How organic food is making its way back into the Indian kitchen

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Published: August 21, 2016 6:04:09 AM

AS PER a recent Government of India study, the organic food market in the country is expected to hit the $1.36-billion mark by 2020.

In India, the organic food market is currently valued at roughly R1,000 crore, which includes both the organised and unorganised sectors.In India, the organic food market is currently valued at roughly R1,000 crore, which includes both the organised and unorganised sectors.

AS PER a recent Government of India study, the organic food market in the country is expected to hit the $1.36-billion mark by 2020. This is not surprising, as market trends indicate that organic food—products that are wholly natural, grown or cultivated in an agricultural system that does not use fertilisers or pesticides—is slowly becoming the choice for many consumers. “While buying fruits and vegetables, I always worry about things like food adulteration and health hazards. With organic food items, you get something natural… so I don’t mind paying a little extra for them,” says a Delhi-based media professional who did not wish to be named. She adds that most Indian consumers and families are now becoming more health-conscious, which explains their inclination towards organic food.

In India, the organic food market is currently valued at roughly R1,000 crore, which includes both the organised and unorganised sectors. The overall global organic food market, on the other hand, is reportedly worth $75-$76 billion. Clearly, we have a long way to go. And this is where organic food brands like Organic India, 24 Mantra Organic, Ecofarms, Conscious Food, Fabindia, etc, come into the picture. “The monthly expenditure of an average family of four is around R5,000-R6,000 on groceries, excluding dairy and vegetables. If you switch to organic, you will end up spending roughly R1,400-R1,600 more per month, depending on whether you are an atta or rice consumer. It’s not that expensive and a lot of people are realising that now,” says N Balasubramanian, CEO, 24 Mantra Organic, a Hyderabad-based organic food company. “Today, the question consumers are asking themselves is, ‘Why not something better for myself?’ That applies to food as well,” he says.

To clear any doubts over the purity of organic food, some companies are even taking consumers to ground zero to experience organic farming first-hand. For instance, back2basics, a Bengaluru-based organic farming start-up, has introduced a unique concept of ‘experiential farm visit’. The programme allows an individual or a group of people to experience, pluck, eat and enjoy organic produce at their organic farm. The farm—spread across 3.5 acres—houses varieties of both exotic and local produce.

Visitors can learn about chemical-free production techniques and pick their own products.

The reach of organic food items is also no more restricted to certain age groups or demographics.

Upwardly mobile people, professionals with a propensity to spend more, families with young children and old people who have health issues, etc, are all opting for organic food. Balasubramanian says changes in lifestyles and mindsets have proved significant for certain products that were forgotten till recently. “A good example is ghee. It was off the shelves, but has seen a huge comeback recently. People are talking about it being a R5,000-crore category now. Earlier, nobody wanted to touch it; now, it’s considered healthy,” he says.

Apart from traditional brick-and-mortar outlets, the availability of organic food items on leading e-commerce websites and online grocery stores has also added to the demand. An Amazon spokesperson says that overall their organic food sales have grown four times year-on-year, with some popular items being whole wheat atta, dals and organic rice. “Organic food items are one of the most searched products under our grocery and gourmet category,” the spokesperson adds.

The organic food market in the country may be small as of now, but it is evolving and growing steadily, says Mohit Khattar, managing director, Godrej Nature’s Basket, a premium gourmet food store chain. “Sales at Nature’s Basket in this segment have nearly doubled over the past three-four years. We have seen consumers become more conscious of their choices,” he says.

Natural and organic is clearly slated to become bigger

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