Consumption of frozen foods is on the rise in the country on the back of rapid urbanization and an expanding middle class.
According to relevant sources, the market of frozen foods in the country, which was of Tk50 crore a decade ago, has now crossed Tk800 crore. In view of the rapid increase in the demand for frozen food items, big corporate houses have also come forward to invest in the sector.
According to Financial Planning, an international research organization, the frozen food market in Bangladesh will cross Tk3,000 crore by 2024. The market is expanding at a rate of more than 20 percent on a year-on-year basis.
Having said this, frozen foods have been posing health risk to the consumers, as the market is not being monitored properly. Specialists said a market such as this, if left unmonitored, creates serious public health issues by causing diseases like heart ailments and diabetes.
Frozen foods include such food items that can be preserved for long at a specific (low) temperature. Various corporate firms have been processing frozen foods and selling those in the market maintaining cold chain.
Presently, roti made from atta and rice, paratha, French fry, dalpuri, aloo puri, deshi paratha, aloo paratha, chicken nuggets, chicken samosa, chicken sausages, meatball, fish ball, spring rolls, fish finger, pop chicken and drum let, shrimp spring roll, beef tikka, shrimp roll, beef mini samosa, popcorn, beef burger, plain paratha, filo pastry, strips, sausages, cutlet, chicken lollipop, teaser, shami kebab, beef beacon, pepper roast beef, smoked beef, chicken cheese kebab and other types of frozen food are available in the local market.
Local frozen food producers
According to the domestic frozen food producers, the market for frozen food in the country started in the recent past. Before Golden Harvest started its journey as the first frozen food producing company in 2006, there had been few imported frozen food items available in the market. Snacks, including paratha, were imported from Malaysia and China at the time.
According to the financial report of the Golden Harvest Agro Industries, the company’s turnover in 2018 was Tk177 crore. The company is now producing and marketing 40 to 50 types of frozen food.
Mohammad Shahidullah, General Manager (Marketing), of Golden Harvest told The Business Standard: when we started frozen food business in 2006 people did not know anything about such commodities. It took time to introduce and familiarise frozen food to the people. Now, the market is going through rapid expansion.”
Taking into consideration the changing food habit and increasing demand for readymade food over the last one decade, 20 other big corporate firms eventually followed in the footsteps of Golden Harvest. Different studies show that Golden Harvest alone has captured 23 percent of frozen food market share, followed by Lamisa brand of Saint Martin Fisheries Ltd with about 15 percent market share.
Pran, another big corporate group, is in third position; Pran started commercial production of frozen food in 2013, its brand name being Jhotpot. It has captured 13 percent market share in five years. Pran officials said, a big portion of its frozen food product is being exported to different countries including the Middle East.
Md Kamaruzzaman Kamal, director of Pran Group, said: “The demand for frozen foods has increased in Bangladesh gradually with the change in lifestyle. Having said this, people abroad seems to be more habituated to frozen food”.
Kazi Food Industries is another big firm in the country’s frozen food market. Kazi Food, which started business in food items in 2014, now commands about 10 percent of the market capital in the frozen food sector.
Other than its own sale centres, under the brand name Kazi Farms Chicken, its frozen food items are also selling in super shops and stationery shops.
Brac Enterprise started producing different (frozen) chicken items in 2012 as part of its social initiative. Their market share now stands at 7 percent.
Among the other local companies, Bengal Meat, AG Food of Ahsan Group, Igloo Dairy Frost of Abdul Monem Group, Reach, Aftab, Eurosia, Paragon, and some other firms are active in the market.
The only foreign company Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) has acquired 8 percent share in Bangladesh frozen food market.
Health risk factor
Use of sugar and salt in processing frozen foods poses acute health risks in human body. According to experts, consuming frozen foods on regular basis destroys cells in human body in addition to increasing risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
Prof Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of Epidemiology and Research at the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute, told The Business Standard: in processed food, especially in deep fry processed (frozen) food, extra salt is added for preservation and taste. This is very harmful for health”.
He said, “Presence of trans-fat, which is directly linked with heart disease, is more in processed food. Different types of non-communicable diseases, including heart disease and high blood pressure have been on the rise due to change in lifestyle and food habit, especially consumption of processed food”.
According to frozen food producers, all types of frozen food does not have health risks. Mohammad Shahidullah of Golden Harvest said, sugar and salt are used in only few frozen food items, adding that frozen food is being produced, using methods tested by BSTI.
He also said, “Cold chain is maintained round the clock from production to reaching the buyers to maintain quality of the product. The products are always preserved at a specific temperature”.
Reason behind the increase in frozen food market
Analysists say, the frozen food market has been expanding due to change in people’s lifestyle and urbanization.
Prof Dr Aktaruzzaman at the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science of Dhaka University told The Business Standard, the increase of middle class and urban busy lifestyle has given rise to more demand for readymade food. Technological development is also another reason, he added.
As per the data of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 20 percent of the country’s population reached middle class status by the end of 2017, a significant rise from 10 percent in 2010 to 3.40 crore.
According to Boston Consulting Group, every year 20 lakh people are being added to the middle class in the country. Accordingly, by 2025 the middle class people in Bangladesh would stand at 25 percent of its total population.
The group of people that demands services of various kinds for their consumption is middle class. According to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, a person belongs to the middle-class category when his/her income ranges between $2 and $3 per day.
On the other hand, by the end of 2017 urban population has reached 5.87 crore. The figure will reach 8.59 crore by 2030, different research papers show.
Experts are of the opinion that the frozen food market has been increasing with the rise of middle class and urban population.
World market for frozen food
As far as the global trend is concerned, the frozen food market has been expanding throughout the world. By the year 2015, the global frozen food market has crossed $25,000 crore.
Allied Market Research has predicted in a report that between 2015 and 2020 the global frozen food market would reach $30,600 crore.
However, various research data show that due to significant health risk, consumption of frozen food has been decreasing in developed countries over the years.