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Food Processing Strategies for Quality

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Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food or to transform food into other forms for consumption by humans or animals either in the home or by the food processing industry. Food processing typically takes clean, harvested crops or butchered animal products and uses these to produce attractive, marketable and often long shelf-life food products. Similar processes are used to produce animal feed.

Food processing encompasses all the steps that food goes through from the time it is harvested to the time it arrives on consumer's plate. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), processed foods can be classified into three types (1) Primary (2) Secondary and (3) Tertiary. The primary processing includes basic cleaning, grading and packaging as in case of fruits and vegetables. Secondary processing includes alteration of the basic product to a stage just before the final preparation as in case of milling of paddy to rice. Tertiary processing leads to a high value-added ready-to eat food like bakery products, instant foods, health drinks, etc.

Traditional food processing had two functions: to make food more digestible and to preserve food during times of scarcity. Most crops are seasonal. There are times of the year when either glut can result in high levels of wastage or shortages can arise if adequate measures are not taken to preserve and store the foods. This is particularly important in areas that have a dry season or winter period when crops cannot be grown and animals are slaughtered because of a lack of fodder. In these situations stored dry grains or root crops provide energy; dried, salted or smoked meats, or cheeses provide a source of protein, vitamins and minerals; and processed fruits and vegetables such as pickles, chutneys or dried fruits or leaves provide vitamins and minerals. A few crops, including cassava and some types of beans also contain poisons or anti-nutritional components, which must be removed by processing to make the food safe to eat. Hence, Food processing enables to maintain the health of the human beings throughout the year by increasing its food security.

By processing food, it can be customized to suit the nutritional requirements of groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants, young children and athletes. Such foods are characterized by a balanced composition of energy suppliers in the form of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and by a cocktail of vitamins and minerals composed according to the current state of scientific knowledge. Food processing is a route to creating sustainable livelihoods and economic development for rural communities.

Sophisticated technologies define modern food production. They include many areas. Agricultural machinery, led by the tractor, has reduced the human labor in many areas of production. Biotechnology is driving much change, in areas as diverse as agrochemicals, plant breeding and food processing. Many other areas of technology are also involved, to the point where it is hard to find an area that does not have a direct impact on the food industry. Computer technology is also a central force, with computer networks and specialized software providing the support infrastructure to allow global movement of the myriad components involved.

Modern food processing has three major aims:

  1. To make food safe (microbiologically, chemically)
  2. To provide products of the highest quality (flavour, colour, texture)
  3. To make food into forms that is convenient (ease of use)

The following table summarizes the item to be controlled in food processing and comments on the major approaches involved in this control.

To be Controlled




Active water



Prevents growth

Reduces growth rate

Preservatives retard growth

Do not grow below Aw of 0.6

Reduces numbers


Destroyed by heat activity

Decrease reaction rate

Modify activity

Alters rate of enzyme activity

increase ES complex formation

Chemical Reactions

Increases chemical rate, browning, oxidation

Reduces reaction rate

May inhibit or activate

Can alter rate of reaction, like oxidation

Not applicable

Physical Structure

Increases effects

Decreases effects

May modify structure

High. Aw may cause caking

Can destroy structures

The significant benefits for different stakeholders involved in food processing are:

  • Farmer - higher yield, better farm realization, lower risk
  • Consumer - greater variety, lower prices, new products
  • Companies - new business opportunities, demand growth
  • Economy/Government - Employment generation, reduced rural migration

The emerging opportunities in food processing are interesting and challenging as well.


Once food is harvested, it begins to deteriorate immediately due to the following factors:

  • micro-organisms (yeast, mould, bacteria);
  • intrinsic enzymes;
  • temperature;
  • moisture; and
  • Insects and vermin

Because of the risk of spoilage, much of our food is processed in some way to increase its availability. A food is considered preserved once it is stabilized with respect to safety and quality.

Nearly every food preparation process reduces the amount of nutrients in food. In particular, processes that expose foods to high levels of heat, light, and/or oxygen cause the greatest nutrient loss. Nutrients can also be "washed out" of foods by fluids that are introduced during a cooking process. For example, boiling a potato can cause much of the potato's B and C vitamins to migrate to the boiling water. We can still benefit from these nutrients if we consume the liquid (i.e. if the potato and water are being turned into potato soup), but not if we throw away the liquid. Similar losses also occur when we broil, roast, or fry in oil, and then drain off the drippings.

It's important to note that no type of food processing can transform poor quality raw materials into good ones. It can only increase the product's shelf life. To ensure that product meets high standards:

  • use the highest quality raw ingredients;
  • establish good processing techniques-and follow them; and
  • Maintain an appropriate product environment after processing.
  • Not all processing methods are applied to foods to achieve preservation. Some are also used to change or stabilize food texturally.

Microorganisms require water, nutrient, oxygen and a suitable temperature for optimal growth and reproduction.

Microorganism can only survive in condition with optimum pH and solute concentration as these will not destroy them. Food can be preserved by destroying the microorganism present in the food or by stopping the activities of these microorganisms


Methods of processing food can be divided into two main categories-chemical and physical.

Chemical Processing Methods

The following techniques use the chemical approach in processing food.

Intermediate Moisture Foods (IMF)

Binding the water that is present preserves intermediate moisture foods-for example, cookies, cake and bread. This reduces the availability of the water for deteriorative reactions.

Water is immobilized by adding permissible humectant additives such as glycerol, glycols, sorbitol, sugars and salts.

Generally, IMFs possess water activities that range from 0.6 to 0.85. This enables the food to be stable at room temperature, because the growth of most micro-organisms is inhibited at these levels.

Water Activity (aw)

Water is the most important factor in controlling the rate of deterioration of a food. However, knowledge of the moisture content of a food is not sufficient to predict its stability. It is the availability of water for microbial, enzymatic, or chemical activity that determines the shelf life of foods. This water availability is measured as water activity (aw).

Water activity is measured on a scale of 0 to 1, where 0 indicates no water and 1 indicates all water. Food spoilage micro-organisms, in general, are inhibited in food where the water activity is below 0.6. However, if the pH of the food is less than 4.6, micro-organisms are inhibited when the water activity is below 0.85.

Addition of Chemicals

The addition of some chemicals inhibits microbial growth in foods. These chemicals include not only those classified as preservatives. Salt, sugars, wood smoke and some spices also inhibit the growth of micro-organisms.

PH Control

Almost every food, with the exception of egg whites and soda crackers, has a pH value of less than 7. Foods can be broadly categorized on the basis of their pH as high acid, acid, medium acid or low acid. Examples of each category include:

  • high acid (3.7) : apples, lemons, raspberries
  • acid (3.7 to 4.6) : oranges, olives, tomatoes (some)
  • medium acid (4.6 to 5.3) : bread, cheese, carrots
  • low acid (over 5.3) : meat, fish, most vegetables

Most micro-organisms grow best in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. Yeasts and moulds are capable of growing over a much broader pH range than bacteria. Few pathogens will grow below pH 4.0. This information is important, because it will help us in determining food stability with respect to microbial spoilage.

Physical Processing Methods

A number of physical methods are available to you for processing foods.

Sterilization (Retorting)

A pathogen is any microorganism that causes illness. Food pathogens cause food-borne illnesses such as food poisoning or food intoxication.

Sterilization destroys all pathogenic and spoilage micro-organisms in foods and inactivates enzymes by heating. All canned foods are sterilized in a retort (a large pressure cooker). This process enables food to have a shelf life of more than two years.

Foods that have a pH of more than 4.6, such as meat and most vegetables must undergo severe heating conditions to destroy all pathogens. These foods are heated under pressure to 121°C for varying times.

Severe conditions are applied to ensure that Clostridium botulinum spores are destroyed during processing. These spores produce the deadly botulinum toxin under anaerobic conditions (that is, where there's no oxygen). The spores are destroyed by heat or are inhibited at pH values of less than 4.6. Therefore, a food with a pH of less than 4.6 that is packaged anaerobically, such as spaghetti sauce, doesn't need to undergo such a severe heat treatment.


Pasteurization is the process of heating a food-usually a liquid-to or below its boiling point for a defined period of time. The purpose is to destroy all pathogens, reduce the number of bacteria, inactivate enzymes and extend the shelf life of a food product.

Foods with a pH of less than 4.6, such as milk and spaghetti sauce, can be pasteurized.

Permanent stability-that is, shelf life of about two years-is obtained with foods that can withstand prolonged heating, such as bottled juices.

There is a greater loss of flavour from foods that are exposed to a longer time-temperature relationship. Therefore, temporary stability (that is, limited shelf life) is only obtained with some foods where prolonged heating would destroy its quality. These foods, such as milk, usually require subsequent refrigeration.

"High temperature short time" (HTST) and "ultra high temperature" (UHT) processes have been developed to retain a food's texture and flavour quality parameters.


Blanching is a slight heat treatment, using hot water or steam that is applied mostly to vegetables before canning or freezing.

Blanching is used before freezing to inactivate enzymes present that cause deteriorative reactions to foods during frozen storage. These reactions include colour and texture changes, off-flavours and a decrease in nutritional value.

Blanching is used before canning for different reasons, because enzymes will inevitably be destroyed during canning. Blanching induces a vacuum in canned goods, and it's also used to control the fill into containers (for example, spinach).


Microwave ovens are rarely used for processing large quantities of food. They are mainly of interest if you cater to the convenience food market.

Microwave ovens use electromagnetic radiation to excite water molecules in food. The actual waves penetrate only about 10 inches from the source of the radiation. Within the food, the waves only penetrate 3.4 to 1 inch on all sides. As a result, the actual ovens must be limited in size. Heat is produced within the food by the friction of water molecules, which spreads to the centre of the food by conduction.

Small portions are cooked rapidly in microwave ovens. As the quantity of food increases, however, the efficiency is lost.


Frying differs from other methods of heat processing in that the cooking medium is hot oil. Because of the big difference between the temperature of the oil and the food, as well as the small size of the food pieces, cooking is completed in a relatively short time-anywhere from 20 seconds to six minutes.

Fried foods are known for their characteristic crispy outer surface as well as their high fat content. The fat that is absorbed by the food product varies from 10 percent to 40 percent, depending on the time the food is immersed in the oil. Continuous fryers are often used in the food industry.


Refrigerators should be set to below 4°C to control the growth of micro-organisms in foods. This lowered temperature also reduces the respiration rate of fruits and vegetables, which retards reactions that promote spoilage.

Refrigeration is generally used to:

  • reduce spoilage during distribution of perishable foods;
  • increase the holding period between harvesting and processing
  • Extend the storage life of commercially processed foods.

Not all foods benefit from cold temperatures. For example, bananas turn black and bread goes stale when refrigerated.


While many home freezers are held at -10°C, commercial freezers are under -18°C. At this temperature, the growth of micro-organisms is almost stopped. Deteriorative microbial reactions will still occur, but over a much longer time.

In addition, deteriorative enzymatic reactions will still take place during frozen storage. Uncooked fruits and vegetables must be blanched before freezing to prevent these reactions.

During freezing, the water in food forms ice crystals. The rate of this phenomenon has a big impact on the quality of frozen foods:

Slow freezing (e.g. home freezer)

  • Large ice crystals formed, which puncture cell walls
  • Cellular fluid released
  • Results in shrunken appearance of thawed food

Rapid freezing (e.g. blast freezer)

  • small, numerous ice crystals formed
  • no change to cell structure

The shelf life of frozen foods is largely dependent on storage conditions. Under ideal conditions, frozen foods can have a shelf life of one year.

However, if foods are continuously exposed to warmer temperatures, such as the opening and closing of freezer doors, then heat shock occurs. Heat shock is when ice melts and re-forms into larger ice crystals. The best example is ice cream, which has a gritty texture if large ice crystals have developed.


Irradiation is the controversial process of applying low doses of gamma radiation to food products. Research have shown that the process exhibits no safety hazard. As a result, irradiation is permitted in some countries to:

  • Prevent sprouting in potatoes and onions
  • Control insect infestation of wheat flour; and
  • Reduce the microbial load of ground spices

If irradiation becomes more widespread among various other food products, it is expected to replace fumigation, ensure hygienic quality and reduce the dependence on refrigeration.

Batch vs. Continuous Processing

Food is processed in either discrete batches or a continuous system. Although there are advantages and disadvantages to each method, choice in the matter is restricted only to those replacing or setting up a new processing line. Generally, batch systems are used to produce small quantities of food, whereas larger volumes are required for continuous systems.

Advantages of Batch Processing

Advantages of Continuous Processing

  • Greater flexibility to change product
  • formulation and rates
  • Lower operation and labour costs
  • Lower equipment costs
  • Less floor space required
  • Easier operation and control
  • Greater product uniformity


Evaporation is the partial removal of water from liquid foods by boiling. When the operation is done under vacuum, boiling is avoided and the food's flavour qualities are retained.

Some of the foods that have undergone evaporation are evaporated milk, tomato paste and juice concentrates.

This process is carried out for three main reasons:

  1. To reduce the weight and, therefore, reduce storage and transport costs
  2. To preserve foods by decreasing the water activity and increasing the solids content
  3. To provide consumers with convenient foods


Dehydration-or drying-is the nearly complete removal of water from solid foods. One of the oldest methods of food preservation, it was traditionally carried out by the sun.

This application is used for the same reasons that liquid foods undergo evaporation-preservation, convenience and cost savings. Dried soup mixes, dried fruit, powdered milk and spices are just a few examples of dehydrated foods.

Spray drying and freeze drying are two drying methods used widely today. Spray drying is when a liquid food is atomized into a fine, dry powder. Examples include natural and artificial flavours and milk powders. Freeze drying involves first freezing the food and then driving off the ice, leaving a high quality, porous dried food such as instant coffee.


An emulsion is a system containing two liquid phases that don't mix, where one phase (dispersed phase) is distributed throughout the other phase (continuous phase) in the form of very small droplets. Generally there are two types of emulsions:

  1. oil in water (O/W)
  2. water in oil (W/O)

An example of an O/W emulsion is salad dressing, and an example of a W/O emulsion is butter.


Homogenization is used to stabilize an emulsion. More specifically, it is the reduction in size and the increase in number of droplets of the dispersed phase by the application of intense shearing forces.

Generally, homogenization is applied to change the functional properties or improve the texture of emulsions. For example, most fluid milk sold at the retail level is homogenized to improve its stability, and most caramel fillings are homogenized to increase their smoothness.


Extrusion is the process in which a food is compressed and worked to form a semi-solid mass. This mass is then forced through a restricted opening, or die, to create a desired texture or shape. The purpose of this application is simply to provide a greater variety of textured foods to consumers.

Food may also be cooked while extruded. This is referred to as extrusion cooking, or hot extrusion.

Some extruded food products are licorice, puffed wheat and cornflakes.

Hurdle or Combination Processing

Hurdle technology is a concept that was developed to address the consumer demand for more natural, fresh-like foods. It is a way for food processors to employ only mild preservation techniques to their food products.

The idea is to use deliberate low-level combinations of existing and novel preservation techniques ("hurdles") to eliminate the growth of micro-organisms. Lower-intensity individual methods can be used because of the collective effect of the combined methods. Some of the more common hurdles include:

  • pasteurization
  • water activity (aw)
  • salt
  • blanching
  • freezing; modified atmosphere packaging (MAP)
  • pH
  • preservatives
  • refrigeration
  • Irradiation

Some micro-organisms present will be able to survive the individual treatments applied. However, no microorganism will be able to overcome all of the combined hurdles. Thus the food is stable and safe.

The only way to ensure that the correct combination of hurdle technologies is used is to make sure that a qualified resource conducts quality and safety shelf-life studies. For a list of product development laboratories that can do these studies, see the Resources section of this guide.

Examples of hurdle processing can be found in traditional and recently developed foods, such as yogurt and pre-packaged fresh salads. The hurdles employed in yogurt manufacture include low temperatures, high acid and competitive microbial flora. Those used to prepare pre-packaged fresh salads include low temperatures and modified atmospheres.


The global processed food industry is estimated to be valued around EUR 2.5 trillion and accounts for three-fourth of the global food sales. The global food industry is ever changing and evolving. However, health, convenience and value continue to be the key value propositions in this industry.

Despite the large size of the industry, only 6 percent of processed foods are traded across borders compared to 16 percent of major bulk agricultural commodities. The United States and European Union together account for over 60 percent of total retail processed food sales in the world.

Trade liberalization policies through multi-lateral and regional trade agreements have led to a rapid growth in food processing. In the Asian region, Japan is the largest food processing market, but India and China are likely to grow at a faster rate in the next decade. The processed food industry is strong in Japan and South Korea, as they are the leading meat importing countries in the world and consumption of meat is high in these countries. The Australian processed food industry is one of the most technically advanced in the world and it produces products of international standards at comparatively lower prices for the world market. The U.S. continues to live up to its reputation as the "breadbasket to the world". Countries in the Sub-Sahara African region, Latin America and parts of Asia continue to be on the lower-end of technology prowess in food items and are inclined to their staple diets, whereas, those in Europe, North America, and Japan are on the higher-end of technology, with a sharper shift towards convenience and diet foods.

Apart from the current large size of the processed foods, the growth trends reported are very encouraging. According to a study done by AC Nielsen, "What's Hot around the globe in F&B in 2006", the growth in the global Food and Beverages (F&B) was estimated at 4 %. The most interesting aspect of the study is the growth in emerging markets like India, where the estimated growth is over 13% year over year. Further, the study reports that the world's major food processors are looking for low cost sourcing options with proven quality standards, strong backward and forward linkages to ensure uninterrupted, traceable and quality products to the discerning world customers.


The food processing industry is one of the largest industries in India and ranks fifth in size. The Indian food processing industry has an estimated size of $70 bn (Ministry of Food Processing, Government of India). The industry's contribution to the country's GDP in 2005 was about 7.3% and had a share of 7% in the total industrial production. It employs 1.6 million workers directly. India is endowed with the second largest arable land, second largest irrigated land under cultivation in the world and advantage of diverse agro-climatic zones across its geographical spread. The country's world ranking as a producer vis-à-vis other nations is indicated in table below.


India can become the leading food supplier to the world and at the same time it has vast growing domestic market with over a billion people and population growing at a rate of 1.6% per annum with food being the single largest component of private consumption expenditure accounting for 53% of the total expenditure. India's large market size, ravenous appetite for food with growing incomes and changing life styles create incredible market opportunities for food producers, Food processors, machinery makers, food technology and service providers

An overview of Indian Agriculture

Production side (Comparative advantages):

  • Second largest arable land in the world
  • Diverse agro-climatic zones across the country,
  • Round the year sunshine
  • Potential to cultivate a vast range of agricultural products
  • Large marketable surpluses and abundant raw material for processing
  • Vast pool of skilled manpower in research and extension

These advantages should be leveraged by India to be a leading food supplier to the world.

Domestic markets scenario (Infrastructure for marketing of perishables)

  • Primary grading/ collection centers - non existent
  • Warehousing and cold storage - inadequate
  • Cold chain - non existent
  • Quality certification system - non existent
  • Transportation for perishables - non existent
  • Rural markets - complete lack of infrastructure
  • Wholesale markets - in government control, lack modern facilities
  • Private / direct markets - not permitted

India offers very favourable factor conditions to enable the food processing sector to flourish because of the following factors-

  1. High availability of land - India ranks first in the world in irrigated land area and second in overall arable land area
  2. Ample availability of marine and fresh water fish- through the long coast line of over 7,000 kilometres, several large rivers and lakes
  3. Cattle population- India ranks first in availability of cattle
  4. Low cost of labour - production costs in India are estimated to be 40 per cent lower than in developed markets

These factors have not only helped the domestic market to grow, but have also boosted exports.

The food processing sector is highly fragmented industry, it widely comprises of the following sub-segments: fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products, beer and alcoholic beverages, meat and poultry, marine products, grain processing, packaged or convenience food and packaged drinks. A huge number of entrepreneurs in this industry are small in terms of their production and operations, and are largely concentrated in the unorganized segment. This segment accounts for more than 70% of the output in terms of volume and 50% in terms of value. Though the organized sector seems comparatively small, it is growing at a much faster pace.

Structure of the Indian Food Processing Industry

Food Processing Units in Organized Sector (numbers)

Source: Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Annual Report 2003-04

The industry is composed of six key segments-

  • Dairy Product- India is the largest producer of milk in the world. Milk and Milk products contribute to nearly 17 per cent of the total country's expenditure on food.
  • Fruits and vegetables- India is the second largest producer of fruits (50 million Tons) and vegetables (100 million Tons) in the world.
  • Meat and Poultry- Size of 4.3 million tonnes annually. Only 1 per cent of the meat production is converted into value added products.
  • Fisheries
  • Packaged Food
  • Beverages
  • Milk and Milk Products

India is with highest livestock populations in the world, it accounts 50% of the buffaloes and 20% of the world's cattle population, most of which are milch cows and milch buffaloes. India's dairy industry is considered as one of the most successful development industry in the post-Independence era.

In 2005-06 total milk productions in the country was over 90 million tonnes with a per capita availability of 229 gms per day. During 1993-2005, the dairy industry recorded an annual growth of 4%, which is almost 3 times the average growth rate of the dairy industry in the world. The total milk processing in India is around 35%, of which the organized dairy industry accounts for 13% while remaining is either consumed at farm level, or sold as fresh, non-pasteurized milk through unorganized channels. In 2009-10 milk production reached 110 million tonnes annual milk production.

In an organized dairy industry, dairy cooperatives account for the major share of processed liquid milk marketed in India. Milk is processed and marketed by 170 Milk Producers' Cooperative Unions, which federate into 15 State Cooperative Milk Marketing Federations. Over the years, several brands have been created by cooperatives like Amul (GCMMF), Vijaya (AP), Verka (Punjab), Saras (Rajasthan). Nandini (Karnataka), Milma(Kerala) and Gokul (Kolhapur).

The milk surplus states in India are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The manufacturing of milk products is very much concentrated in these states due to the availability of milk in huge quantity.

According to the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, exports of dairy products have been growing at the rate of 25% per annum in terms of quantity and 28% in terms of value since 2001. Significant investment opportunities exist for the manufacturing of value-added milk products like milk powder, packaged milk, butter, ghee, cheese and ready-to-drink milk products.

As the largest single dairy producing country in the world, India's output continues to grow strongly in the 3-4 percent range, largely in response to internal demand growth and sustained by increasing productivity. India will account for nearly half the 226 million ton total milk output of Asia.

Amul is set to become the largest liquid milk brand in the world after the consolidation of Gujarat's milk cooperatives, which envisages bringing all district milk brands under the Amul umbrella brand. Until now, Amul's marketer GCMMF claims, it is Asia's largest milk brand.

Fruits & Vegetables

The installed capacity of fruits and vegetables processing industry has doubled from 1.1 mn tonnes in January 1993 to 2.1 mn tonnes in 2006. The major processed items in this segment are fruit pulps and juices, fruit based ready-to-serve beverages, canned fruits and vegetables, jams, squashes, pickles, chutneys and dehydrated vegetables. The new arrivals in this segment are vegetable curries in retortable pouches, canned mushroom and mushroom products, dried fruits and vegetables and fruit juice concentrates.

The fruits and vegetable processing industry is rather fragmented. A large number of units are in household and small-scale sector, having low capacities of up to 250 tonnes per annum. From the year 2000 onwards the industry has seen a significant growth in ready-to-serve beverages, pulps and fruit juices, dehydrated and frozen fruits and vegetable products, pickles, processed mushrooms and curried vegetables, and units engaged in these segments are export oriented.

Exports of Processed Fruits & Vegetables (Quantity in MT, Value in Rs Mn)

Source: Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Annual Report 2005-06

Meat & Poultry

Since 1995, production of meat and its products has been significantly growing at a rate of 4% per annum. Presently the processing level of buffalo meat is estimated at 21%, poultry is estimated at 6% while marine products are estimated at 8%. But only about 1% of the total meat is converted into value added products like sausages, ham, bacon, kababs, meatballs, etc. Processing of meat is licensed under the Meat Food Products Order, 1973. Presently the country has 3,600 slaughterhouses, 9 modern abattoirs and 171 meat-processing units licensed under the meat products order.

Poultry industry is also among the faster growing sectors rising at a rate of 8% per year. It is observed that the vertical integration of poultry production and marketing has lowered costs of production, consumer prices of poultry meat and marketing margins. There are eight integrated poultry processing units in the country, which of course hold a significant share in the industry.

Meat export is largely driven by poultry, buffalo, sheep and goat meat, which is growing at close to 30% per annum in terms of quantity. It is considered that the growing number of fast food outlets in the country has and will have a notable impact on the meat processing industry.

Exports of Meat and Meat Products (Quantity in MT, Value in Rs Mn)

Source: Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Annual Report 2005-06

Marine Products

India is the largest fish producing country in the world it is the third largest marine fish producer in the world while ranks second in inland fish production. Categorically India's potential for fishes, from both inland and marine resources, is supplemented by the 8,000 km coastline, 3 mn hectares of reservoirs, 50,600 sq km of continental shelf area, 1.4 mn hectares of brackish water and 2.2 mn sq km of exclusive economic zone.

Processing of marine produce into canned and frozen forms is carried out fully for the export market. With regards to infrastructure facilities for processing of marine products there are 372 freezing units with a daily processing capacity of 10,320 tonnes and 504 frozen storage facilities for safe storage with a capacity of 138,229.10 tonnes, besides there are 11 surimi units, 473 pre-processing centres and 236 other storages.

Processed fish products for export include conventional block frozen products, individual quick frozen products (IQF), minced fish products like fish sausage, cakes, cutlets, pastes, surimi, texturised products and dry fish etc.

Exports of marine products have been inconsistent and on a declining trend which can be owed to the adverse market conditions prevailing in the European and American markets. The anti-dumping procedure initiated by the US Government has affected India's shrimp exports to the US.

Fish Production & Exports

Source: Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Annual Report 2005-06

Packaged / Convenience Foods

Consumer food industry mainly consists of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products, salted snacks, chips, pasta products, cocoa based products, bakery products, biscuits, soft drinks, etc.

There are around 60,000 bakeries, several pasta food units and 20,000 traditional food units and in India. The bakery industry is among the few processed food segments whose production has been increasing consistently in the country in the last few years. Products of bakery include bread, biscuits, pastries, cakes, buns, rusk etc. This activity is mostly concentrated in the unorganized sector. Bread and biscuits constitute the largest segment of consumer foods with an annual production of around 4.00 million tonnes. Bread manufacturing is reserved for the small-scale sector. Out of the total production of bread, 40% is produced in the organized sector and remaining 60% in the unorganised sector, in the production of biscuits the share of unorganized sector is about 80%.

Cocoa Products

Cocoa products like chocolates, drinking chocolate, cocoa butter substitutes, cocoa based malted milk foods are highly in demand these days, 20 production units are engaged in their manufacture with an annual production of about 34,000 tonnes.


The soft drink segment is considered to be the 3rd largest in the packaged foods industry. Over 100 plants are engaged in aerated soft drinks industry and provide huge employment. It has obviously attracted one of the highest FDI in the country. Strong forward and backward linkages with glass, plastic, refrigeration, sugar and the transportation industry further strengthen the position of the industry. Soft drink segment has a huge potential in the Indian market, as a vast portion of the market is still to cover.

When discussed on alcoholic beverages, India is considered to be the third largest market for alcoholic beverages in the world. The domestic beer and alcoholic beverage market is largely dominated by United Breweries, Mohan Meakins and Radico Khaitan. The demand for beer and spirits is estimated to be around 373 million cases per year. There are 12 joint venture companies having a licensed capacity of 33,919 kilo-litres per annum for production of grain based alcoholic beverages. Around 56 units are manufacturing beer under license from the Government of India.

Country liquor and Indian Made Foreign Liquor are the two segments in liquor; both cater to different sections of society . The former is very much consumed in rural areas and by low-income groups, while the middle and high-income groups consume the latter.

Liquor license outlets in India figures approximately 23,000 with another 10,000 outlets in the form of bars and restaurants. Regulations in this sector differ state-wise in terms of excise and custom duty. In Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, the distribution is controlled by the state government, and any change XVIII in the ruling party has a direct impact on the availability of alcohol.

The wine industry in India has come into prominence lately and has been receiving support from the Government as well, to promote the industry,. The market for this industry has been estimated to be growing at around 25% annually. Maharashtra has emerged as an important state for the manufacture of wines.


Changing lifestyles, food habits, organized food retail and urbanization are the key factors for processed foods in India, these are post-liberalization trends and they give boost to the sector.

There has been a notable change in consumption pattern in India. Unlike earlier, now the share and growth rates for fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy have gone higher compared to cereals and pulses. Such a shift implies a need to diversify the food production base to match the changing consumption preferences.

Also in developed countries it has been observed that there has been a shift from carbohydrate staple to animal sources and sugar. Going by this pattern, in future, there will be demand for prepared meals, snack foods and convenience foods and further on the demand would shift towards functional, organic and diet foods.

Some of the key constraints identified by the food processing industry include:

  • Poor infrastructure in terms of cold storage, warehousing
  • Inadequate quality control and testing infrastructure
  • Inefficient supply chain and involvement of middlemen
  • High transportation and inventory carrying cost
  • Affordability, cultural and regional preference of fresh food
  • High taxation
  • High packaging cost

In terms of policy support, the ministry of food processing has taken the following initiatives:

Formulation of the National Food Processing Policy

Complete de-licensing, excluding for alcoholic beverages

Declared as priority sector for lending in 1999

100% FDI on automatic route

Excise duty waived on fruits and vegetables processing from 2000 - 01

Income tax holiday for fruits and vegetables processing from 2004 - 05

Customs duty reduced on freezer van from 20% to 10% from 2005 - 06

Implementation of Fruit Products Order

Implementation of Meat Food Products Order

Enactment of FSS Bill 2005

Food Safety and Standards Bill, 2005

Apart from these initiatives, the Centre has requested state Governments to undertake the following reforms:

Amendment to the APMC Act

Lowering of VAT rates

Declaring the industry as seasonal

Integrate the promotional structure

SWOT Analysis of Food-Processing Industry


  • Abundant availability of raw material
  • Priority sector status for agro-processing given by the central Government
  • Vast network of manufacturing facilities all over the country
  • Vast domestic market


  • Low availability of adequate infrastructural facilities
  • Lack of adequate quality control and testing methods as per international standards
  • Inefficient supply chain due to a large number of intermediaries
  • High requirement of working capital.
  • Inadequately developed linkages between R&D labs and industry.
  • Seasonality of raw material


  • Large crop and material base offering a vast potential for agro processing activities
  • Setting of SEZ/AEZ and food parks for providing added incentive to develop greenfield projects
  • Rising income levels and changing consumption patterns
  • Favourable demographic profile and changing lifestyles
  • Integration of development in contemporary technologies such as electronics, material science, bio-technology etc. offer vast scope for rapid improvement and progress
  • Opening of global markets


  • Affordability and cultural preferences of fresh food
  • High inventory carrying cost
  • High taxation
  • High packaging cost


The Ministry of Food Processing Industries is the nodal agency of the Government of India for processed foods and is responsible for developing a strong and vibrant food processing sector with emphasis on the following:

  • Stimulating demand for appropriate processed foods.
  • Achieving maximum value addition and by-product utilization.
  • Creating increased job opportunities particularly in rural areas.
  • Enabling farmers to reap the benefits of modern technology.
  • Creating surpluses for exports.

In the era of economic liberalization where the private, public and co-operative sectors are to play their rightful role in development of food processing sector, the Ministry acts as a catalyst for bringing in greater investment into this sector, guiding and helping the industry in a proper direction, encouraging exports and creating a conducive environment for the healthy growth of the food processing industry. Within this overall objective, the Ministry aims at:

  • Better utilization and value addition of agricultural produce for enhancement of income of farmers.
  • Minimizing wastage at all stages in the food processing chain by the development of infrastructure for storage, transportation and processing of agro-food produce.
  • Induction of modern technology into the food processing industries from both domestic and external sources.
  • Maximum utilization of agricultural residues and by-products of the primary agricultural produce as also of the processed industry.
  • To encourage R&D in food processing for product and process development and improved packaging.
  • To provide policy support, promotional initiatives and physical facilities to promote value added exports.


The strategic role and functions of the Ministry fall under three categories -

  1. Policy support, developmental & promotional
  2. Technical & advisory
  3. Regulatory

Policy Support

  • Formulation and implementation of policies for food processing industries within overall national priorities and objectives.
  • Facilitating the creation of a conducive policy environment for healthy growth of the food-processing sector.
  • Promoting rationalization of tariffs and duties relating to food processing sector.


Assistance under various plan schemes.

Widening the R&D base in food processing by involvement of various R&D institutes and support to various R&D activities relating to development of product, process and packaging with special emphasis on traditional technologies.

Human resource development both for entrepreneurs as well as workers engaged in the food processing industry by up gradation of their skills.

Assistance for setting up analytical and testing laboratories, active participation in the laying down of food standards as well as their harmonization with international standards.


  • Assistance for organization of workshops, seminars, exhibitions and fairs etc.
  • Assistance for studies / surveys etc.
  • Publications and films.


Implementation of Fruit Products Order (FPO)



Major Food Processing Companies in India

Major MNCs

Major Indian Companies

Indian MNCs likely to enter

Nestle, Pepsi,Coke, Kelloggs, Conagra, Unilever,Perfetti, Glaxo Smithkline, Heninz, Wyeth, Ajinomoto, Nissin met, Walmart

ITC, Dabur, Britannia, Parle, Amul, Haldiram, Godrej, Venky's

Reliance, Bharti Group, Tatas, Wipro, Thapars etc.

With the advent of the multinational companies in the Indian market the competition in food processing industry has increased. These multinational companies are facing tough competition from strong Indian brands. Such competition has obviously increased innovations. It has also facilitated a sustained growth of the sector and improved global competitiveness. The emerging new growth phase of the sector is just in its initial stages with the potential for India to emerge as a leading food supplier to the world.


There has been an encouragement for new processing capacities for agro-food products through its various policy initiatives and plan schemes providing financial incentives for setting up of new units and modernization of existing units from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries

Investment Opportunities

The areas in investment opportunities in food processing are as follows

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Fisheries
  • Meat
  • Grains
  • Packaged and convenience goods
  • Establishing infrastructure, cold chain, etc.

Policy Initiatives

Most of the processed food items have been exempted from the purview of licensing under the Industries (Development and regulation) Act, 1951, except items reserved for small-scale sector and alcoholic beverages.

Automatic approval for foreign equity upto 100 percent is available for most of the processed food items except alcohol, beer and those reserved for small-scale sector subject to certain conditions.

Food processing industries were included in the list of priority sector for bank lending in 1999.

In the budget of 2001-2002, excise duty on processed fruit and vegetables has been brought down from 16 percent to zero level in the budget.

In the 2004-2005 budget, income tax holiday and other concessions announced for certain food processing of India sectors.

Licensing powers delegated to regional offices under Full Product Order, 1955.


A vision, strategy and action plan has also been finalized for giving boost to growth of food processing sector. The objective is to increase level of processing of perishable food from 6% to 20%, value addition from 20% to 35% and share in global food trade from 1.6% to 3%. The level of processing for fruits and vegetables is envisaged to increase from the present 2.2% to 10% and 15% in 2010 and 2015 respectively. The Cabinet has approved the integrated strategy for promotion of agri-business and vision, strategy and action plan for the Food Processing Sector, based on the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers (GOM).

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