Indian fruits and vegetable consumption has always been driven by the changing consumer aspiration. Going back to the time, when online commerce was an alien term, shopping needs for such products were constrained by the retailers themselves. With the westernisation of society and the growing health consciousness, the demand of imported fruits has splurged in the country over the last couple of years.
Every format of retailing has a history of challenging the odds and registering sharp growth among foremost hurdles. Betting on the increasing desire of Indian consumers, the future for India’s fruit business looks very bright in the years to come. The zeal of buying US apple, New Zealand Kiwis or China pears is now where less than buying a Louis Vuitton bag or a Gucci shoes.
Foreign fruits however don't come cheap and often command a premium of 50 per cent over locally produced fruits. For example, kiwi fruit grown in the hill regions of India is sold at $3 to $3.5 per kg, while the New Zealand variety is sold slightly higher price i.e. $4.5- $6 per kg.
Yes, Indian consumers are relatively sensitive towards the price, but with the rising disposable income and growing health consciousness, consumers today are ready to spend a little extra on their groceries. Inclusion of rare and exotic fruits into consumer’s diet has further uplifted the imported fruits segment and is touted to grow at a vigorous 15-20 per cent annually. The increasing popularity of fruits such as Sharon from Spain and horned melon and avocados from New Zealand have forced importers to fasten up their operations and make more investments in infrastructure and logistics.
Interestingly, it has been found that the demand of imported fruits has not just hit the urban market, even consumers from tier II and III cities like Raipur, Nagpur etc. have shown interest towards this segment. High-end imported fruits like avocado which costs around Rs 400/ piece is one the most selling imported fruits followed by Kiwis and other dragon fruits.
In the year 2015, India imported apples from the US worth $197 million and as per the US Apple Association, India is now the third largest importer of American apples after Canada and Mexico. Looking at such phenomenal consumption mirrors, many industry pundits are of the firm opinion that India’s aggregated consumer spending will surpass $1 trillion mark by 2025.
Growing internet and smartphone penetration in the country has been one of the major growth drivers in this segment. Yes, smartphones and internet has transformed the entire commerce biz of the country and advent of digital commerce was icing on the cake. These online retailers have not just educated the customer, but have also made them technology dependent for most of their shopping needs. On demand grocery startups like Grofers and Bigbasket had brought about a revolution in fruits and vegetable shopping. With the power of internet and such quick-service apps, Indian consumers do not hesitate in buying imported fruits even in rural areas. Not just the digital companies, but also the year around availability of imported fruits along with the growing retail infrastructure has splurged the sales not just in metros but even in tier II and III cities.
“I now regularly buy imported fruits (kiwis and pears mostly) for my family. It’s tastier, healthier and my children prefer it over regular apples and oranges. I don’t mind spending a little extra on this,” said Deepa Verma, a Jaipur-based housewife.
This shift in preference will surely uplift the ante on competition with local sellers as these importers are largely betting upon the diversity of Indian consumers. Though the segment has touched just the tip of the iceberg, but considering the predictions and the preference, future surely has something fruitful for the industry.