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Nutritious food to attract advanced processing of raw materials into value-added products

21 March 2009 4,907 views No Comment

Food Ingredients are assuming greater significance as nutritional support solutions, but the challenge is to up-scale many of these processed products that are known for high nutritional value. There are many projects focusing on the nutritive value of food ingredients taking place at research institutes like the Mysore-based Central Food Technology Research Institute(CFTRI) and Defence Food Research Laboratory(DFRL) besides the Bangalore-based University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS).

The food ingredients constitute cereals, pulses, oil seeds, jaggery, spices and condiments.

India hardly imports food ingredients. Current value of food ingredients market globally is estimated at $50billion registering a growth of 15 % annually.

The leading companies in the food ingredients space are Griffith Labs, Pagariya, Kohinoor Foods, General Mills, RNM Foods, Agni Associates, Ganraya Food Products, Ruchi Global Ltd., Aarkay Food Products, Arj Foods, Neo Foods, PS Tamarind Private Limited, Poshak Foods to name a few. There is a huge unorganised sector engaged in the production of food ingredients. According to Frost and Sullivan report, Danisco, Chr Hansen, Cargill Foods, The Solae Company, DSM are some of the global companies engaged in food ingredients. However, these companies are importing the food ingredients rather than having their production plants here.

UAS is known for a plethora of product development efforts, the commercialisation has hardly caught on and this needs to be addressed, said Dr Kamla G Nath, consultant food scientist and nutritionist, department of Food Sciences & Nutrition, University of University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore.

India being an agricultural economy there are only opportunities for the development of food ingredients industry. The constant supply of raw materials as all the crops are gown here, stated R Ramakrishna, former president, Association of Food Technologists of India.

Cereals are rice and wheat which need to be processed before they can be consumed. These include rice bran and wheat bran Millets are ragi, and maize can be powdered and consumed directly. There is also a pseudo-cereal category which includes grain Amaranth.

The UAS department of Food Sciences & Nutrition, used food ingredients like cereals and millets to develop simple products from rice and finger millet (ragi), in addition to rice bean which is a combination of cereal and pulse. These products are gaining considerable attention because of the high dietary fibre, phyto-chemicals and calcium content.

According to information from ‘Health & Beyond,’ “Amaranth can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour. It can also be cooked with other whole grains, added to stir-fry or to soups and stews as a nutrient dense thickening agent. Its flour is used in making pastas and baked products.

The thrust at UAS department of Food Sciences & Nutrition is to get into product development from a nutraceutical stand point, stated Dr. Nath. In this regard there have been several University driven projects and Government of India supported schemes like the National Agriculture Technology Project through the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), she added.

The grain Amaranth study was an ICAR initiative. Finger millet project was supported by the department of Biotechnology.

Once the product is researched at the labs and after we are convinced on its safety and edibility, department of Food Sciences & Nutrition under the technology scientific empowerment scheme trains self help groups (SHGs) and Stree Shakti Groups (SSGs) where it has adopted villages in and around Bangalore to impart the technical know-how which goes into the development of simple products using food ingredients.

Under the Rural Bio Resource initiative, UAS has developed products using maize and finger millets. Some of these are maize biscuits and chakklis to name a few. With finger millets, malt which is an extremely nutritious product, biscuits, vermicelli are developed.

UAS is currently working on standardization liquid jaggery to be used in products. Efforts are also on to develop bran from the husk or outer-layer of cereal and millets which include rice, ragi and legume. Clinical trials will be held for patients who suffer from chronic constipation and colon cancer with the bran products.

While organized and aggressive marketing strategies are still lacking, UAS ensures that through its SHGs and SSGs to participate in annual events like the Krishi Mela to display and sell these products.
There is need to encourage product development in villages. However, the biggest drawback to upscale many of the food ingredients is the investment in machinery. Even if loans are available, there is a serious reluctance to take it forward. There is lack of motivation among the women who are trained in the product development. This is where government intervention is required to offer a subsidy on food equipment used to manufacture food ingredients, pointed out Dr. Nath.

There is need for continuous monitoring of quality throughout the production process which is a key factor in achieving high product value. This will provide the assurance to customers to return for more.

Strategies need to be envisaged to enhance marketability products by providing necessary infrastructural facilities like marketing platforms like periodic markets or rural primary markets, observed Dr. Nath.

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