The main categories of packaged food are bakery products, canned processed food, frozen processed food, meal replacement products and condiments. Some emerging new categories in this segment are processed dairy products, frozen ready-to-eat foods, diet snacks, processed meat and probiotic drinks.
"The growth in the economy, coupled with a strong desire among consumers to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the growing awareness of functional ingredients such as herbs, minerals, vitamins, omega fatty acids and probiotics is driving the functional foods and beverages market," a study by industry lobby ASSOCHAM said.
According to ASSOCHAM Secretary General DS Rawat, the food ingredients market is growing rapidly with 'consumers becoming more sophisticated and wanting more upscale flavours and ingredients'.
According to the study, metropolitan city residents are the largest consumers of processed food, and there is a large divide between urban and rural consumers in India. Urban residents consumed 78 percent of all packaged food in 2011, while rural residents consumed just over 22 percent.
The study - Craze for ready-to-eat food among young Indians - is based on responses from 2,000 representative households with children or without children, nuclear family and bachelors.
It said that over 82 percent of the workforce prefer packaged food rather than eating outside or at a roadside dhabha in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The key players in the market are Hindustan Uniliver, ITC, Nestle, PepsiCo, Dabur, Cadbury, Haldiram, Britannia, Godrej and Parle Agro.