“India has bright chance to influence global food trends”

Girish Kabra, Vice President, Modern Foods, spoke with India Business and Trade and expressed excitement about their debut at the upcoming Indusfood exhibition. After diversifying into chilli products in 2006, the company expanded its footprint, particularly in the Gulf countries and recently in Europe.

Kabra highlighted the company’s commitment to quality through glass packaging and adherence to certification requirements. He anticipates India becoming the primary supplier of authentic food globally by 2030.

modern foods, foods, indusfood

Photo Source: Modern Foods

IBT: Modern Foods is a decades-old brand. Kindly reflect upon the journey of Modern Foods and where it stands as of now.

Girish Kabra: We are feeling excited actually, because this is our first chance that we got to be exhibited in the Indusfood exhibition. The company was founded by Mr. Babu Rajendran 50 years ago. He was a rare food technologist who had a passion for spreading the love of mango, especially kesar mango, around the world. He dedicated his life to this mission and succeeded in spreading the love of mango for several decades. After his death in 2006, the company diversified its business from mango to chilli, and thus began the chilli journey. From 2006 until today, the company has produced a variety of pickles and sauces made from mango and chilli, and it supplies them to different parts of the world, particularly the Gulf countries.

IBT: How has it expanded its foothold from being just southern India popular food product to a national brand?

Girish Kabra: The company spread its business in India in a year only. So, we are basically in Gujarat right now and the business was primarily in the overseas market. The owners are from Kerala, but we are situated in the state of Gujarat. The factory is in Vadodra and we are exporting from here every year, almost 500 container of hot sauce, mango sliced, pickles, and vinegar. So these type of products we are supplying to all over the world. And last year we started with Big Basket. We are a big private label company. So we have been in a joint venture with the Big Basket and now we are supplying all over their India depot.

IBT: As you mentioned, it’s a new step for the company to expand its distribution location in the domestic market. Modern Foods has a strong base in the overseas market. What about the expansion in the domestic market in other places?

Girish Kabra: Yes, we have recently constructed a new factory that will commence commercial production from January 2024. The product line will include bread spreads and mayonnaise. We recognize the popularity of mayonnaise in the Indian market, particularly among youth and children. Therefore, we have decided to launch our own mayonnaise next month. The factory is ready to start commercial production in January and we plan to offer 16 varieties of mayonnaise. The product will be available in both retail and HoReCa markets.

IBT: How many product categories have you added over the years? Also, what is the production capacity as of today?

Girish Kabra: I’ll talk about the existing product line. There are only two products. That is one is Mango and one is chilli. So mango pickles and chilli related products like chilli paste, chilli mash or chilli sauces. The annual capacity of those two products is 500 to 600 containers a year. You can say like 600 tonne or 700 tonne a year. And from the new factory, the mayonnaise factory, the everyday capacity will be 8 tonnes which we can produce every day and we plan to expand it within a year to double.

IBT: Tell us a little bit about your presence in the overseas market, which are some of your biggest clients based outside the country?

Girish Kabra: To begin with, our company started with a focus on Gulf countries and gradually added more companies to our list, such as IFFCO, Hasani Group, and Goodie Companies. We have been working with them for the last 15 years. Now we have shifted our base to Europe as well, starting with Germany and Sweden. We have signed contracts with some of the biggest brands in Europe, and we have supplied 10 containers in the last year to them. We are expecting that Europe will be our main market within a year.

IBT: Are you exporting these chillies and chutney primarily to the Indian diaspora or also to those interested in experiencing a taste of Indian food culture, including foreigners?

Girish Kabra: It’s not like only the Indian diaspora likes spices. Everybody loves Indian spices. So there is no specific market segment that we are supplying only for the Indian public who are living overseas. If you look at the market in the Gulf countries, even Arabic people like our pickles very much and our hot sauce very much, rather than the Indian people. But if you talk about the German people, the Jewish people, and the other people, they love the spices very much. The more hot it is, the more they love it.

IBT: Tell us a little about the rise in popularity of fusion cuisines in India. 

Girish Kabra: Our product is used for fusion only. So I’m not making the primary food; I’m making the supplementary food. So if you have rice, the hot sauce will be your supplementary item to use with the rice. So with the plain rice, you can use my mango-sliced pickle, and it will become a fusion fruit. If you are having only plain noodles, you just add my Chinese sauces to it—Indian-tasting Chinese sauces. Actually, in the local language, we call them Chinese sauce, but they are basically green chilli sauce, red chilli sauce, vinegar, and soy sauce. If you use it, then it will become something else.

IBT: At Modern Foods, how are you ensuring that the quality is on par?

Girish Kabra: With our products, 90% of the packaging is glass, so there is a very low percentage of chance of contamination in the glass. So it’s a bit expensive, but it helps you prevent contamination. So most of the time, the packaging is glass. If I’m compelled to use the plastic, then I make sure that it is a multi-layer plastic bottle and that it is food-grade. So, we are using this type of thing, and we have a particular QC and QA department here. So they make sure that every packaging industry from where we are getting material, they first go and audit the factory of them. They see the facility, they check the parameters as per the guidelines of the FSSA department, and after that, only anybody can supply them to us.

IBT: Are there any challenges while exporting your F&B items to other nations?

Girish Kabra: When we are exporting F&B products, you need to be certified differently. So, if I talk about the Gulf countries, you need to be a Halal-certified company. So that is their minimum requirement. If you need to supply in the domestic market, you need to be a FSSC-registered company. So, we have due diligence in registrations, and apart from that, there needs to be a health certification done by the Indian Health Department. So we have the certification from those departments as well.

IBT: As an industry leader, how do you see FNB packaging industry in India? 

Girish Kabra: Basically, there are two types of packaging – plastic and glass. Plastic is more convenient for transportation and is commonly used in the Indian market. Glass, on the other hand, is considered safer for packaging. It’s an individual’s choice to choose between the two depending on their preference. In the international market, supermarkets prefer to buy products in glass packaging as it’s easier to supply that way. However, there’s no clear conclusion on which one is better. If safety is your primary concern, then go for glass packaging. But if you’re looking for convenience and the product will be consumed within a few days of purchase, then plastic is a good option.

IBT:  In the coming years, what other kinds of food trends are you expecting?

Girish Kabra: Let me give you one very shocking revolution. We recently got a study from our European buyer that, according to them, India will be the only country by 2030 with authentic food. We will be the only suppliers of authentic food, as per my European buyers. So I think for Indian people who are interested in the export market of food, it’s a bright chance for them. They should be very careful about the packaging and all that, as well as the quality of the food. And I think there will be no chance that India will be in second or third place. They will be number one in the European market. I think we have a very bright chance to influence global food trends.


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