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Indian retailers are looking to expand their range of imported foods to cater for growing demand among the country’s ever-more wealthy middle class.

Food industry executives told the Food Forum India 2008 conference in Mumbai that, despite homegrown food still dominating shelf-space in stores, Indian consumers are becoming more cosmopolitan in their tastes.

Ajay Gupta, managing director of newly-established food firm Tree of Life, said consumer demand is “changing fast”.

“An international food business has not really started yet but the consumer is changing fast,” Gupta said. “The media is playing a big role in this transition from merely traditional Indian cuisine to international food being a common option in homes.”

Demand for imported ingredients is growing as Indian retailers start to teach consumers how to cook international dishes at home.

“The aspiring middle class is fueling this demand for imported foods,” said Nandini Sethuraman, a senior executive at Spencer’s Retail. “A new marketing trend we use at Spencer’s is to educate consumers about international cuisines and ingredients at point-of-sale.”

Looking forward, growing demand for imports could lead to some ingredients being produced within India, executives claimed.

“If you can manufacture ingredients for international cuisine in India instead of importing it, why not?” said Muneesh Manoja, consultant chef at UK food giant Premier Foods.

Manoja added that it is “inevitable” that middle class Indian consumers will want to eat international cuisine at home more often, rather than just in restaurants.