INDIA ADDA – Perspectives On India

IBEF works with a network of stakeholders - domestic and international - to promote Brand India.



Dikshu C. Kukreja
Dikshu C. Kukreja
Mr. V. Raman Kumar
Mr. V. Raman Kumar
Ms. Chandra Ganjoo
Ms. Chandra Ganjoo
Sanjay Bhatia
Sanjay Bhatia
Aprameya Radhakrishna
Aprameya Radhakrishna
Colin Shah
Colin Shah
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Shri P.R. Aqeel Ahmed
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar
Alok Kirloskar
Alok Kirloskar
Pragati Khare
Pragati Khare
Devang Mody
Devang Mody
Vinay Kalantri
Vinay Kalantri

Food Diversity in India

Food Diversity in India

The traditional Indian palate has evolved over centuries and has its roots in the ancient Ayurvedic way of life, a more than 6000-year-old healthcare system that places a specific focus on 'Ahara' (diet) and 'Anna' (food) as a means of good life, health, and wellbeing. Religious beliefs, traditions, and rituals are all major elements in shaping people's eating habits. Regional cuisines incorporate the influences of geography, soil, and climate. Regional cuisines have evolved through generations to meet the demands of the people who live in the region while also catering to their physical well-being. Food is a basic requirement for all living things, yet eating nutritious food is a privilege and a habit that must be actively pursued. With an increase in internal migration to towns and cities for work, rising disposable incomes, and a shift from agriculture to industry and services, the composition of food consumed by Indians is changing significantly. Food is an effective and unique tool for connecting Indians across location, cultures, and demographics. Indian food has a colourful past and has been impacted by its history, geography, diversified culture, religious festivals, traditions, and customs. All of these factors have given Indian food a particular flavour profile, usage of ingredients, methods of preparation; unlike any other global cuisines.

Indians' dietary preferences have traditionally been impacted by local variables such as the climatic conditions of the region where they reside, the availability of grains, and traditional food patterns. However, there has been a significant change in the eating choices of Indians with increasing access to Western cuisine options during the last two decades. This is commonly regarded as part of a nutrition shift in which individuals are introduced to Western dietary habits. Modernization, urbanisation, economic progress, and increasing income all cause predictable changes in eating, which are referred to as "nutrition transitions."

Food Market in India

Food in India includes a huge variety of local, regional, and caste-based ingredients and cooking methods. Religious and geographical differences have a significant impact on India's culturally varied people. Vegetarianism is practised by around one-third of the population as a result of their Hindu, Jain, or Buddhist religions. As a result, a substantial number of cuisines throughout the country are devoid of meat. Religious beliefs also influence other dietary limitations that form the cuisine.

The Indian restaurant and food services business has a market size of US$ 49.54 billion (Rs. 4.1 trillion) as of FY19, with a YoY increase of roughly 10.5% and a CAGR growth of 9% between 2014-19. The industry is divided into two separate segments: organised and unorganised. The organised segment accounts for around 30-35% of the industry, while the unorganised segment accounts for the remaining 65- 70%. The unorganised segment includes Individuals or families selling ready-to-eat food through roadside stands, dhabas, food carts, street stalls, etc. The Indian packaged food retail industry is predicted at US$ 72.50 billion (Rs. 6,00,000 crore) in 2020, accounting for just 15% of the entire food and grocery retail business, which is anticipated at US$ 477.16 billion (Rs. 39,45,000 crore) during the same year. In terms of volume, India is a country where the unorganised food sector is largely dominant, and this is expected to continue due to economic disparities.

 The Indian sweet market is about US$ 7.16 billion (Rs. 593 billion), with unorganised businesses accounting for the majority of the industry. By 2026, the market is expected to reach US$ 10.22 billion (Rs. 846 billion). The Indian sweets market is mostly unorganised, with a market value of US$ 6.46 billion (Rs. 535 billion) and a market share of about 90%.


Intake of Total Calories (kcal)

North (Urban)


Central (Urban & Rural)


East (Urban & Rural)


Northeast (Urban)


West (Urban & Rural)


South (Urban & Rural)


Source: Assocham and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI)

The Indian Savoury Snacks market is estimated at US$ 9.07 billion (Rs. 751 billion) in 2022 and is anticipated to reach US$ 14.82 billion (Rs. 1,227 billion) by 2026 at a CAGR of 13%. The organised Indian ethnic namkeen & snacks market could grow by 16% CAGR to reach a US$ 2.46 billion (Rs. 204 billion) industry by 2026, up from US$ 1.74 billion (Rs. 114 billion) in 2022.

Source: Assocham and Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI)

Culinary styles of India

  • Northern India

North Indian cuisine is distinguished by the use of tandoor-cooked meats and vegetables, as well as the use of cream in dals and yoghurt in marinades. Since, wheat is grown in the north, a variety of breads such as naan, tandoori roti, chapatis, and parathas are usually eaten with northern dishes. North Indian cuisines bear the footprints of foreign influences; for example, traditional Kashmiri cookery is almost like an art form termed Wazwan, which has strong Central Asian influences. Punjabi cuisine is influenced by Central Asian and Mughlai cuisines.

  • Southern India

South Indian cuisine is distinguished by griddle-cooked foods such as dosas, thin broth-like dals known as sambar, and a diversity of seafood. The area is also well-known for its extensive usage of 'kari' leaves, tamarind, and coconut. Andhra Pradesh is well-known for its Hyderabadi food, which is heavily influenced by Mughlai cuisine. Chettinad food is spicy and pungent, with freshly ground masalas.

  • Eastern India

Bengali cuisine has a strong focus on chilli pepper and mustard oil, as well as a liberal use of spices. The cuisine is recognised for its mild flavour, with a concentration on fish, vegetables, lentils, and rice. Oriya cuisine has subtle and gently spiced flavour, while fish and other shellfish such as crab and prawns are prominent. Because of their geographical position, the cuisine in the Northeastern states varies rather drastically. These locations are significantly impacted by Tibetan, Chinese, and even Western cuisine.

  • Western India

Maharashtrian cuisine comprises both mild and spicy meals, with wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, vegetables, and lentils serving as nutritional staples. Rajasthani food is highly diversified. While the former royalty's enthusiasm for shikaar (a good hunt) has generated a typical culinary art form, there is equally spectacular vegetarian food of Marwar or Jodhpur with classic dishes like as churma ladoo and daal baati. Gujarat has a significant population that has remained mostly vegetarian for religious reasons, hence Gujarati cuisine is exclusively vegetarian, with popular dishes like oondhiya, patra, khandvi, and thepla. The food of Goa is heavily influenced by Portuguese cuisine. Konkani cuisine is largely nonvegetarian but it contains numerous vegetarian delights.

History of Indian foods

The early people of India are said to have arrived from beyond the Indian subcontinent and were hunter-gatherers who ate fruit, nuts, tubers, and animal flesh. They began to reside in or near tock shelters around 10000 BCE and domesticate dogs, cattle, sheep, and goats. By 20000 BCE, they had expanded throughout a large area, including present-day Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Their main food sources throughout the Neolithic era (2800–1200 BCE) were two pulses and two millets. Cereals were pounded into flour and combined with pulse flour to create what may have been the origins of popular South Indian meals like idli, vadai, and dosa.

Following the Harappan or Indus Valley Civilisation (3000 - 1500 BCE), dietary options grew more sophisticated. The Indus Valley Civilisation was a prosperous trade community. Bread was a common food in the Indus Valley. The Indo-Aryans arrived in the second millennium BCE, sowing the seeds of cow devotion. Milk from cows and buffaloes, as well as its byproducts, were key components of the Vedic Indian diet. Buddhism and Jainism (renunciant tradition and vegetarianism) thrived throughout the Maurya dynasty.

Food Trends in India

Dietary habits are influenced not only by physiological or nutritional requirements, but also by the pleasure obtained from eating. Even scientists agree that food that is relished when consumed is better used in the body. With significant economic and wealth growth, urbanisation, and globalisation, India's diet has shifted dramatically away from basic foods. The trend has been increasingly towards a Westernised diet. This has exposed a substantial portion of the population to the negative repercussions of obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle disorders. The Western diet is known for being high in saturated fats, processed carbohydrates, and salt. Burgers and sandwiches led the QSR format in FY20, valued at US$ 700.89 million (Rs. 58 billion), followed by pizza, valued at US$ 604.21 million (Rs. 50 billion). Indian cultural food, on the other hand, was valued at US$ 338.36 million (Rs. 28 billion).

Factors behind the rapid shift in food habits

  • With the rise of urban working cultures and fast-paced lifestyles, there is less time for cooking and food preparation. Snacks and foods that are ready to eat have gained a lot of popularity, particularly in metropolitan areas.
  • A poll discovered that, rather than being confined to special occasions, western food is more likely to be used as a meal replacement due to its simplicity of preparation.
  • People's lifestyle choices are rapidly affecting the way they eat, as seen by a rise in snacking patterns. The number of afternoon snacks consumed by Indians is increasing, according to a 2020 Global Consumer Trends Study by Mondelez International (77% in 2020 compared to 63% in 2019—a 14% increase).
  • The food consumption habits of urban Indians have changed dramatically, with an increase in the use of processed foods. Between 2013 and 2017, there was a rise in the buying of sweet and salty snacks in India. For example, in 2013, the per capita yearly purchase of sweet snacks was 1.64 kg, which increased to 1.93 kg (17%) in 2017.

Food regulation in India



  • Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006

The Food Safety and Standards Act took effect in 2011 and abolished all of the preceding Acts and Orders. The purpose of this Act was to assure the availability of safe and nutritious food for human consumption by regulating the manufacturing, storage, distribution, sale, and import of food items. It also created the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). It also specifies the obligations of food operators, manufacturers, packers, wholesalers, distributors, and sellers. The Food Authority and state food safety authorities will be in charge of enforcing this Act.

  • The following are some voluntary standards or marks to be used while making food products:
    • AGMARK

It is a certification mark used for agricultural products that guarantees the items meet the standards announced by the Directorate of Marketing & Inspection (DMI), Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare under the Agricultural Produce (Grading Marking) Act, 1937. AGMARK covers about 222 commodities. Although this certification method is voluntary, the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sale) Regulations 2011 made AGMARK certification mandatory for some items, including blended edible vegetable oil and fat spread.

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

The Bureau of Indian Standards was founded in 2016 by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution oversees its operations. Although this certification programme is voluntary, the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sale) Regulations 2011 mandated BIS certification for specific items like as milk powder, newborn milk replacements, bottled drinking water, and so on. It also specifies certification markings for food goods issued by the ISI (Indian Standards Institute).

  • Other certifications issued by the Quality Council of India include IndiaHACCP and IndiaGHP for ensuring food quality and cleanliness.
  • Categories of food

Food products are divided into two categories by the FSSAI: standardised and non-standardized. Standardised food items do not require authorisation prior to production, sale, distribution, or import. Non-standardised food items that do not have any standards, hence prior authorisation is necessary. Foods imported into India must adhere to the FSS Act, Rules, and Regulations.

  • Types of licenses under FSSAI
    • Registration

Businesses having an annual revenue of less than US$ 14,501.22 (Rs. 12 lakh) do not need a licence, it only requires registration. The applicant must complete Form A under FSSAI.

  • State License

Operators in the food industry with an annual revenue of more than US$ 14,501.22 (Rs. 12 lakh) but less than US$ 2.41 million (Rs. 20 crore) are eligible. It requires the completion of Form B.

  • Central License

Operators in the food industry with an annual income of more than US$ 2.41 million (Rs. 20 crore) are eligible. It requires the completion of Form B.

Road Ahead

The variety of Indian food types is one of the factors that contribute to the popularity of Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine is also one of the world's most underappreciated cuisines. Most Indian food is low in fat and abundant in nutrients and fresh ingredients, making it a healthier option for your regular meals. Indian cuisine uses a variety of ingredients, including spices, with flavours and tastes influenced by location, climate, and individual dietary preferences. Traditional diets are quickly being supplanted by international cuisines as a result of a significant change in Indians' dietary preferences. A sedentary lifestyle and easy availability of Western cuisine are deterring India from achieving its nutritional outcomes. Due to the effects of globalisation and urbanisation, India's dietary patterns have shifted rapidly to a non-traditional diet. Food safety is critical for delivering nourishment and health care to people. With its G20 presidency, India has a historic chance to highlight its transformational path from a food-deficit to a food-surplus state, as well as to demonstrate its cultural depth and cuisine diversity.