eating can also be observed through the changing choices of bakery products. The rising demand for multigrain bread, wholegrain breads, breads from specific countries, and sugar-free desserts further endorses this shift in eating habits. This change has not only made major players, including Britannia, ITC, and Parle, improvise their products but has also lured newer entrants like Patanjali, GAIA, etc. into this segment.
The heightened popularity and wider acceptance of the humble bread in urban households is not restricted solely to the white and whole-meal varieties but also includes healthy multigrain and specialty breads like baguettes, ciabatta, focaccia, brioche, croissants, rye breads, etc. Even if these are not available in neighbourhood grocery stores, most can definitely be noticed on the shelves in supermarkets and select bakeries in Metros and tier I cities. More than breads, biscuits are widely consumed across different age groups in urban as well as rural areas. India’s biscuit industry, the third largest in the world after USA and China, is witnessing a major transition as consumer preferences are changing.
With an evolving palate and a health-oriented outlook, the Indian consumer is now demanding much more than glucose and Marie biscuits. These consumers are, instead, willing to experiment with new flavors and textures but, at the same time, not willing to compromise on health and taste. They are demanding that manufacturers reduce Trans fats and sugar content in biscuits and add products which are beneficial for the overall well-being of a person.
Catering to such evolving needs, biscuit manufacturers are now concentrating on this segment via introducing products which are health oriented and appeal to the palate of the consumer, e.g. the Nutrichoice range from Britannia, the multigrain range by Unibic and GAIA, McVitie’s Digestive, Farmlite by Sunfeast, etc.
Responding to the high demand from consumers, manufacturers have introduced many variants. Health and wellness is the new key for the bakery industry with companies bringing out healthier, fortified products. The use of lesser-known grains like ragi and millet has gained in popularity within the baked goods segment. Grains like amaranth and buckwheat have also found acceptance thanks to their high nutritional content.
Today’s fast-tracked lifestyle has led to the lack of proper nutrition and has increased the demand for fortified products. Breads, biscuits, and other baked products now come packed with minerals and vitamins to increase their nutritional quality. Consumers have also started questioning the use of certain additives in baked products. Additives like conditioners, genetically modified ingredients, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, Trans fats, and added sugars can adversely affect consumers’ health and are therefore being avoided by them.
Rural consumers are not far behind their urban counterparts and are also showing an increased propensity to consume bakery products. The penetration of television, and food-related programming aired on media channels, has increased both the aspirations of the rural consumer and the frequency with which they consume baked products such as breads and biscuits. With constant upgrades to back-end infrastructure, manufacturers are also not lagging and are ready to cater to the aspirational demand of rural consumers, and are launching smaller pack sizes of certain products in rural markets to increase their penetration therein.
Due to increased health awareness and the opposition to artificial additives, the concept of fresh bakes is getting revived in the metros and tier I cities. Consumers prefer to carry home freshly baked biscuits and breads. To tap into this trend, supermarkets have also set up in-house bakeries which not only provide popular breads and biscuits but also cater to such needs as cakes and other baked specialties.
Overall, the concept of bakeries is undergoing a change, with many bakeries in metros now becoming popular hangout zones, and many cafés serving bakery products. These changes are also being viewed by international bakery chains as heralding a lucrative proposition.
There has therefore been a profusion of international chains entering India, e.g. Au Bon Pain, Breadworks, BreadTalk, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, etc., as well as an expansion of domestic brands such as L’Opéra, Monginis, Daily Bread, French Loaf, etc.
The increasing trend of using the online platform to order products is not limited to restaurants and modern retail channels alone but has also gained in popularity for bakeries. Consumers are ordering even routine products through online platforms from retailers as well as from specialty stores such as Nature’s Basket, Daily Bread, Defence Bakery (Delhi), etc. These platforms are also used by bakeries to communicate with consumers more effectively about the health aspects of their products as well as to showcase newer products. They also utilise this tool to understand the requirements of various consumers, which facilitates the development of new offerings.
The emergence of a well-to-do middle class, greater urbanisation, changing lifestyles, health consciousness and a higher population of well-informed consumers have resulted in bakeries becoming one of the fastest growing industries in India. Further, adding to their growth is the acceptance and reach of baked products like breads and biscuits in even the rural parts of the country. With the convenience of ordering products from home, the use of the online platform is also gaining momentum in the metros and mini metros. Growing consumer demands and stricter food laws have forced Indian manufacturers to adopt international manufacturing standards, add healthy, and specialty, products to their portfolio, and use better quality ingredients with fewer chemical additives.