Traditional Foods for Healthier Tomorrow – International Conference on 'Processed Indian Traditional Foods'

Anita Praveen, secretary, MoFPI, Govt of India inaugurates the International Conference on 'Processed Indian Traditional Foods'
Anita Praveen, secretary, MoFPI, Govt of India inaugurates the International Conference on 'Processed Indian Traditional Foods'

F1rst, in association with the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), organized the third edition of the international conference on 'Processed Indian Traditional Foods' on 18 November at The Park, New Delhi. The conference witnessed active participation of experts from various fields, including food manufacturers, food ingredients, R&D, supply chain, policymakers, nutritionists and academicians. Eminent speakers joined the discussions and shared their expert knowledge with the audience to create a demand for processed Indian foods, address the complete value chain of processed Indian traditional foods, and how the processed product can be developed successfully.

2023 – The International year of Millets

The conference was inaugurated by Anita Praveen, secretary, MoFPI, Govt of India. In the keynote address, she said, "Today's discussion will be particularly significant because I see that the Indian food processing industry has shown great interest in processing traditional food and making it reach out to people within India and abroad. The Ministry of Food Processing has also played its role in this."

The year 2023 is celebrated as the International Year of the millets. India, of course, being the largest producer of millet as a crop in Asia, has given its support and is celebrating the next year as the International Year of the millets. She adds, "We propose to do long events to propagate the idea of accepting millets. Because millets used to be a staple part of our diet, not very far back in the past. Somehow, we got influenced by growing rice, wheat, and other things, which is probably not the best. Moreover, now we have enough literature to support that. So, it's right time to shift to the past and eat what our grandmothers were probably making at home and what we were eating as a regular meal in the house."

In a video message, Murugan S, chief executive officer, Manna, highlights the need for new processing capabilities and technologies for millet and millet-based products and says, "We should spread awareness about the adoption of millets across the country, as it will help resolve a lot of issues that we have in life, like obesity, overweight, diabetes, many of these could be tackled, partly by having a millet-based diet."

Potential for PITF industry

In the opening address, Dr V KrishanKumar, managing director, Giract, Switzerland shared his thoughts on the potential for processed Indian Food traditional foods in a changing Indian market. During his presentation, he highlighted various aspects like why India should focus on processed Indian traditional food; the potential for processed Indian traditional foods (PITF) and its market; Food is not only for nutrition; and the need for data.

Dr V KrishanKumar, managing director, Giract, Switzerland
Dr V KrishanKumar, managing director, Giract, Switzerland

According to him, there is a huge potential for the processed Indian traditional food industry. He explains, "We are now seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as the process in the traditional food systems because much of the growth rate that you see here will not come from Western products. That growth rate is over. We are going to see the growth rate coming from traditional Indian products. So let's be ready to face that kind of an increase. How are we going to deal with it? What kind of policies is the government going to adopt?"

He continues, "The government is ready and willing to move fast. So, the industry has got to catch up with the government. Normally, it is the other way around. The industry keeps asking, and here is the government saying, hey! You know we're putting up the red carpet for you. The industry must wake up and then move fast. We are seeing a huge, growing market." He also gave many examples of processed traditional foods and their growing market. According to him, the industry is trying to understand the consumers' pain points and offering them a product that is easy to make through technological innovation.

Food is not only nutrition

KrishanKumar underlines the importance of taste in food and shares, "Food is not just nutrition; stop looking at traditional foods as nutritional foods. Food is a lot more than nutrition. Don't look only at nutrition; no nutritious product is sold if the taste is not good enough. In food, the first thing is taste. I will never buy a product if the taste is bad or the taste is not acceptable, even very, very healthy products."

He adds, "So when you think of traditional foods, please start with more than just nutrition. Go right across and think of it as a part of our culture. You will see the difference when you look at it like that."

Need for reliable data

Krishnakumar also emphasizes the importance/significance of data in the processed food industry. He explains, "Without data, we can't do anything. Without reliable data, we certainly can't have any policy which will work. For example, we need data for the industry to understand the market and, much more importantly, for the government to influence consumption. I would recommend that we should focus on data either through the public sector or the private sector."

Dr O P Chauhan, scientist 'F', Defence Food Research Lab, enriched the audience with a well-elaborated presentation on thermal and non-thermal processing technologies for processed foods. During his presentation, he also shed light on how the DFRL is working on various innovative food technologies for space missions, armed forces, and the food processing sector in India. Speaking about the mission of DFRL, he added that they design, develop and evaluate safe, nutritious, and convenience food to meet the needs of services and spin-off to civil applications. They have successfully developed technologies for convenience and ready-to-eat food products; packaging systems; processing technologies for fresh and processed foods; and much more.

He also touched upon the challenges such as low level of value addition, bottlenecks in cold storage, seasonal variation in production, and no or less adoption of efficient technology, etc. He highlighted the latest trends and technologies available to preserve food and food products.

Akita Marwaha, associate director – Nutrition Science, PepsiCo India holdings, shared her thoughts and survey undertaken to understand the aging perception of urban Indians and their lifestyle choices post-COVID.

Traditional Foods as Smart Foods

Rouble Kataria, senior vice president of Haldiram's innovation & training center, delivered a very interesting presentation on traditional and smart foods. During her presentation, she made the audience aware of the traditional ingredients Haldiram uses to make smart foods. She says, "I proudly say that at Haldiram's, we use 80% of all the smart foods in our traditional making traditional foods, which is a cautious call from the last five years we have been working upon."

While explaining traditional food, she adds, "There is a way to define traditional foods to yourself, your children, your people, and your industry partners. Traditional foods are the dishes that are passed on through generations. It is not that Today I use certain traditional ingredients, and I make a dish, and it may not be categorized as traditional because it includes a certain process of making that dish also. That also comes under a tradition. So, for example, if you're fermenting wheat to create a salad or a Khichdi out of it, then it has to be made through a certain process which is, of course, a traditional. Still, when you call a traditional dish, it has to pass through the ingredient filter. It has to pass through the process. And then, of course, your generations should be talking about it. You should know that it is coming through the gastronomy of the three or four generations. It can be a national dish or regional cuisine, traditional foods and beverages."

She further highlighted in her presentation how a smart ingredient can be converted into a traditional food; how the nutrition can be preserved still making it traditional; how GenZ's will connect with the kind of traditional foods we are having and how they will be taking up this food into their day to day routine; and more.

She also praised brands like Haldiram's, Hira Sweets and mentioned that we can still enjoy Laddoos because of their craftsmanship in making Laddoos. Otherwise, it would have vanished and not reached the people like us in the kitchen because it would be only stuck to the ladies who know how to make Laddoos, and after that, there would be nobody to take you to see that tradition forward.

Anirudh Khanna, multi-property executive chef, The Westin Delhi, presented on 'Traditional Foods Comeback.' He highlighted that the HORECA industry is wholly based on catering to guests' expectations. It is about understanding their needs and providing the same and much more. One way of understanding these expectations is to follow the ever-changing trends in the market to stay relevant.

Dr Chindi Vasudevappa, vice chancellor of NIFTEM, Kudali shares his thoughts on traditional foods, "Irony is that we have a lot of traditional foods, the recipe varies from person to person, region to region, village to village, and things like that. So that means traditional foods are very flexible and flexible to meet the aspirations and local requirements. That is what traditional food is. It is not that traditional food need a standard recipe. If you have a standard recipe, then it is not very tasty. That's how this is driving us to understand how we should deal with this traditional food that remains good and tasty."

He further adds a need to enhance traditional foods' quality, stability, and shelf life. According to Dr Chindi, there is a need to address all the concerns about traditional foods, such as, how do we package it; how do you brand it; how do we sell it in the market?

Sushil Teotia of Bry Air shares, "When all food ingredient reaches the kitchen or hotel, they should have the same taste, aroma, and same attraction, and that is our responsibility." He covered key challenges and expectations of the processed food industry. He also shared dehumidifiers and some breakthrough products they have for the industry.

The conference served as a good networking platform for the industry stakeholders, identifying solutions, creating demand for processed Indian traditional foods and understanding key aspects such as science, infrastructure, education, competent manpower etc. Nestle was a platinum sponsor of the 3rd edition of International Conference on 'Processed Indian Traditional Foods'.

The event concluded with a vote of thanks to all the participants and the audience.

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