The biggest challenge that the food industry faces is infrastructure
Working couple Reaz Khondaker and Sumaya Jaman have to leave for office a bit early in the morning to avoid being stranded in traffic jam, and returning home in the evening, tired and exhausted, they ready themselves for the next day's office.
So, when it comes to taking foods, they cannot but think of short-cuts such as having snacks and ready-to-cook foods, which spare them some time to relax.
Like them, a growing number of working couple or working mothers have now grown dependent on frozen foods or ready-to-cook food also to entertain a guest who turns up all on a sudden or to use them as tiffin for schoolgoing kids.
With this change in life style and food habits, frozen food products or ready to cook are getting popular among service holders, well-off section of society and the young generation.
As per estimation of sector people, the market of ready-to-cook snacks or frozen foods stood at Tk265 crore in 2018, which is expected to grow to Tk380 crore, with an annual growth by 20%.
As of now there about 15 local companies and three to five foreign companies producing ready-to-cook foods and snacks in the country.
Who are the consumers
Working mothers, time-pressed home makers, young corporate people are among the main consumers who have got used to ready-to-cook foods.
“I am used to having frozen foods like paratha, rooti, samucha, chicken and others as they are fast and convenient to cook,” school teacher Humayra Hanif says.
It is quite difficult to manage time, so ready to cook foods can be a solution for the working mothers, she adds.
“As a service holder, both of us have hardly any time to do other things beyond our official activities. So, for breakfast and sometimes for snacks we often opt for frozen items,” Reaz Khondaker, a corporate executive, says.
Besides, he mentions, these foods are available almost everywhere — from super shops to general store, which has increased their popularity.
Push factors for the growing demands
“Family life has gone through changes with advent of nuclear family concept. With the rise in women education, there is a significant increase in women employment in the country,” Tanvir Haider Chaudhury, chief executive officer of Kazi Food Industries, has told Dhaka Tribune.
In addition, people are increasingly becoming getting used to multi-tasking while the number of working-couple is growing fast, Tanvir says, adding that these foods spare them the troubles of cooking or making foods.
This change in life style is creating a big market space for the ready-to-cook food items, he mentions.
Besides, with economic development, people's income and purchase power have increased, which is another driver of the emerging sector.
“In recent years, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in infrastructural development, financial growth and global lifestyle exposure, which the city people are experiencing the most,” Rajeeb Samdani, chairman of Golden Harvest Group, has told Dhaka Tribune.
This has heightened individuals expectations and hence everyone wants to ride on this journey of progression- ready solution is among one of many changes that's coming the consumers way, says Rajeeb.
Frozen food is a ready solution for quality conscious urban middle class consumers seeking solution to morning tiffins, afternoon snacks or guest entertainments which need to be easy and hygienically prepared, he thinks.
Challenges for the sector
To ensure uninterrupted supply, there has to be infrastructure and it is a big challenge for the sector.
“The biggest challenge that the industry faces is infrastructure. Cold chain management is the heart of frozen food business and this requires technical know-how, industry-related expertise and huge investment," Rajeeb continues.
Business expansion is often constrained despite huge demands in market, he mentions, informing that Golden Harvest is already on its way to set up the largest cold chain infrastructure in the country.
This will not only remove the biggest obstacle but also help the entire industry as a whole, he states.
In earning public trust and retaining the consumers, the manufacturers have to ensure quality and hygiene.
"As leader in the business segment, Kazi Farms does not use meat bone meal. It uses vegetables and grains as feed. On the other hand, the company also does not use antibiotics, which is harmful for human health,” says Tanvir.
"As a result, there is no presence of antibiotic residue in our foods. We do not also use testing salt and harmful preservative," he assures.
More space to grow in local and foreign markets
"Frozen food industry has significant growth per annum, about 20%. It has grown in last 10 years and is expected to grow in coming years. Urban population is increasing while middle class people have growing income trend," says Rajeeb.
“Frozen food industry has a long way to go,” he states.
There is also more scope for exports as the makers have capacity.
“Beyond the domestic market, we are focusing on export markets as there is a huge export potential for frozen food items in global markets,” Pran-RFL Group Marketing Director Kamruzzaman Kamal has told Dhaka Tribune.
The market is predominantly meat (chicken)-based, with very little fish- and vegetable-based products. The ready-to-cook local snacks market consists of veg and non-veg products, with some key categories such as morning snacks paratha, atta rooti and rice rooti.
Local snacks also include singara, samosa, dal puri, aloo puri, nuggets, sausage, spring roll, French fries, meat ball, wings and drumlets, chicken drumsticks, chicken strips, hot wings etc.
Kazi Farms Kitchen 10 pcs Plain Paratha pack is priced Tk140, chicken nuggets original 250gm Tk160, chicken sausage plain Tk340, chicken meatball 250gm Tk165, chicken samosa 500gm Tk280, vegetable roll and chicken roll packs Tk120 and Tk160 respectively, chicken strips 250gm Tk210 and dall/aloo puri is price Tk100.
Golden Harvest Frozen Paratha Family Pac 20 pcs is priced Tk250, chicken nuggets 300gm price Tk180, chicken meatball 400gm Tk245, chicken sausage 340gm Tk225, chicken samosa 250gm Tk155, chicken strips 300gm Tk250, and dall/aloo puri is priced Tk100.
Brac 20 pcs Paratha pack is priced Tk250, chicken nuggets 250gm Tk165, chicken meatball 200gm Tk150, chicken sausage 300gm Tk200, chicken samosa 250gm Tk145, chicken strips 250gm Tk210, and dall/aloo puri is priced Tk100.