Australian almonds form a key ingredient in India’s culture through trade agreement from the federal government

From the bustling city streets of Mumbai to the more rural homes of Kanpur, India, almonds are part of the country’s traditional culture.

“Every mother feeds around 10 almonds to her children every day in the morning if she can afford it,” said nut importer Raju Bhatia.

But almond consumption in the country is changing, driven by a younger, health-conscious generation and India’s affluent population.

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“People are being educated about the health benefits,” Mr Bhatia said.

“Economies are rising over here … and disposable incomes are rising.

“The middle class, which is now about 300 million, is expected to go up to 600 million in the next few years, so that’s helping to drive consumption up, and we hope that it will continue to be up.”

a hand touches dried fruit for sale

Many varieties of dry fruits are offered in markets in India.(ABC News: Kristy O’Brien)

Men in a market in India

Food items like nuts, pulses and spices are sold at the Khari Baoli market in New Delhi.(ABC News: Kristy O’Brien)

pile of almonds

Business analysts say almonds are popular with a number of consumers in India.(Supplied: Australian almonds)

Sir. Bhatia said catering to the younger generation was a rich business opportunity for the “world’s youngest country”, with India’s average population aged 29.

“More than 60 percent of the population is under the age of 30,” he said.

“They would rather eat healthy food than junk food, and a very important factor for that is the young population of India.”

The next generation in the driver’s seat

Mr. Bhatia’s family has been selling spices and nuts since 1887.

He was one of the first importers of Australian almonds more than 25 years ago, and now he is one of the largest.

He said there had been an astronomical growth in the consumption of nuts in his country, which he estimated rose up to 20 percent every year.

two daughters stand with their father

Aishwarya Bhatia (left) founded Nutty Gritties in 2009 with her sister Dinika Bhatia, who run the family business, which spans Mr Bhatia’s 40 years as a nut importer. (Provided by: Aishwarya Bhatia)

His daughter Aishwarya Bhatia has joined the family tradition and created a snack line in 2009 with her sister, which is sold in 30 cities across the country.

women sorting nuts and dried fruit

Nutty Gritties provides more products than almonds.(ABC News: Kristy O’Brien)

“Gen Z has come in, we’re health conscious, we started making conscious decisions about food, and that’s where nuts and dry foods play such an important, such a critical role,” she said.

Ms Bhatia said it was not just waistline or longevity that was on their radar, but gut health and increasingly recognized food intolerances.

Contagious coffee culture

Sydney-born Shannon D’Souza said the trend towards lactose- or dairy-free products such as almond milk was timely as it tapped into another booming market in India – a burgeoning coffee culture.

Man standing next to coffee beans

Shannon D’Souza owns KC Roasters and Cafe.(ABC News: Kristy O’Brien)

Sir. D’Souza is part of a huge disruption of the coffee scene happening right now in India.

The business graduate couldn’t find a decent drop of coffee anywhere, so he started his own coffee shop and roastery.

coffee cup and book on a table

Coffee with almond milk is popular at KC Roasters.(ABC News: Kristy O’Brien)

“From day one, we had so many people come in and say, ‘I want barista-grade almond milk,'” he said.

“I think the reason for that is because many people in India are very sensitive to gut health, skin care, hot temperatures and hot heat, it’s increased awareness (plant milk) is good for gut health and skin care.”

‘Game changer’

One of Australia’s largest almond growers, Select Harvest, aims to use processed foods to give almonds another chance.

“We’re starting to look at volume and how we can increase volume in the Indian market, and that’s really driven by the value addition that’s happening in the market,” said international sales chief Ekrem Omer.

“It’s not just the retail and snacking demand that we’re seeing, but we’re also seeing (almonds) being used in beverages, confectionery, bakery, muesli, which are developing markets in the Indian market.”

Almonds being processed on the conveyor belt.

A new trade agreement has reduced tariffs on almonds from Australia.(Supplied: Australian almonds)

Despite the cultural importance of almonds in India, it is not a crop the country grows, leaving the consumer heavily dependent on the world’s largest producer in California along with Spain and Australia.

Australia now has an advantage over its competitors, with a new trade deal cutting tariffs on Australian almonds by 50 per cent.

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