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Embarking on a path to effect positive global change and envisioning a brighter future by 2030, the HoReCa session in India Food Forum gathered leaders from the food industry with the aim of raising consumer awareness regarding food choices, habits, and the demand for traceability when making purchasing decisions.

The panelists emphasized on the pivotal role of innovation and technology as catalysts for delivering products and solutions. These solutions aim to address health and nutrition concerns while ensuring affordability and accessibility across diverse markets and segments. Importantly, the leaders emphasized the commitment to environmental stewardship in tandem with their endeavors.

PB Chinnappa, MD, Griffith Foods, welcomed panelists for a discussion on health, nutrition, and sustainability in the food industry, highlighting the food industry’s substantial 40% contribution to greenhouse gas emissions due to climate change. He then addressed population growth, projecting 10 billion people by 2050, requiring a doubling of food production and impacting vulnerable regions.

Chinnappa characterized this scenario as a ticking time bomb, predicting declining yields, reduced arable land, and diminished nutrition in developing countries. ‘‘By the time we go from now to 2050, we are going to have 10 billion people on this planet, which means that between now and 2050 we are going to add another 2 billion people. To feed 10 billion people, we need to double our food production. Setting this in context, to double food production, we need an arable landmass that is twice the size of India. And most of this population growth is going to come from countries which are most vulnerable to climate change.”

The discussion shifted to organizational responsibility with Chinnappa directing a question to Ajay TG, General Manager, Westfalia Fruit India about their efforts to enhance farmers’ livelihoods and provide an additional income source. Ajay discussed challenges posed by climate change, especially El Nino impacting global avocado production. Emphasizing the need for adaptive strategies, he shared Westfalia Fruit’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint. Shifting from air to sea shipments, the company significantly lowered global carbon emissions. Future plans include 50% local avocado production in India by 2030, aligning with sustainability goals.

Ajay highlighted initiatives in eco-sensitive areas like Coorg, Ooty, and Munnar, implementing drip irrigation to minimize water consumption and resource use in avocado production. “Most of these tea and coffee growing areas have never been irrigated before. So, for the first time in a lot of these places, we have started putting in drip irrigation, controlling the amount of water that we use. That is something that we are driving regularly to make sure that our overall consumption of water and other resources are minimized for the production of avocados.”

Moderator Chinnappa’s directed the next question to Ashu Phakey, VP & BD, Frozen & Fresh Foods, ITC, regarding his company’s initiatives in enhancing the overall quality of life for farmers and farm produce. Ashu highlighted ITC’s 20-year track record of being carbon, water, and waste management positive, showcasing the company’s early commitment to sustainability. He emphasized ITC’s global impact, with eight Indian hotels leading in carbon emission reduction. Shifting to ITC’s food sector, Ashu addressed agricultural wastage, proposing frozen options in the HoReCa sector as a solution to reduce food wastage, thereby enhancing overall efficiency.

His suggestion emphasized the potential for the frozen food sector to contribute significantly to sustainable practices. Ashu suggested, “If Frozen Food builds its way into menus, into customer and restaurants, there’s a huge opportunity to cut wastage, which will really add to improving efficiencies.”

The moderator then asked Tarun Goyal, Business Head, Celcius Logistics Solutions, about the role of cold chain in preserving food and ensuring its availability in areas where it is needed. Tarun emphasized the crucial role of cold chain companies like Celcius in maintaining the integrity of food distribution. He highlighted their integral function in ensuring temperature control and timely movement within the interconnected system of the food industry.

“When you talk about Celcius or any other cold chain company, that ecosystem rides on us. We are the link between a farmer, a manufacturer, a retailer, a distributor, and the final consumer.” Using the example of Domino’s, he illustrated the fundamental contribution of cold chain logistics, acting as the thread binding various components and contributing to memorable consumer experiences.

Moderator Chinnappa then asked Col. Dina Nath Singh (Retd), VP – Business Development, Biggies Burger, about customers’ nutrition expectations at his outlets and the organization’s initiatives to prioritize and enhance nutritional aspects. Col. Dina Nath highlighted Biggies Burger’s enduring focus on health, nutrition, and trust, leading to the operation of 150 well-placed QSR outlets across India.

He noted a significant shift in the last decade towards offering grilled burgers and high-quality nonvegetarian options, emphasizing rigorous testing and maintaining nutritional value.“Biggies Burger now focuses on offering grilled burgers and high-quality non-vegetarian options, ensuring rigorous testing and maintaining nutritional value from preparation to delivery.” He emphasized that despite effective management systems and strategies, success in the QSR industry hinges on the quality of food. “A notable product introduced by Biggies Burger is the Beamer, a baked burger patty, which has become a best-seller, underscoring the success of our emphasis on food quality.”

Prashant Issar, a multi-brand owner, and Director, Bellona Hospitality Services Limited & Stratix Hospitality, emphasized the triple bottom line (profit, people, planet) in postpandemic business. He highlighted sustainability efforts in operations, portion sizing, oil usage, water conservation, and eco-friendly packaging. Speaking of his commitment to sustainability practices, he said it extends to fresh produce, madeto-order practices, and innovative approaches like a hydroponics garden. Pointing to how businesses can contribute in their unique ways toward eco-conscious practices, he said: “We need not just do the clichéd activities for sustenance. We can do our bit in our own way by generating consciousness amongst our employees and amongst our customers.”

Moderator Chinnappa directed the discussion to Mahesh Kanchan, CEO, Del Monte Foods India, urging him to share initiatives related to the welfare of farmers with whom the company collaborates. Mahesh emphasized Del Monte’s balanced business model, focusing on both retail and HoReCa operations.

He highlighted the company’s commitment to delivering high-quality produce “from farm to fork” and urged businesses to prioritize purpose alongside profits. Del Monte’s

dedication to health and wellness was emphasized, with measures such as excluding hydrogenated fats and palm oil from their factories. “At Del Monte, we clearly believe that we don’t let any hydrogenated fats, palm oil enter the factory. That’s something we are very clear about.”

The moderator turned to Avinash Tripathi, VP & Concept Head, Freshpik, Fresh Signature – Reliance Retail, seeking insights on Reliance’s strategic approach to fresh produce and retail. The discussion aimed to reveal how Reliance addresses challenges and maintains quality in the fresh and retail sector. Avinash discussed Reliance Retail’s response to health and sustainability trends. He highlighted the surge in demand for plant-based foods, the mainstreaming of organic products, and the use of technology like QR codes for transparent product sourcing.

“Organic has become mainstream in our store sales. We’ve forged partnerships with vendors across various categories, from groceries to fruits and vegetables, enhancing our organic product range to support sustainability practices. We leverage modern technology, such as QR codes, to provide customers with information about the origin of the products. Additionally, we collaborate with local farmers and showcase their produce, emphasizing the benefits of locally sourced items, a concept well-received by our more discerning clientele.”

He highlighted a noteworthy initiative taken by Reliance Retail, which is the establishment of a “zero-waste organic store” in collaboration with a partner. The concept focuses on recycling, reducing, and reusing, garnering a positive response from customers. Avinash emphasized adapting to evolving customer preferences, incorporating vegan and ketofriendly options, and adopting electronic shelf labels for sustainability, reflecting their dedication to enhancing the shopping experience through health-conscious and sustainable practices.

Moderator Chinnappa directed the discussion toward alternative proteins, focusing on plant-based options due to India’s protein deficit. He asked Pradeep Rao, Co-Founder & CEO, Evolved Foods, about strategies for making plant-based proteins practical and affordable, particularly in addressing nutritional challenges for rural Indian children. The goal was to explore practical solutions to enhance accessibility and benefits of plant proteins in addressing nutritional needs in rural India.

He underscored the environmental benefits of plantbased alternatives, citing the inefficiency of animal protein production. Drawing attention to the inefficiency of animal protein production, he explained, “Chicken consumes about 9 grams of protein in nature to deliver 1g of protein at the plate. Our plant-based alternative provides a solution to reduce environmental impact without compromising on the culinary experience.” Concluding his address, Pradeep posited that a shift towards credible vegetarian alternatives could positively impact both health and the environment, ushering in a new standard in the food industry.

Summarizing the discussion, the expertly moderated panel discussion highlighted key concerns in health, nutrition, and sustainability within the food industry. Industry leaders stressed the urgency of addressing climate change’s impact on food production and the need for adaptive strategies. Companies like Westfalia Fruit, ITC, and Reliance Retail showcased diverse initiatives, emphasizing sustainability and farmer welfare. Discussions also covered the role of cold chain logistics, quality in Quick Service Restaurants, and alternative proteins, providing a comprehensive exploration of challenges and solutions in the evolving food industry landscape.

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