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FF&B conference focuses on new trends for better health
Friday, 30 July, 2010, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
Around 100 national and international food processors and scientists gathered to participate in the inaugural session of the Functional Food & Beverage (FF&B) conference at the Leela Kempinski in Mumbai on Thursday.

Dr V Prakash, director of the Central Food Technologists Research Institute (Cftri), Mysore, in his opening remarks, focused on "detailed nutrition information" to the consumers. He said, "The functional food industry is at the nascent phase and at this stage we would have to focus on convoluted nutritional information."

Giving an example of the traditional curcumin consumption habit among Indians, he said that researchers had found that curcumin reduces Alzheimer and improves memory. "Traditionally we have very strong and healthy eating habits. The need of the hour is to conserve the habit and show up in scientific way to the world," he added.

Speaking on "Sizing up the market for functional F&B in India and forecasting opportunities for the longer term," Rashmi Upadhya, managing consultant - strategy for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said currently the US, China and Japan account for 70% of the world functional foods market, whereas India shares around 1% of the global market. It is expected that awareness, rising earning and health care costs would help this segment to reach $2.3 billion by 2014 in the country.

"Till date, the functional f&b market in India is largely untapped and focuses only on the premium class with pricey products. India is a milk surplus country - so here milk-based functional products like yoghurt and ghee have good growth opportunities. Another segment with good opportunity is edible oil - we can try to amplify the quality with some health benefits like omega3," she said.

According to her studies in India, tasting and eating habits differ from region to region which led food processors to classify their products. The current trend in functional foods is "categorisation" or "unique functional needs" like Junior Horlicks for children's, Mother's Horlicks for expectant women. The premium price products mostly focuses in top 7-8 cities of the country.

The two-day conference was organised by UBM India, the organisers of Fi India event. Suresh Itapu, consultant of Solae - one of the leading protein ingredients providers, talked on the benefits of soya-protein in India.

"India is a sporty nation. In the coming few months the country will be hosting Commonwealth Games, Cricket World Cup and other sports events. Here the soya protein providers have a plethora of scope as athletes require protein to muscle their stamina," Itapu said. He was speaking on "Evaluating the role of soya protein in developing performance nutrition and functional beverages."

According to him, animals provide good quality protein but reduce calcium and bone power, whereas vegetarian sources particularly soya provides ample/sufficient protein and maintains calcium and bone power.

Soya protein contains low cholesterol, saturated fats which helps reduce the risk of heart attacks.

"India largely being a vegetarian country - soya protein will help obtain the daily protein intake through non-animal source. Many researches have found that soya protein has an upper hand compared to egg protein or milk protein," Christina So, marketing communications manager (Hong Kong), Asia Pacific, Solae, told F&B News on the sidelines of the event.

"With around $21.5 billion government investment, the functional F&B industry will experience exponential growth. The key players in the Indian food and beverage market are eagerly searching for new avenues to capitalise on the potential of functional F&B and drive revenue growth. FF&B is the only high-level strategic conference focused on the potential of the functional food and beverages market in India," the organisers said.

Another interesting topic was "Clarifying the evolving regulatory framework for functional F&B developments in India," by DBA Narayana, director, regulatory affairs, Hindustan Unilever.

He segregated the Indian food industry into two eras namely pre-FSSA and post-FSSA. "Before FSSA 2006 - there were 29 obligatory regulations like PFA, FPO, EPO, Essentials Commodities and Packaging Commodities Order. In 2006. FSSA encompassed all regulation and display single window to the food industry. "Though we all go through these regulations at present, soon it will be changed by the new authority under the health ministry.

The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is run under a governing body including CEO/chairman and 24 members followed by 8 different panels (labelling, genetically modified, biological hazards, food additives, pesticides, and methods of sampling) and an administrative machinery under the CEO and legal consultants.

Nine years back the Government of Malaysia had started a similar authority to centralise nationwide food laws but yet they are not successful. "The FSSAI is a two-year old body and we have to go a long way to develop new laws and improve food products," he quipped.

He also asked the delegates to read the 630-page draft of FSSA rules that was released in June 2010 and submit their comments.

The conference was sponsored by Kyowa, Sympack, MicrochemSilliker, Agilent Technologies, Solae, Tata Chemicals Ltd, Iprona, among others.
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