The one thing that no one can live without is food. It is a commodity that has never been optional and is a basic necessity for all. Our eating habits and food patterns, however, have been largely industrialised and mass produced in the last century. With the fast paced lives that have become normativised, eating healthy has downgraded from being a rudimentary requirement to being a rare luxury no one has time to indulge in.
The need to eat healthy, and the subsequent demand for organic food the world over, started with the increasing number of health issues that emerged. These problems were traced back to reports of pesticide residue found in fruits and vegetables. However, the popularity of organic foods has now extended to include food grains, pulses, teas, spices and even oilseeds.
With their advent in the market, organic foods have gained popularity because the consumers have not only become aware of the disadvantages of eating mass produced food, they have also been enlightened about the benefits of eating healthy. Organically grown products contain no chemical pesticides or fertilisers and are grown naturally with manure or compost. Even the pesticides and insecticides used are completely natural.
For a country like India that has been accustomed to a diet that is packed with flavour and doused in vats of oil and ghee, the inclination towards eating healthy and organic has been rather gradual. The root of this problem can be traced back to the idea that eating healthy meant giving up on everything that tastes good, and sticking to a strict diet of bland salads and vegetables.
This being said, the perception towards healthy and organic eating has evolved over the past few years. People have become increasingly aware of what organic eating truly entails, along with the myriads of benefits associated with it. The multitude of health problems being faced by our country has also proactively led to people opting to eat healthy and organic. Eating healthy is no longer just an isolated outlook—it means engaging in a lifestyle that is littered with choices that you make every day, that take you further along the health agenda.
Apart from the obvious benefits of the ideas that sparked the health revolution, the surge in the growth prospects of the health and organic food industry can be attributed to a number of other reasons. Exposure to a whole new array of products is among the foremost reasons for the same. Over the past decade, the term “superfood” has gained not just momentum, but a lot of relevance, and people have become more willing to try out food that isn’t part of the quintessential Indian diet. Brands are now introducing organic versions of daily use beverages like tea, herbs, juices etc. for the health-conscious consumer.
Another reason behind this surge is the growth of e-commerce platforms. People prefer a hassle-free process when buying things, and e-commerce sites serve this need impeccably. Due to this convenient setup, organic brands have found the ideal platform to retail their products.
A few other factors that have contributed to the growth of this industry, include the emphasis on the exporting of organic products from India. The demand for Indian organic food products is on a constant rise worldwide, with India’s export rank second only to China. This, paired with the support received from the government, has led to this impressive boom.
However, the main reason for this growth has to be undeniably attributed to the new and evolved customer that is aware of the different organic products out there in the market and the various benefits of eating organic food. In an era where information is a click away, people are more informed in terms of global trends and general knowledge. Thus millennials prefer to eat healthy and have realised this does not necessarily mean that the food not be flavoursome.
Despite the subsequent increase in demand, organic farming is yet to taste success in India. Most organic farmers are still struggling due to poor policy measures and rising input costs. Home to 30% in the world, India accounts for approximately 3% of the total organic cultivation area, according to the WHO. And with the sudden shift from conventional to organic farming, farmers also experience a sudden dip in productivity as their fields are faced with pest attacks. This makes for a more expensive venture given that it means higher labour costs, lower production and subsequent higher prices for the final products in the market. Fraught with hurdles, the government needs to have contingencies in place to aid the transition to organic farming, given how this sector is set to become part of the mainstream, in the long run.
While production is being dealt with, the plethora of brands that have emerged in the market have only supplemented the increasing range of products that are now available to the consumer. Despite being a slightly inconvenient lifestyle choice that is not as accessible and costs a little more, organic food is moving away from being a segregated niche market. With its growing popularity, it is a lifestyle that is set to join the mainstream. This demand is sure to bring down premium pricing inevitably, making it further available to the masses.
The author is managing director, Nourish Organics