Monitoring the growing consumption, market and potential health effects of ready-to-cook food products

You may love to experiment in the kitchen, but a break from cooking elaborate meals is always welcome, isn’t it? As such, have you ever tried ready-to-cook foods? dishes which are gaining momentum in the country due to various reasons such as: are they relatively cheaper, extremely convenient and are they available in a variety of options? In fact, according to market research company Technavio, the ready-to-cook market share in India is expected to increase by $451.57 million between 2021 and 2026.

For people who prefer easy cooking methods, struggle to find time to spend in the kitchen, or just don’t possess the required cooking skills, these ready-to-cook options are the perfect way to not compromise on flavor or depend on restaurant food. . In addition, the pandemic further boosted the shift in demand towards these products, reported commercial wire. “Ready-to-cook food products became one of the few industries to witness an immense surge in demand during the coronavirus pandemic. with countries in lockdown and most people working from home, ready-to-cook food products have flown off the shelves in recent months,” he noted.

The same was true for Pratik Sharma, a 25-year-old professional from Delhi who first discovered these food options while away from his family during the Emergency closure due to COVID-19. “Unfortunately, I don’t know how to cook and I was tired of the bland meals I managed to make myself every day. It was then, while browsing an online grocery app, that I discovered these instant mixes and bought a couple of packs of rajma Y chhole to try. They required very little effort to make and turned out to be surprisingly delicious,” he said. indianexpress.comadding that he has been “a fan” ever since.

Explaining how various brands tapped into this growing demand, Amit Mange, co-founder and COO of Ceres Foods, said they launched their ready-to-cook products during the pandemic. “We realized that Indo-Chinese cuisine resonates with the palates of customers, who end up consuming it at least twice a week, if not more. And on the other hand, we saw demand for specialized Indian curries like laal maas, nalli nihari, rogan josh etc which are difficult to perform at home. We quickly identified the opportunity and decided to create a range of RTC (ready to cook) products for cooking at home”, he said.
One can cook a variety of dishes using instant mixes (Source: Pixabay)
He was quick to add that customer response has been phenomenal, both during and after the pandemic. Adding that they source authentic ingredients locally from the region to highlight the flavourHe said these products minimize “reliance on skill.”

The brand’s portfolio, which comprises 7 variants, focuses solely on curating famous not vegetarian dishes from all over India. “These dishes require a high level of skill and specialized ingredients. With our products, you can cook specialty dishes like laal maas, mustard fish and champaran in 30 minutes,” Mange said.

Complying with safety and hygiene standards, he stressed that these dishes require only 3-4 steps to prepare. Something similar is the case with Maai Masale, an authentic Maharashtrian ready-to-cook curry paste brand that offers five vegetarian and three non-vegetarian options, which launched in 2021.

Bhakti Kote, founder, Maai Masale, explained: “We started right during the pandemic. We were planning to release it this way earlier, but we didn’t get the right opportunity. But the pandemic gave us enough time to research the idea and work on our product, and understand the real gap in the market to fill.”

He stressed that these ready-to-cook foods are “easy to use” and can make any curry possible in just “three steps”. “We look at convenience, people’s demand, and the continual Work from home culture. Especially in the metropolitan cities, women are also working. So we realized that these ready-to-cook mixes are the need of the hour, especially for women, students, and seniors who may not be able to cook on their own. These blends give a very homey taste, which was our main goal,” Kote said.

However, the Technavio report also highlighted that growing health concerns will be a major challenge for the ready-to-cook food market in the coming years, as health experts often criticize these products for being unhealthy and being the main cause of diseases such as diabetes. obesityand heart problems, among others.

To understand more, we reached out to nutrition and diet experts for their thoughts on the matter. “When it comes to the health meter, they certainly aren’t the best options. The reason is that these mixes are mostly loaded with high preservatives to increase the shelf life of the product and also contain artificial colors and flavors to make the taste better and original. There can be no better alternative to freshly cooked food as there is control of temperature and cooking time, on the contrary in ready-to-eat mixes it is quite difficult to determine if the time mentioned on the back of the package is optimal for healthy food preparation. Furthermore, reheating partially cooked food can also cause loss of several essential nutrients,” said Indrani Ghosh, chief dietitian at Manipal Hospital, Salt Lake, Kolkata.

He further explained that the extra amount of preservative, if consumed frequently, can be very bad for your health in the long run. “The risk of diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol level, diarrhea and cancer is increased,” Ghosh said, adding that in tropical countries like India, where infectious diseases are quite common, There is difficulty in storing these food mixes as these meals need to be stored at a lower temperature to keep them fresh for longer, resulting in additional cost.

Ready-to-cook food products are linked to obesity (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)
In addition to preservatives, these ready-to-cook food mixes also contain harmful chemicals, such as artificial colors and flavors, “which have been linked to comparable illnesses,” said Neha Pathania, head of nutrition at Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.

“Therefore, food that is not stored at the optimum temperature is prone to bacteria growth and can lead to food poisoning, bloating and gastric problems,” he said.

So should you avoid them altogether? The experts advised to follow certain measures and consume these mixtures “rarely”.

*Read the labeling and content
*Must be FSSAI certified
*Check the packaging dates
*Nutritional information must be given for each 100 g approximately
*Do not buy if you are not sure of its quality and safety
*Check the time and method required for cooking
*Place on top shelf
* Maintain safe holding temperature

Ghosh said that “the age group that can consume these products without any problem are mostly youngsters,” and Himashi Sharma, senior dietitian at the Indian Center for Spine Injury added that “those with some medical history and health should avoid consuming ready-to-use products. to fully cook food products.”

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