Role of Instant Foods in the Catering Industry


Dr. Venkatesh Tamlurkar
Faculty Member
ICFAI University
ICFAI School of Marketing Studies
4th Floor, Astral Heights, Road No.1, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad-500 034


In the modern days where the life is at fast pace with the time very valuable to every person, "Instant Foods" play an important role in everyone's day-to-day life. The very term 'instant food' means simple, fast and convenient food which is easy and fast to prepare besides being hygienic, free from microbial contamination and also convenient to eat.

Unlike olden days where man used to have his food lavishly and slowly, the present trend changed the habits to foods which are simple and easy to digest. Hence, the existence of these foods fulfilled all the needs of modern human being.

Canned foods, convenience foods, fast foods, frozen foods, instant products, dried foods, preserved foods, etc. all come under instant foods or ready-to-eat foods. The food habitats in India have changed due to the Western influence and the usage of these foods is also on the rise. These foods are widely used in catering industries as well as at homes. There are varieties of instant/ready-to-eat foods available in the market to choose from and they have been a part of every day life.

The word 'food' refers to the chemical substances taken into the body in order to keep the body in a healthy and active condition. The body requires food for the growth, repair and replacement of its worn-out tissues. Hence, food has to provide the required raw material, energy and other regulating substances like vitamins and minerals for the smooth functioning of the body besides meeting the calorific requirements like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc.

Generally, food is prepared depending on the habits, tastes, social status, economic factor, availability traditions, habitats, etc., of the people of that region. The most sought after in the present age are the instant/ready-to-eat foods. They are very popular in the Western region of the world. Even India is being influenced by these instant foods. The main reasons for their popularity are

1. Emergence of industrial society i.e. metropolitan cities

Development of the metropolitan cities due to increase in population, emergence of industries, evolution of various new products, time factor etc., created the need for instant foods in the market.

2. Reduced domestic servants

Due to industrialization, the labour category is getting attracted to it because of better emoluments and hence there is a shortage of home maids/servants. Due to this, the housewives in order to save time started using instant foods.

3. Womenfolk taking to job

As the literacy rate is increasing among women, a large number of them in our country are taking up jobs to set up their own status in society and to use the extra income generated. These are creating the need for ready-to-eat foods.

4. Emergence of nuclear families

Earlier times, a single family consisted of many people i.e. a group of several nuclear families were living in a single place. Hence the food prepared there used to be in larger quantities. But as these joint families started disappearing due to various reasons, each single family started using these instant foods in order to save time and energy.

5. Prices of raw materials

This forms one of the major factors for the use of instant foods in the present world. As the prices of some of the raw materials are continuously increasing, the purchases of these foods formed more economical comparably.

6. New products

As there are different new products coming up in the market daily that are very cheap and easy for using and preparing, the popularity of instant foods is increasing.

7. Drudgery of work

In order to avoid the heavy laborious work like grinding manually and other drudging works, people opt for instant foods which are easy to prepare and eat.

8. Convenience

Instant foods are convenient to prepare and are economical. This increased its usage by the people as it saves the time, energy and money of the consumers.

9. Increasing income

Due to establishments of multi-national companies in India, the lady of the house also started working because of which there is no time to prepare food at home. Hence, this created the need to opt for instant foods.

10. Standard of living

The standard of living is also changing due to rise in income level, influence of Western countries, more global trade, traveling etc., Hence, people are changing their taste to the instant foods more compared to the old traditionally prepared foods.

11. Media

In the modern era, the media - particularly electronic and print media are playing an important role in creating awareness of the products manufactured and released in the market.

The above factors are responsible for the popularity of instant foods in Indian market.

The marketer should see to it that the instant food is available to the consumers without any difficulty at competitive rates. The products should be provided to consumers by keeping in mind as when they want, where they want and the manner in which they want. These methods help in increasing the sales of the product with good feedback from the customers and creating a niche for instant foods in the market.

Importance of instant foods:

There are many companies coming up for the manufacturing of instant foods due to various advantages and its usage by the people is also more because of its following importance:

1. No extra labour: There is no extra labour required in the production of instant foods as complete processing is carried out through machinery and even its usage in kitchen is very easy without much manual work.

2. Efforts: There is less effort required in the manufacturing process of instant foods as it is less laborious and it can be prepared instantly without any long procedures as the machineries are very sophisticated.

3. Convenient: The preparation of instant foods is very convenient as many of these foods do not even require any pre-treatments thus making it ready-to-eat.

Due to the above reasons, their usage is also more not only at homes, but also in hotel industry and other places of small or huge catering operations.

Classification of instant foods:

In order to know clearly about these convenience foods and to study it better, they can be classified as follows:

1. Canned foods: These are again classified as
i. Canned fruits
ii. Canned vegetables
iii. Other canned products

2. Instant products: These are again classified as
i. Instant mixes
ii. Instant powders

3. Table relishes: eg. Mayonnaise, ketchups, sauces, jams, jellies, marmalades etc.,

4. Dairy products: milk powders, dairy products like curd, cheese, cream, dairy desserts, etc.,

5. Frozen foods: These are of three types
i. Chilled foods (dairy products, eggs, meat)
ii. Frozen foods (highly perishable foods)
iii. Freeze dried foods (Coffee, meals for explorers)

6. Baked products: eg. Biscuits, cookies cakes, breads and various other bakery items.

7. Snack foods: They are classified as
i. Jaggery based
ii. Cereal based
iii. Fried items

8. Beverages: These are divided into
i. Alcoholic drinks (wine, beer)
ii. Non-alcoholic which include soft drinks and health drinks (fruit based and non-fruit based)

9. Pasta foods: Vermicelli, noodles, macaroni, etc.,

10. Weaning foods: Farex, Cerelac, Lactogen

11. Health conscious foods: depending upon age, health, gender etc.,

12. Breakfast cereal foods: These are fruit based and non-fruit based

13. New ideas: eg: Defatted groundnuts, tailored foods/fabricated foods, dehydrated fruits and vegetables.


Though there are so many instant foods available in our country, their popularity is increasing in a slow pace especially in the rural markets due to lack of awareness compared to larger cities where they are widely available and are also more popular.

Even though after being economical and convenient, most of the consumers prefer the traditional types of foods which are fresh and natural without any preservatives or artificial ingredients. These convenience foods are preferred by mainly nuclear families where both husband and wife are working or by bachelors who wish to avoid hotel food or people who do not have time, patience or the expertise to prepare in a traditional method. A survey conducted showed that people did not prefer instant food because of the general feeling that these foods lose all the natural vitamins and minerals present in them after days of preservation and different treatments given to them during processing. There is a great role of the manufacturers and their marketers to remove this myth from the minds of the people and educate them with the usage of instant foods and strongly convey the message that even instant foods are wholesome and nutritious as the regular traditional foods.

But instant foods have become popular with time because of less cost, time and energy saving, convenience in preparation and consumption in the busy and hectic life. It was a boon for working people who were able to save time, energy and money by using these foods. Various foods helped to prevent the age-old traditional method of long preparation of grinding, cooking or fermenting for hours and hence making the work faster. Even the manufacturers prepared the instant foods according to the taste of the consumers. For example, the weaning foods for infants were offered in different flavours like orange, wheat, vegetable, egg etc, depending on the customers' preference and acceptance. Few of the instant foods are even helpful to patients suffering from various diseases like the ragi powder for the diabetic or almond beverage or Horlicks/Boost for the growing or the weak people.

The survey also revealed that most of the present trend young generation has changed their taste to the instant foods because of the Western influence and also to save time and energy due to which number of catering industries and manufacturers are increasing to cope with the demand. Hence, there is a great scope for these industries in the future based on the awareness of convenience and hygienic factors.

Another advantage of instant foods is they occupy less space in the kitchen or pantry, the amount of drudgery involved is less and there is a tremendous potential for commercial exploitation as it is a 'rising industry'.

Dr. Venkatesh Tamlurkar
Faculty Member
ICFAI University
ICFAI School of Marketing Studies
4th Floor, Astral Heights, Road No.1, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad-500 034

Source: E-mail March 28, 2006


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