FMCG majors, including Britannia, Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Tata Soulfull and Nestle, are betting big on value-added millet products, in sync with the worldwide push to these “nutri-cereals” and the domestic policy thrust.
In an effort to mainstream millets like jowar, bajra and ragi, these companies have already introduced a clutch of products like muesli, granola, upma, poha, noodles and dosa mixes in the local and export markets. And the product baskets are getting larger.
While the United Nations General Assembly is celebrating 2023 as the International Year of Millets, these domestic companies are also innovating with millet food for children and infants, and even sweet and savoury snacks such as ragi chips and cookies.
Britannia recently launched ragi cookies and five-grain digestive biscuits under its NutriChoice brand. Nestle India has a ragi variant of its baby food brand, Ceregrow.
True Elements, largely into millet-based ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook breakfast and snack products, was recently acquired by Marico. “About 65% of our product range is millets-based. We’ve been working on this since 2017,” Sreejith Moolayil, co-founder and COO at True Elements, told FE. The firm has introduced products like muesli and granola made of millets, besides upma, poha, dosa mix, and khichri.
“We use millets such as ragi, jowar, bajra and navane in our products, which are designed to provide both taste and nutrition to our consumers,” Prashant Parameswaran, Managing Director and CEO, Tata Soulfull, said. The company’s ragi bites range of kids’ products comes with a variety of millet-based offerings such as no maida choco as well as choco, strawberry and vanilla fills.
Under the ITC Mission Millets programme, the company over the next few years will launch millet-based noodles and pasta under the YiPPee brand, ragi vermicelli, multi-millet dosa and rava idli mixes under the Aashirvaad brand. Besides this, 100% multi-millet-based cookies under Sunfeast will be launched, along with millet choco-sticks confectionery under Candyman Fantastik and millet-based snacks under the Bingo brand.
“Over a period of time, we will mainstream millets to make these more accessible to people. The plan will help address the concerns of food security,” Sanjiv Puri, chairman and managing director, ITC said.
For supply of these nutri-cereals, ITC will be working with 20 farmer producers organisations (FPOs) for developing millets value chain through its super app, Meta Market for Advanced Agricultural Services (MAARS), for providing farmers with end-to-end solutions.
Hindustan Unilever is understood to launch a host of millet-based formulations under the GlaxoSmithKline business.
True Elements procures ragi and jowar through contract farming in Maharashtra and Karnataka, while ITC sourcing nutri-cereals such as sorghum, pearl millet and ragi from farmers in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
In April 2018, millets were re-branded as ‘nutri cereals’ and the the government declared it the national year of millets with the objective of generating more production and consumption.
Millets are primarily grown during the kharif season in rainfed areas as these crops are less water and need much less agricultural inputs than rice and wheat. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha are the key millet producing states.