Ranjana Sundaresan
Ranjana is Mintel’s Senior Research Analyst based in Mumbai. She specialises in analysing global consumer trends—with an Indian focus—and global trend observations.

India is seeing a slight shift in meat purchasing behaviour as there has been an emergence of internet start-ups that deliver fresh meat to consumers’ homes. While these companies currently cater to only those consumers in major cities, their popularity reflects growth potential across wider India. Players in the online meat market include Zappfresh, Licious and Neatmeats—companies that claim to offer high-quality, fresh, and processed meat.

These online meat retailers are gaining interest and acceptance not just from consumers, but also investors. In 2016, Zappfresh and Licious raised investments that both companies plan to use to improve infrastructure and expand operations.

Convenience of online shopping has potential to appeal to Indians

Convenience is one of the main factors that is causing the rise of such online meat companies. By ordering online, consumers can avoid the hassles of shopping brick and mortars, including time spent navigating the store, parking, and dealing with the heat and pollution while travelling, among other factors. Adding to this convenience is the introduction of smartphone shopping apps that allow consumers to buy from anywhere, anytime.

According to Mintel research, 13% of adult internet users aged 18-65 in India bought food online in the three months to June 2016. While this is relatively low when compared to more developed markets, such as China and the UK, only a third of Indian adults indicated that they had accessed the internet during the same time period. Meanwhile, online shopping activity was higher among Indian consumers who said their financial situation was healthy. This indicates that internet access and online shopping are both still very much the domain of Indian consumers in the upper income brackets. At present, consumers with higher income levels are most likely to be willing to pay for the convenience that is provided by online shopping.

Focus increases on meat quality and hygiene

The promise of hygiene and transparency are also important selling points for online meat retailers. Most companies highlight the freshness of their meat and the ethical standards maintained during processing. They are able to control these aspects by building an end-to-end offering, taking care of everything from sourcing to storage and delivery. Transparency can go a long way in reassuring consumers of the safety of what they are buying, a concept explored in the Mintel Trend ‘Prove It’ which discusses how consumers are doing their homework and expecting proof before purchase.

The majority of meat and poultry, as well as fish, consumed in India are purchased fresh, and dominated by wet markets and local butcher shops. However, this segment has seen a crackdown over safety standards and improper operating licenses in recent times. Keeping this in mind, the meat sector across India can expect greater scrutiny and regulation in the years to come.

As these meat safety issues gain publicity, consumers in India are likely to become more concerned about the quality and safety of the meat they buy and will turn to more reliable sources for this food type. They are also likely to be interested in knowing where their meat comes from. Companies that offer details of sourcing and traceability are likely to appeal to consumers—and there is scope for these online meat retailers to look to Western markets for inspiration in terms of positioning strategies.

Global examples of on-pack messaging on meat sourcing

Ranjana Sundaresan is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel based in the India office, and has been with the company since 2011. She currently specialises in analysing global consumer trends with an Indian focus in the Food and Drink sector—as well as global trend observations as part of Mintel’s Trends team.