India has traditionally been a heavy importer of palm oil due to widespread use in its foodservice sector. But according to numbers from trade body Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) of India, numbers from November 2019 to September 2020 have displayed a significant drop in palm oil imports due to lockdowns, but a converse leap in soft oil imports.

“Total soft oil imports jumped from 4.95mn MT to 5.51mn MT year-on-year mainly due to heavy demand from household segments,”​ SEA said via its latest national vegetable oil import statement.

“Palm oil imports however decreased to 6.44mn MT from 8.63mn MT last year, so now the Palm Oil: Soft Oils ratio for India stands at 54:46 as opposed to 64:36 at the same time last year.”

This same observation has been made Freedom Healthy Cooking Oils, one of the top packaged soft oil brands in India by market share, which has seen an uptick in consumer demand for soft oils in recent months.

“Consumer preferences drive the edible oils market just like any other market, and now the consumer wants healthier oils to cook with,”​ Akshay Chowdhry, Group VP Gemini Edibles and Fats (GEF) which owns Freedom, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“Soft oils have always been more popular with households, and palm oil with the food businesses and foodservice outlets, but the latter has been severely hit due to COVID-19 hence a drop, whereas conversely many people are staying home now and cooking at home so there has been an increase in demand for healthier oils.

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