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© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

ImageSydney, Aug 30 (IANS) From Australia's iconic vegemite to virgin olive oils, snack foods to gourmet sauces, and wines to fresh juices, quality Australian food and beverages are coming to Indian supermarkets this festive season.

Three Indian supermarket chains - SPAR, Hypercity and Nature's Basket - and Indian import and distribution company Epicure Foods, have spent 10 days in Melbourne, Tasmania and Sydney to source quality Australian products for their fast-growing stores.

Cookies, confectionery, cereals, canned vegetables, juices and other products from 22 Australian companies are already on SPAR's shelves in Bangalore.

"Many Indians are travelling the world and looking for international brands back home. About 35 to 40 percent of snack foods are imported," SPAR Max Hypermarket India's business manager Satish S.V. told IANS.

SPAR expects to import up to A$1 million (US$ 863,000 or Rs.37 million) worth of Australian products over the next year.

"Each of SPAR's new stores will have two permanent gondola ends continually selling Australian products," New South Wales (NSW) Minister for Primary Industries, Energy and Mineral Resources Ian McDonald said.

The supermarket officials have met over 45 Australian companies and experienced first hand what Australia has to offer.

"There is a general understanding in India that Australian food is clean, green and healthy," Australian food consolidator Bemco Australia managing director Helen Pilakis told IANS.

The visit, organised by Bemco with support from the NSW Department of State and Regional Development (DSRD), follows a successful "Taste Australia" promotion held in Bangalore last November that introduced Indian consumers to more than 120 new food and beverage products from 22 Australian companies.

Most Australian products are targeted at India's growing middle class, with huge disposable incomes, looking for ready and convenience driven products.

"Revolutionised retail with more shelf space is opening a new market where Indian customers are constantly looking for something new," says SPAR's senior category manager Nanda Kishore.

"At the moment, Australian dairy products can't be imported into India, but buyers are hoping things will change by the year-end. We are looking at options for importing dairy products," Kishore added.

Many Australian companies are producing food targeted at people with special dietary needs. Real Foods feels there is a market in India for its gluten-free rice cakes.

"Indians today are looking for gluten-free products and have a much broader flavour palate. Our expertise is in making six varieties of corn thins, thinner than normal rice cakes, which can be eaten as a snack, replacing a sandwich, or as a meal," the company's market coordinator, Charlotte Marbus, told IANS.

Another Australian company, Sweet William's (William's) makes vegan, gluten and nut-free, halal, kosher and sugar free chocolates.

"With high incidence of diabetes in India, people are looking for sugar-free chocolate bars. However, the prohibitive aspect of our product is the 60 percent customs duty on chocolates," the company's marketing and sales manager, Carol O'Halloran, told IANS.

Godrej-owned Nature's Basket has already placed an order for salad dressings and sauces, cereals, honey, olive oils, biscuits and crackers.

"The products should be on our shelves by Diwali. Many of these products would be ideal for gift hampers over the festive season", the company's operations manager Sudhir Kadav told IANS.

"There is a wide range of cuisine available in Australia and we have noticed that retailers can ask manufacturers for specific products tailored to their specific markets", Kadav added.

Supermarkets are looking at products that cater largely to the much travelled Indian clientele, non-resident Indians and the large number of expatriate Indians.

Mumbai-based HyperCity's category managers for ready, gourmet and instant foods, Shweta Mohile and Y.V. Rao, said their company was looking at unique products - Australian Leatherwood honey, Macademia nuts, shortbreads - which can capture a niche market.

As Australia becomes more aggressive in its exports to India and the Indian retail market grows, Epicure Frozen Foods and Beverages managing director Sanjay Tandon and CEO (Operations) Murali Shankar said in the coming years, Australian products would be represented far more in their product range.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any www.india-voice.com content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.   

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