With increasing awareness about how nutritional elements impact our body’s fitness and health quotient, snacking has now veered towards a variety of gourmet nuts and traditional seeds, thereby opening up a new playing field for producers of such products
Gourmet Nuts – A Fine Taste
When it comes to hunger pangs, it need not always be a huge meal or junk food. There is a healthier option – that of gourmet nuts. Available in all kinds of sizes and packages, these are quickly turning into popular snacks, favoured by all, irrespective of age. Rich in protein, minerals and vitamins as well as being gluten-free, such snacking items are offered with almonds, pistachio, cashew, walnuts, berries, etc. and are available in various prices ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 500 for half kilo packs. As such, the gourmet nuts’ segment offers a huge business potential. With an industry the size of approximately Rs 20,000 crore, the growth opportunities are enormous and companies are already cashing in.
One of the leading players in the gourmet snacking segment is Satvikk International, known for its health food brand Happilo. Talking about this market, Vikas Nahar, the company’s managing director, says, “The gourmet nuts’ market is growing at 20% per year. And it offers huge scope ahead considering that the Indian market is as of now only 10% of the US market and India has a bigger population which is slowly becoming aware of the benefits of gourmet nuts.” Happilo is presesnt is all Tier I cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, etc. and according to Nahar, there has been a recent spurt in demand from the north-eastern states too. “We are planning to make the nuts available at leading airports, premium malls and high streets across the country. We will add at least 50 premium stores to our existing tally of 300+ outlets by the end of 2019,” adds Nahar.
Another big player is Ruchi Namkeen and Snacks. Voicing her opinion about the potential in this segment, its owner, Rashmi Sahoo, says, “Awareness about the benefits of consuming nuts is on the rise and this has triggered growth in the market as well as the need to sell in packs of various sizes with emphasis on quality. We offer 100-calorie portion packs which are natural, gluten-free and contain zero trans-fat and zero cholesterol. They are non-genetically modified and a rich source of protein, minerals and vitamins.”
Fox Nuts – Traditionally in Vogue
Among nuts, one of the items gaining popularity is the fox nut (makhana), traditionally considered a very healthy snack in India. These are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, phosphorus, iron, fiber, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Interestingly, they are now available in various flavours such as roasted ghee, peri peri, mint, cheese and tomato. Some of the fastest selling are the sweet caramel and chocolate-coated fox nuts. One of the big-time players in the fox nut category is Bagrrys India Ltd. “We have been studying makhanas for many years for its nutritive benefits and started selling them from our QSR vertical – Bagrry’s Health Cafe. After seeing the initial response, we decided to launch this in retail,” says Aditya Bagri, Director, Bagrrys India Ltd.
The company has a strong pan-India presence, reaching out to 170 towns along with metro cities, and also supplies to neighbouring regions such as Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. “We are available through all retail channels, including e-commerce,” Bagri says. Another company that has a major stake in the fox nut business is Neha Makhana Enterprises. Sharing similar sentiments as those expressed by Bagri, its owner Umesh Kumar adds, “The modern Indian consumer does not want to compromise on nutrition and will therefore willingly pay a little extra for quality. This has changed the market dynamics. There is more focus on clean packaging and natural and organic foods. It’s a lifestyle choice.” The brand has a strong presence in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh is now scaling up to have a pan-Indian presence.
Millet – The New Delicacy
With the changing mindset about healthy snacking, the millet industry has undergone a transformation. Millet is now consumed in the form of cookies, noodles and chips and finds favour right from birthday parties to boardroom meetings to munching during leisure hours. Requiring no pesticides or unnatural processes to grow, it is available in 150 gram packs in various flavours and with a mix of almonds or ginger for Rs 90. There are health bars available too at Rs 40 each while millet sticks with banana and ajwain variants cost Rs 35 for 50 grams. In this segment, Moon Foods with its brand ‘e-Millet’ is well-known. Says Dr. P Sathiya Moorthi, Director, Moon Foods, “We started millet snacks in 2010 through small retailers and never engaged any market agencies for brand promotion. Today, we are posting a turnover of more than Rs 3 crore for our millet snacks – such has been the growing demand.”
The company produces 45 tons of millet cookies per month. In 2013 it flagged off a second venture, Dr. Yes Aar Team, for production of healthy millet snacks. “We have a good presence in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andaman Islands and also Malaysia,” Moorthi says. Another leading player is Orgtree known for its brand ‘Kiru’. Managed by the Basavanna brothers, Mahesh and Chandrashekhar, from Mandya district, Karnataka, the company started with millet snacks in 2014. They offer variants in cookies and snacks with the belief that millets are going be the next “smart food” for the health conscious. Currently OrgTree has an online presence and delivers to all metropolitan and Tier II cities across the country.
Flax Seeds – Nutritional Fun
With Indian consumers displaying a remarkable shift from traditional foods to global food flavours, the evolution has resulted in a large base of consumers moving toward sophisticated palates with higher nutritional value, and never mind the premium at which such products are sold. One of these is flax seeds, available in a wide range starting from natural sunflower seeds to roasted pumpkin seeds. Flax seeds are now consumed along with breakfast and also are quite in favour at tea time. “They are also distributed at birthday parties and most travellers consider them a must item in their baggage,” an industry spokesperson says. These seeds are available in 200 gram packs for Rs 150 and the roasted variants cost Rs 90 for a pack of 125 grams.
Taking note of this trend, Cornitos, the flagship brand of Greendot Health Foods (P) Ltd., has expanded its ‘Pop N Crunch’ range by introducing natural sunflower seeds and roasted pumpkin seeds in 200 gram packs. This variety of seeds is inspired by the demands of the new-age consumers who believe in healthy snacking. The company’s natural sunflower seeds are ‘guilt-free’ munchies rich in vitamins and Omega-3, perfect for healthy snacking. Its salted roasted pumpkin seeds are enriched with zinc and magnesium to provide energy without compromising on health. “Increasing interest in healthier snacking options is a key factor and we see consumers seeking out products with better-for-you, non-genetically modified organism (GMO) and organic claims. Consumers are looking for upscale products that are considered healthy and are deemed more authentic. They are now aware that seeds are extremely nutritious and a great source of fiber,” informs Anuj Arora, Manager-Marketing and Strategy Analysis, Cornitos.
“When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure,” Arora adds. The company’s natural sunflower seeds and roasted pumpkin seeds are sold through all channels – retail, e-retail and modern trade stores – and made available in an easy-to-open and re-sealable stand-up packs of 200 grams. Another player in this category, Kunal Kumar, owner of Aarti Snacks, informs that flax seed snacks are fast-moving products which have great demand across various regions, especially in the metropolitan cities and South India. Flax seed snacks are also a favourite during travel and parties.
Quinoa – The Exotic Entrant
Another healthy and most versatile ingredient that is used to make interesting dishes is quinoa. It is considered the most power-packed ingredient with nutrients that will make you want to necessarily include it in your diet. According to a recent report, snack makers have been sourcing quinoa from India where the exotica strain is sweeter, high in protein and sells at a stable, lower price. The production can be seen mostly in the southern part of India. These are available at all leading retail outlets and a 70 gram pack is priced at Rs 60. The nutritional benefit in 28 grams of quinoa comprises 2 gram protein, 3 gram dietary fiber and 143 calories. The demand is huge and the marketers sell at a stable, low price.
Taking into account the nutritional value of quinoa, Cornitos has launched ‘Quinoa Nachos’, an innovative product made by blending quinoa, raw chia, flax seeds and corn dough. The combination gives the product a unique flavour, texture and crispiness. Sprinkled with Himalayan pink salt, the nachos are high in fiber and proteins besides being gluten-free. They are made using a Mexican lime treatment process of making traditional corn dough using stone-ground non-GMO corn. The crisps are wedge-shaped, extra-thin and cooked in healthy corn oil. Available at all leading retail outlets across India in 70 gram packs priced at Rs 60, the product contains 60% corn and 10% quinoa.
“Quinoa nachos made by using nutritious super grains blended with corn provide a deliciously healthy snacking option for nacho lovers,” says Anuj Arora, Manager-Marketing and Strategy Analysis, Cornitos. Adding to this, Sandeep Singh, Store Manager, Needs 24x7, says, “The stock of healthy snacking section is now given maximum priority. Children and women are the biggest buyers of healthy snacks and quinoa chips have also become a favourite with senior citizens. On an average, the healthy chips account for 10% of our sales.” Apart from the industry representatives, what do the health management experts have to say? Nutrition adviser Dr Nabeela Khan finds this inclination toward healthy snacking, and especially quinoa, quite a positive trend. “Much better than eating junk food,” she says. The bottom line is this: Eat healthy, stay fit!