A new breed of small boutique food companies is fueling a new food trend in Dhaka: safe food. The timing for such a trend could not have been better. The concern about contaminated and adulterated food has reached an all-time high in recent years in Bangladesh. Policy-makers continue to struggle to make effective interventions to ensure food safety from farm to fork.
Consumer distrust in processed food products from large corporations to unknown sellers has swelled over the past few years. A relentless torrent of news of contamination and harmful chemicals in all types of food products starting from milk to seasonal fruits to every edible item imaginable has helped build a mass awareness around safe food in Bangladesh. Almost all major food brands, both local and multinational, have been found guilty of compromised food safety measures in their products.
These concerns of consumers are not entirely unfounded. The World Health Organization has termed the food contamination and food adulteration situation of Bangladesh “a serious public health concern and said that “there is also widespread evidence of food adulteration with harmful chemicals.” A 2018 report by the English Daily New Age wrote: “between July 2017 and September 2018 mobile courts conducted at district level realised Tk 2.7 crore in fines from 4,255 people for producing or selling unsafe food, showed data compiled by Bangladesh Food Safety Authority.”
The scenario is no better in Dhaka and has not improved much since.
This development and failure on part of large food companies to address consumer concerns regarding safe food are giving way to a strong safe food trend in Dhaka. A small but growing group of boutique food brands are offering a meaningful, albeit relatively pricey, alternative to consumers in Dhaka - safe food. Most of these companies offer limited choice, between 40 to 70 product categories, but promise quality and safety.
A segment of consumers is flocking to these companies for their edible needs. Several companies we have spoken to tell FS that the growth has been promising and the opportunity in the vertical is potentially huge.
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