B Swaminathan (email@example.com)
Headquartered in Muscat, The Khimji Ramdas Group (KR) is an established business conglomerate in the Sultanate of Oman. Trusted and respected for more than a century (150 years), KR has consistently maintained its leadership position in the Consumer, Infrastructure, and Industrial arenas. Jayant Bhatia handles the sales of the UAE region and shares some of the key insights from the food sector in the region, especially post-pandemic. Edited excerpts
Kitchen Herald (KH): How the pandemic had changed the food habits of the region?
Jayant Bhatia (JB): People started trying to cook at home more than earlier especially during the pandemic. Those days, people understood that cooking at home is cost-effective and healthy. While many did not have any other option to do outside the home, the only option left out was trying new dishes. In a market where eating out was most preferred, these habits changed.
KH: What other changes did you notice?
JB: ‘Home cooking’ had become a buzzword. Gone are the days when people use to say let us go to a restaurant? Today, receiving guests with homemade food ordered from a neighborhood is the new trend. Guests also have the comfort of enjoying homemade food even outside the home. That way, Gujarat has plenty of such home-cooked food models.
KH: What are the key challenges in front of restaurant owners?
JB: Today cost of the raw materials is sky-high. On the other side, for a restaurant to be successful, it needs a reputation or brand that has to be built over the years. The restaurant owners have only three options
- Either increase the price
- Decrease the quantity
- Procure cheaper(sub-standard) ingredients
This way, many restaurant owners are forced to change their strategies so as to sustain in the ever-competing business. On the other hand, established restaurants do have the liberty to increase their price and there are people who are ready to pay for that.
KH: What is your view on the increasing number of home-bakers during the pandemic time?
JB: As I mentioned it during your earlier questions, anything that is homemade will get a good reception. That way, even home baking had a good reception when it was started. However, sustainability is a challenge. Anyone can kick-start anything easily. However, in the long go, how one survives in the market with the right price for the product and takes margin matters.
KH: Lastly, what are your views on the increasing vegan concepts across the world?
JB: Yes. I can very well notice, consumerism for vegan (or at least vegetarian) foods is increasing. However, the challenge today for a portion of vegan food is in both the supply chain as well as shelf life. In a retail outlet, vegan products are given a least-visible slot which fails to impress the consumers. Another trend I notice is, that vegan products are liked more by the Gen-Y and Gen-Z consumer segments. You cannot find a middle-aged man visiting and asking for soy milk. Even though the concept is picking up, the market for vegan products has not opened yet. Also, on the other hand, vegan brands have not marketed themselves in a better way.