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     Vikas Mittal
    McCain Foods India Pvt. Ltd is having a strong India presence in frozen and ready-to-cook foods. Vikas Mittal, MD, McCain Foods India and subcontinent region, in a conversation with Ashwani Maindola, talks about the company’s India presence, growth prospects and more.

    Excerpts:

    What are the prospects of frozen food in India?

    Before we go into the judgment of good or bad let me share what is driving the prospect. Everyone is getting busy and quick food is what all require. There are so many women working or even the housewives are so busy. Snacking is the area where they all want to show their creativity, as it is difficult to make snacks (of right texture and taste) at home every time. The biggest worry in people’s mind is how it would taste when they prepare fresh snacks? Here comes our product which turns out tasty every time and with right texture. And, what our products have proven after people had tried them was that they loved the taste and they got a good variety of snack items. It is for that reason that the market will grow.

    How big is the market?

    It is very difficult to describe the frozen food market. But we do a lot of survey in which we try to gauge the propensity of people to convert. Like if frozen food was available would they be willing to try? And we get conversion rates higher around 80 per cent. Even after trying our product the conversion rate goes further up. There is inherent demand and you need to educate the customers about all the available options. However the real worry is how many retail outlets have the product available? Mostly you can buy it from modern trade outlets in big cities and few others who keep freezers. In my mind the limitation to category growth is not whether the consumer wanted it, but where they can buy it.

    What is the prospect of tier ii, iii cities and the competition?

    At the moment, there is enough potential in the top 20 cities in India. It is a small category, which is growing rapidly. In my view, the competition is there but it is only good because it’s a small category. If you have more players the category would grow.

    Tell us about how innovation is likely to develop this industry.

    Frozen food itself is an innovation. This is another way of processing food that can be prepared hot at home. It is vital because it gives the farmer the market and choice to consumers. The innovation gives another avenue to farmers to sell the product. We have just launched Potato Cheese Shortz. Getting potatoes and cheese together is the newest innovation in the segment. And this product is quite pocket-friendly and is accessible to consumers at a fair price. Besides we make a lot of Indian food like aloo tikki, idli sambhar, chili garlic potatoes and our range is quite large for Indian food. That’s all innovation.

    Do you have association with farmers?

    Yes, we work with farmers to grow potatoes for us. And we assure them a price. We also teach them farming methodology for better product. So just because we are the interested party in their product, we work with them and educate them on lots of subjects like farming practices, storage and transportations. This works well for everyone. From the farmer’s standpoint they get predictability of pricing and we get desired product for our processed food.  

    Tell us about your expansion plans.

    Bulk of our base is in Gujarat. We just announced an expansion plan in Gujarat - for our third line of production with Rs 300 crore investments. We have good set up in Gujarat, our farmers are there and there is lot of scope.

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