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India needs to pace up efforts to position traditional foods backed by data : Dr Krishnakumar
Saturday, 21 October, 2023, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
India needs to pace up its efforts to position its traditional foods backed by sound data, particularly millets which is  now gaining ground as the most popular and preferred choice, said Dr Krishnakumar, managing director, Giract-Geneva, Switzerland.

"Going by the importance given to millets, this is the future for India. Every region of the country has specific millets. For instance, in Karnataka it is ragi and jowar which are popular. The western states are known for bajra among others. Despite a large basket of offering, the country has been late to take-off in this space in developing  value-added products," he added.

Speaking at the recent day-long fourth annual Processed Indian Traditional Foods conference: PITF 2023 in Bengaluru, Dr Krishnakumar in his address on ‘Processed Indian Traditional Foods - Take-off time?’,  said that the evolution of Indian traditional foods has been from the homes. Every traditional meal has the diversity, nutrition, taste and quality. Then came the visit to restaurants, concept of take-home packs and in the last few years the entry of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products that have transformed the food preparation at home.

The classification of these ready-to-cook, ready-to-eat and ready-to-drink products in the breakfast, lunch, snacks, dessert and beverages categories have led food processing companies to compete on the shelf space in retail outlets, he pointed out.
Noting that lassi is the largest packaged beverage in India and biryani is the most preferred choice for an online order, the samosa too has gained considerable momentum as an anytime snack, Dr Krishnakumar said that the market potential for traditional foods is immense. However data on this in India is either unavailable or lacks clarity.

"Even as the instant food categories are popular for its ease-of-use and accessibility, we have observed that breakfast items are fast moving, but consumers still prefer traditional Indian food for lunch and dinner," said Dr Krishnakumar.

In sync with the international year of millets and the focus of PITF 2023, he noted that millets processing needs data and should be backed by science. This is even as 55 per cent of the population in the country opts for millets for health and nutrition. Yet caution must be exercised on its anti-nutrients getting into the body. This is where extensive and in-depth research needs to be undertaken and labelling messages need to be devised accordingly. Consumer awareness too, should be part of the processed millets product strategy, he said.

It took 40 years for wheat and rice processed products to be well researched and developed into formats that consumers are convinced to purchase. Millets, whose processing has picked up pace in the last few years, need intense study on their nutrition for appropriate applications. Therefore, it is pertinent for India to have nutrition education. This is a huge challenge and cannot be ignored as it would be the only way to see processed Indian traditional foods take off, according to Dr Krishnakumar.
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