As a Global Food & Drinks Analyst, Ayisha provides insights to clients in Europe and around the world in the prepared meals and bakery sectors.

Just a few years ago, creamy British-Indian curries developed specifically for British tastes were so popular that in 2001, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook cited chicken tikka masala as Britain’s national dish. Fast forward to 2017, however, and two to three curry houses were closing down a week, according to the Guardian.

Well-traveled and educated about cuisine by foodie television shows, consumers are moving the goalposts in terms of their expectations of authenticity, wanting to experience the real thing. Indeed, 75% of UK consumers who have eaten world cuisines at home in the last three months say they like their food to be as authentic as possible. Attitudes to health have also changed. The spectrum of choice for consumers is now very broad, exposing them to cuisines that may be deemed as being more intrinsically healthy and fresh, but still delivering the much loved heat and spice, such as Vietnamese or Northern Thai. Fewer calories, more vegetables and punchy fresh flavours are the order of the day.

The rise of Indian street food

Indian street food was tipped as a key UK food trend for 2018 by major retailers like Asda and Waitrose. Both reference the fact that these dishes are lighter and fresher compared to traditional British curry, featuring punchy, zingy flavours. They also call out the use of vegetables in Indian street food, which is potentially a massive opportunity for NPD. Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Power to the Plants’ explores how the desire for healthier and “cleaner” lifestyles is motivating consumers towards a more plant-based diet, at least some of the time. According to the 2014 Indian census, approximately 29% of the Indian population is vegetarian, and so the cuisine is rich with vibrant vegetarian and vegan dishes ripe for exploration by curious UK consumers.

What does ‘healthy’ mean today?

Consumer perceptions of healthy and unhealthy food continues to evolve. The 2018 Mintel Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Self-Fulfilling Practices’ discusses the negativity and stress that can come from attempting to determine what is “healthy”.

Indian street food is not necessarily low in calories or fat, however, the use of vegetables, pulses, yogurt and ayurvedic spices such as tumeric and ginger mean that holistically, these products can be seen to be healthier in the round. The use of healthy ingredients/superfoods, incorporated into products would further enhance the holistic health appeal of Indian street food products in retail.

The ready meal opportunity

UK supermarkets have been quick to pick up the rising trend of Indian street food: as the classic Indian ready meal category is built upon the same foundations as the traditional curry house, it also must evolve to avoid facing the same eventual decline.

Iceland claims to be the first retailer to launch an Indian street food range in response to Britain’s changing eating habits. Launched in January 2018, the range comprises approximately 16 ‘tapas style’ or small plate lines, designed to be shared, pick-and-mix style.

Iceland Mumbai Street Co Root Ruby 7: A root vegetable coconut curry with beetroot, carrot, and the seven Cs (cardamom, coriander, cumin, curry leaf, cloves, chilli and cinnamon).

Iceland Mumbai Street Co Calcutta Kale Bhajis: The addition of green kale to these onion bhajis gives the impression that they are both modern and somehow ‘healthier’.

Iceland Mumbai Street Co Chennai Dhal: Described on-pack as ‘the ultimate in comfort food’ that comprises a rich, Southern Indian yellow split chickpea curry tempered with fragrant spices.