Mozzarella cheese is one of the products identified by the government for support under its PLI scheme to give a massive push to food processing exports as well as to build Indian food brands.
Italy may be the home of premium buffalo mozzarella cheese, but India could soon give the country a run for its money in this regard.
India’s largest dairy cooperative, Amul, has submitted a plan to the government, aiming to turn the country into a global hub for the export of mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk, which is sold at a hefty premium around the world.
Mozzarella cheese is one of the products identified by the government for support under its Rs 10,900 crore production-linked incentive scheme (PLI), to give a massive push to food processing exports as well as to build Indian food brands.
Says R S Sodhi, managing director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (Amul), “Fifty-eight per cent of the country’s milk production is buffalo and we are the largest producers in the world.
"We can create a unique product advantage by making and exporting buffalo milk-based mozzarella cheese.”
Elaborating on the competitive edge that India could have in exporting buffalo mozzarella cheese, Sodhi says: “While there is a large potential global demand for buffalo-based mozzarella cheese, only very small volumes, mostly made in Italy, is produced and they fetch a premium.
"So we have a unique product to sell to the world. On the other hand, the cow-based mozzarella market is very competitive.”
Amul is looking at investing Rs 200 crore per annum over a five-year time frame to put the plan into action.
Sodhi says that the annual global market for mozzarella cheese is $8 billion, while the total market for cheese is $65 billion.
The bulk of mozzarella cheese produced around the world is cow milk-based and its market has been growing due to its use in fast-food outlets and pizzas.
According to estimates, Italy produces around 33,000 tonnes of buffalo mozzarella, mostly in the hills around Naples, with revenues of $300 million, of which 16 per cent is sold abroad to markets like France, Germany, Japan and even Russia.
Buffalo mozzarella is considered superior to the cow milk variety on several counts: It white in colour and is universally regarded as much more flavourful, creamier and softer.
It also has a higher protein and calcium content than cow milk mozzarella.
Amul is by far the largest player in the Indian processed cheese market, which is currently pegged at around Rs 2500 crore annually.
Out of this, it is estimated that mozzarella is already a Rs 800 crore annual market. Sodhi says that Amul has two plants which make a range of cheeses and is now planning to double its capacity.
The plan is to soon start producing buffalo milk-based mozzarella cheese.
The company is also planning to convert a large portion of its buffalo milk production into processed products, adds Sodhi.
While Amul already sells fresh buffalo milk, it is soon going to launch buffalo milk-based paneer and ghee as well.
The government’s PLI scheme for food processing has identified five products —ready-to-cook and eat food stuffs, processed foods and vegetables, marine products, organic products and mozzarella cheese.
It would provide companies incentives between 4 per cent and 6 per cent on their production value and also lend support for brand building and marketing abroad.
The government expects an additional investment of over Rs 6,000 crore by companies availing of the PLI scheme and an increase in sales by over Rs 120,000 crore.
Photograph: Dario Pignatelli/Reuters