Even though the Indian aluminium utensils industry has been growing at 45 per cent in the last three years, “myths” surrounding the impact of these utensils on health has been stifling the prospects of this sector.
The Federation of All-India Aluminium Utensils Manufacturers has dismissed the “rumours” as baseless, quoting scientific studies that show that, on the contrary, the use of aluminium utensils can significantly save fuel consumption.
There are 4,000-odd firms engaged in the production of two-lakh tonnes of aluminium utensils every year, with most of the stocks coming from recycled metal. The industry exports about 15 per cent of its production to West Asia, Europe and Africa.
“Exports have been encouraging. But the domestic market is not expanding at the desired level because of the myths. We have launched a string of initiatives to dispel the rumours relating to use of aluminium utensils,” Mr Tarun Goyal, president of AIFAUM, said on the sidelines of the International Conference on Aluminium here.
He said the British Medical Journal has declared aluminium as the best metal next to gold and platinum for cooking, better than even silver. “Aluminium conducts heat twice that of copper and about nine times better than stainless steel,” he pointed out.
Despite growing significance of cheaper substitute, the Rs 3200-crore aluminium utensil industry is set to witness between 15 and 20 per cent growth in the next two years due to high resale value of items. The industry has recorded an average growth of 15 per cent in the last three years in spite of economic turmoil.
The estimates assume significance as the utensil sector alone consumes nearly 20 per cent of the overall aluminium consumption in India and sets the direction for aluminium producers for production capacity. The sector also establishes the changing consumers’ sentiment who along with immediate need, think returns before considering investment.
“The Indian aluminium utensils sector comprising 4,000-plus firms is still not recognised by any government or agencies. Nevertheless, in the last three years, we have witnessed tremendous growth. However, irrelevant myths about health hazards may seriously impact the industry's prospects,” said Bharat Garg, patron of Federation of All India Aluminium Utensils Manufacturers.
Utensils made of stainless steel (SS) directly compete with that of aluminium. But, on the price front, SS utensil lags behind. SS utensils are available at one-fourth of the price of aluminium utensils. Hence, consumers opt for SS utensil for immediate needs. But, those who can afford costlier items and aim it as an investment, buy aluminium utensils.
The Rs 50,000-crore SS utensil industry has also been growing at 15 per cent for the last several years and the trend is likely to continue in future as well due to non-nucleus family structure in India.
Compare this: SS utensil scrap is generally dumped for no value while the aluminium utensils scrap is kept safe for selling it back to local retailer at slightly discount of new utensils.
While the industry was growing at about 10 per cent annually until three years ago, new innovations in product portfolio kept the consumers’ confidence up and the overall growth intensified further to 15 per cent in the last three years. Cookware like non-stick pans and pressure cookers are gaining more popularity in kitchens across all segments of population.
Almost 95 per cent of these products are made of recycled metal wherein there is no price differential for the products based on recycled or virgin metal. Garg said this was because the metal loses none of its original properties in the recycling process. Also, the issues of contamination in recycled metal were duly taken care of by the industry. The utensil manufacturers source the raw material from scrap traders, who collect used aluminium articles from rag pickers and petty collectors.
Nearly 15 per cent of the aluminium utensils produced in the country is exported to West Asia, Europe and African countries. “The exports are also encouraging. However, we want the domestic market to grow exponentially. We have launched several initiatives to dispel the rumours relating to the usage of aluminium utensils,” said Tarun Goyal, president of the federation.