stacked tiffin carriers

Stainless Steel for Food Industry

Nirmal Mathur - 19 May 2016

The Indian food processing industry is poised for growth and that in turn is likely to raise demand for stainless steel.

About the author

Mr Nirmal Mathur
Nirmal Mathur is Director at Jindal Stainless and the founder of the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA) of which he was President until 2016. He is a regular contributor to the Stainless Steel World magazine and Stainless Steel World News.

The food processing industry is stainless-steel-intensive. Stainless steel is worldwide accepted as a superior material for food processing equipment, offering the highest level of compliance with stringent health, hygiene and safety requirements. Food processing covers a spectrum of products from subsectors comprising agriculture, horticulture, plantation, animal husbandry, fisheries, and others. India has abundant availability of a wide variety of crops, fruits, vegetables, flowers, livestock and seafood. Diverse climatic conditions and a long coastline have contributed to India‘s position as a leading food producer. Today demand for processed food is rising exponentially with growing disposable income, urbanisation and young population. It is estimated that household consumption in the country is set to double by 2020. Also strategic geographic location and proximity to food-importing nations favour India in terms of exporting processed foods. According to recent survey reports the size of the food processing industry in India was estimated to be USD 258 billion in 2015 and is likely to reach USD 482 billion by 2020.

These figures highlight the huge potential for expansion of the food processing industry. The sector has been attracting foreign direct investment across different categories. According to the data provided by the Department of Industrial Policies and Promotion of the Government of India, the food processing sector in India has received around USD 6.55 billion worth of foreign investments during the period 2000–2015. The Confederation of Indian Industry estimates that the food processing sectors have the potential to attract as much as USD 33 billion of investment over the next 10 years.

milk homogenizer unit
A milk homogenizer unit at
Model Dairy Plant in Karnal, India

The Government of India has been instrumental in the growth and development of the food processing industry. Through the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, the government is making all efforts to encourage investments in the business. It has approved proposals for joint ventures, foreign collaborations, industrial licenses and export-oriented units.

Many Indian firms are seeking foreign partners for joint ventures to avail of their technological advantage. The Ministry is actively promoting the concept of mega food parks and is expected to set up 30 such parks across the country. Centres boosting stainless steel demand will be fruit processing units, meat processing units, fish processing plants, and facilities of the consumer food and dairy & beverage industries.

At the recently held popular international food and hospitality fair AAHAR, in New Delhi, a 25% growth in exhibitors was noticed and industry was upbeat and looking forward to capture all the new initiatives started by government. At the same fair, the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries said: “This year, the fair assumes added significance, especially since in the recent Budget the government gave special focus to the farm sector and decided to allow up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment in marketing of food items produced and manufactured locally, aimed at reducing wastage, helping farm diversification and encouraging global companies to produce locally rather than importing items.”

Going forward, the adoption of food safety and quality assurance mechanisms such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Hygienic Practices (GHP) by the food processing industry offers several benefits to stainless steel. Quality-grade stainless steel would enable adherence to stringent quality and hygiene norms and thereby protect consumers’ health, prepare the industry to face global competition, and enhance product acceptance by overseas buyers. The growth of the food processing sector in India is likely to give good impetus to stainless steel growth.

Header Image: A wall of stacked tiffin carriers made of stainless steel, at a shop in Chennai, India. Also known as ‘dabba’, a tiffin lunch box is a stack of small containers, typically filled with various types of cooked local dishes. Although not directly related to the food processing industry, tiffin carriers are another good example of a food-related application where stainless steel is increasingly used. Photo by McKay Savage, available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

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