Discussing India’s nutrition transition with Rinka Banerjee

Rinka Banerjee, founder of Thinking Forks Consulting, which is co-organising the India Food and Nutrition Innovation Summit 2021 (IFNIS 2021) in association with FICCI, discusses the innovation potential in food and nutrition, packaging, food summit and more in India with Aultrin Vijay

01 Oct 2021 | By Aultrin Vijay

We are excited to attend the IFNIS 2021 summit. Please tell us about Thinking Forks and what it does in the food segment in India.
Thinking Forks is an end-to-end R&D consulting firm specialising in providing solutions to the food, beverage and nutrition industry. Thinking Forks was established in 2014 with a vision to bring food and nutrition ideas to life. We navigate our clients through the R&D journey from the inception of a product idea at a laboratory scale, all the way through establishing feasibility, commercialising and bringing the product to the marketplace. We provide services in the areas of product and packaging development, manufacturing technology, nutrition and health, and regulatory. Over the last seven years we have enabled more than 40 companies to launch over 100 products in the marketplace.

What was the thought process behind organising IFNIS 2021 in association with FICCI?
India is going through a rapid nutrition transition. We have the double burden of under- and over-nutrition due to rapid urbanisation, changing lifestyles and dietary habits. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated some of this transition even further. Due to these rapidly changing consumer needs, the food and nutrition industry is at an inflection point of seeing very significant growth. We see an ecosystem that is well placed in India from academia to food and nutraceutical ingredient companies, process and packaging technology providers to bring in disruptive innovations, which we are seeing from start-ups as well as established organisations backed by strong science, traditional knowledge. We would like to bring this ecosystem on one platform and showcase the strong innovation potential in food and nutrition in India.

What positive outcome do you expect from IFNIS 2021?
The showcase of innovative ingredients, products, technologies from industry partners and academia will lead to innovation acceleration in the industry by end users such as large organisations as well as MSMEs, and bring to not only India, but also the world a plethora of healthier food choices that consumers can make.

What disruptions did the industry witness during the pandemic period? Was it for the good or the other way around?
We saw a lot of new products with benefits around immunity, protein, natural wellness, ready-to-cook solutions, and plant meat. I think the rate of innovation we are seeing in food and beverage has never been as rapid as it is today. Brands are looking more at selling products direct to consumers (D2C). These are all very positive ways forward for the industry.

I think the rate of innovation we are seeing in food and beverage has never been as rapid as it is today
Rinka Banerjee, founder, Thinking Forks Consulting

Do you think new age ingredients and technology can be game changers in the food and nutrition space?
Absolutely. We are seeing new technologies in the area of flavour modification to boost sweetness, saltiness thereby reducing the quantity of sugar and salt in food. Usage of sustainable and healthy grains such as millets is on a significant rise. Very interesting ingredients and process technologies on the use of alternate proteins. Natural, clean label preservation is another area where we are seeing new ingredient and process technologies.

What is the role of packaging in this industry?
Packaging, of course, has one of the biggest interplays with the food in it.  First and foremost, the most important functional role of providing safety, shelf life, and user experience of the food product.

What do you think about innovative packaging in the food industry? Do you think innovative packaging can be a game changer in the food and nutrition space? How?
We are seeing today packaging playing a role even in delivering nutritional ingredients and active packaging solutions for improving the shelf life of products. Considering many of the new age brands are delivering products D2C is leading to solutions that are not necessarily shelf ready packaging but more focussed on user experience.

What would likely be the key takeaways from IFNIS 2021? What can we expect from this summit?
You will hear industry thought leaders, shapers and disruptors speak on some of the emerging consumer trends and market needs. You will see a very strong showcase of the latest innovations in food ingredients, new age products, packaging and process technologies by companies from India and abroad. You will see a brilliant display of the latest scientific advances in technologies, which are ready for commercialisation from our premium academic institutes in food and nutrition.

What is your outlook for the food industry? What significant changes/innovation do you expect to happen in the next couple of years?
The food industry in India is poised for accelerated growth across most sectors. The key pillars of innovation that are likely to drive growth are health and wellness, clean label and sustainable solutions, convenience and indulgence foods with natural and healthier choices. Young millennials and nuclear families are likely to be the biggest consumer drivers of innovation in the food industry.

Latest trends in food industry

  • Convenience
  • Health and wellness
  • Natural, clean label foods
  • Healthier indulgence
  •  Sustainability (such as using millets, waste utilisation, sustainable Packaging)
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