In the early part of my career, my office was at Gillander House, Kolkata. This place is the business as well as the street food hub of Kolkata. With umpteen choices, each work break meant trying something new. Kachori, Jalebi, Pakoras, Chowmein, Cutlets, Bread toasts, Malai toasts (which Chef Manish Mehrotra reinvented and introduced in Indian Accent); the list is endless. For most of us, snacking is an integral part of life. There are long working hours and studies. With family get-togethers, lone binge-watching, or even laziness to cook a meal, one resorts to snacking. It is that one true friend who never leaves your side. We all are social snackers and what’s the fun in snacking if not shared in close groups or with family members.
Snacking is one of the most favourite hobbies of India. What else do you need to take a perfect break? Some prefer Pakora, some go for Misal pav, Kolkata will prefer Jhalmuri, Egg roll or even Alu Kabli. Dabeli or Khatte Dhokla with green chutneys are meant for Gujarat. Samosas rule the northern part of the country. In India, snacks literally make an epic story for themselves. We often store snacks at home for any time eating and munching. They could be large containers of Chanachur, small packets of chips, or some Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. Snacks stored at home come in various shapes, sizes, and colours.
The trusted report on snacking in India from Mondelēz International
However, all predictions and trends on food made a nosedive and witnessed a 360-degree change during the pandemic. Home-cooked food and sustainable use of resources and ingredients in the kitchen became the primary objective. Hence, local produce resurfaced, taking us back to our grandmother’s era. One area which saw an upward trend was snacking. According to Mondelēz International’s Second Annual State of Snacking™ Report, which was done basis an online survey by The Harris Poll, snacking has been a lifeline for almost 75 percent of Indians during the pandemic. Most often we miss the comforting element that snacking brings to us.
Comfort is a key driver for many Indians. It’s not only the adults but millennials who also prefer snacking more than meals. 43 percent of them keep a secret stash of snacks. So, long periods of isolation from close ones and homesickness saw a surge in snacking which brought back the sweet memories and played an antidote to loneliness. The comforting quality of snacking in India has been always felt but not realized or acknowledged as much as during the pandemic.
How chocolates, especially Cadbury Dairy Milk became our trusted snack
I often faced the situation when both kids were more bored than hungry. Silent raids in refrigerators were new and increasing. We stocked the refrigerator with carefully handpicked chosen snacks. We used snacks as small moments of celebration when my son finished his first Harry Potter book or my daughter called out her elder brother by saying ‘Dada’ for the first time. In no time, my little daughter learned to say ‘Choco’ and it was a clear sign of the days to come. If we had biscuits, almonds, or simple Shingara, we also had to keep chocolates for her. It was not only her but the adults also who searched for purple foils, took stock of inventory, and reordered. Like most Indians, we relied on trusted brands and known names to get the sense of comfort and as a source of nourishment for mind and body during the pandemic.
Online ordering of snacks became a new adventure journey. We jumped from one portal to another, third-party retail sites and manufacturing sites – anything that would give us the coveted slot for deliveries. Nothing could escape the twiddling of thumbs and miles of online scrolling. Unknowingly, it became a part of life that we all are enjoying now. The report also suggests that 81 percent of Indians feel that snacking will be a part of the new normal.
As I finish this, I take a pause and sip my coffee and bite into some Cadbury Dairy Milk for the next phase of proofreading. As Maira Kalman the Israeli-born American illustrator, writer, artist, and designer had once said – Everyone I know is looking for solace, hope, and a tasty snack.