Reimagining Indian food-processing with automation

Productivity with quality and hygiene can optimize snack production

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food-processing
Snack making line by Kanchan Metals. Photo Kanchan Metals

India’s food processing sector is one of the largest in the world, and by some estimates, its output will reach US$ 535 billion (approximately Rs 40,00,000 or Rs 4 million crore) by 2025-26. As an industry leader, India is responsible to keep pace with the dynamic industry norms and trends and utilize them optimally to retain its position. Thus, the Indian food processing industry is infusing technology in its operations. The snack segment that accounts for one of the most vital segments of the Indian food processing industry has been a leader in technological adoption. The snack manufacturing industry has incorporated automation in its operations and is already benefitting immensely. 

Covid-19 reshapes the food industry

Indians have traditionally been cautious of the authenticity and health implications of processed foods and snacks, which is why the market demand for food in India has always inclined towards fresh and unprocessed products. However, this changed with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic as the need for hygienic and sanitized products in neat and hygienic packaging, subject to minimal handling. Informative labels and the ease of storing also added to the demand for packaged food

Technology in the food processing landscape

Currently, automation is one of the fastest-growing trends. A report by Meticulous Research states that the global food automation market that is growing with a CAGR of 9.5% is projected to reach US$ 29.4 billion (approximately Rs 2,21,504 crore) by 2027. The report also cites the Asia Pacific region as one of the leaders of this growth, with India gaining a special mention. 

food-processing
Raghav Gupta, managing director of Kanchan Metals. Photo Kanchan Metals

According to the estimate by Invest India cited above, the Indian food processing industry is anticipated to generate output worth US$ 535 billion (approximately Rs 40,30,770 crore) by 2025-26. In order to deliver on or exceed this forecast, the industry needs to make its operations faster and more efficient. Adopting technology seems like the most logical way forward as technical infusion enhances accuracy, pace, and cost-effectiveness. 

The food processing landscape of today exhibits a growing need for processing basic food products like grains, fruits, and vegetables. As the use of technology and technologically sophisticated efforts is key, the demand for automation has been increasing. In manufacturing traditional snacks, automatic bhujia/sev production, automated moong dal processing line, mixture lines, extruded snack frying line, a sabudana frying line, a corn cooking and steeping line, and a product distribution system are gaining demand. Additionally, cutting-edge material handling automation, continuous mixing and transferring of dry and wet components, corn-based wet extruded snacks, and product distribution are also expected to grow given the rising acceptance and relevance of automation in the field.

Automation can transform the food processing market

The increased use of automation in the food processing industry can be attributed to the several benefits that automation carries. Getting intricate, repetitive tasks done by machines make them more efficient, quick, and error-free. Further, work performed by machines is also immune to productivity challenges caused by human fatigue, sickness, boredom, or holidays. 

Automation also makes it possible to conduct food processing operations with fewer ingredients without hampering the look or taste of the food product. Additionally, it helps maintain safety and quality standards. The machine-performed tasks are uniform in quality and do away with the possibility of food products tasting different each time which may hamper customer experience. 

Technology and automation are an integral part of the functioning of most industries and the food processing industry is no exception to this trend. An increasing number of manufacturers are adopting technology and automation and one can safely predict that automation will grow further till it becomes an indispensable part of the food processing industry. 

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