Sales of dairy products soar as people work & eat from home

May 4, 2020

Jayashree Bhosale | ET

PUNE — As the lockdown gives people a chance to rustle up dishes just like chefs do, the broadening culinary engagement is pushing up consumption of dairy products. Aiding sales, industry veterans say, is the growing preference for nutritious vegetarian food.

Some large dairies across the country have reported 50-100% jump in monthly sales of cheese, butter, paneer, cream and dairy whitener in April–the month that saw offices adopting the work-from-home model to align with the government’s lockdown order and help contain the spread of coronavirus.

For Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which owns the Amul brand, sales of butter, ghee and cheese in April were 20-25% higher than their average monthly figures.

“Demand for paneer from household consumers jumped by 70%, more than compensating the fall in demand from HoReCa (hotel, restaurant and canteen),” said GCMMF managing director RS Sodhi. He said sales of yogurt and buttermilk has declined by 20-30% because buttermilk used to sell mostly during the afternoons, but now the shops remain closed because of the lockdown.

GCMMF’s sale of fresh milk has increased by about 8% in the consumer segment, though demand from the Horeca segment–which accounted for 15% of fresh milk sales–has dried. Sales of bakery products and chocolates, too, have jumped.

Devendra Shah, chairman of Parag Milk Foods, said the lockdown has seen people stock up on dairy products. “There is a very high demand for cheese, butter and ghee. Demand for even the UHT (ultra high temperature) treated milk has increased substantially. Paneer demand has jumped up by 50%, as people have been demanding branded dairy products,” said Shah. Parag Milk Foods sells cheese under the Go Cheese brand.

Sodhi said, “The demand for dairy products has increased because Indians have changed only their place of eating food, and not stopped eating foods that they used to eat out of their homes.”

The jump in dairy sales is not restricted to India. Sodhi said, “We are surprised to see that this trend has been observed across the world. Members of the International Dairy Federation confirmed an increase in consumption of milk and milk products like cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.”

India’s dairy industry, which engages about 100 million workers, is estimated to be worth Rs 8 lakh crore.

Along with avla, haldi and other immune boosters, dairy is also being promoted by many as health food during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Every consumer now wants to eat nutritious food, which will boost the immune system,” said Shah of Parag Milk Foods. “A growing number of consumers are shifting towards vegetarian food, and paneer is the best source of vegetarian protein. Even if the lockdown is eased, consumers are likely to shun outside food and continue eating nutritious food made at home.”

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