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Plant-based proteins a mission for Nestle, says Suresh Narayanan

According to Narayanan, food is very local. ”I cannot create products from Europe and expect the Indian consumers to say these are great products,” he explained.

Plant-based proteins a mission for Nestle, says Suresh Narayanan
Narayanan said that the company was looking at strengthening its existing portfolio in the foods business as far as plant-based proteins are concerned and also take a hard look at the dairy business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Suresh Narayanan, chairman and managing director, Nestle India on Wednesday said that the area of alternate proteins and plant-based protein is a very serious mission for Nestle. “One of our largest brands Maggie Noodles is entirely plant-based. It is a derivative from wheat, spices and ingredients that genuinely make this a proposition that can be linked directly to the farm, sourcing from farms and through technologies that can develop into cost effective platforms of nutrition delivery,” he said.

Delivering the keynote address at ‘The Smart Protein Virtual Summit 2021’ organised by the Good Food Institute India, he said Nestle globally has about 12 R&D accelerators, which are basically centres that look at plant-based protein technologies, which can be efficaciously roll-ed out in terms of relevant and robust products. One of these is located at Manesar in India.

Narayanan said that the company was looking at strengthening its existing portfolio in the foods business as far as plant-based proteins are concerned and also take a hard look at the dairy business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “We have Wunda, a peanut-based drink that is being launched in Europe, or coffee creamers and ice-creams that have been launched in some parts by Nestle across the world. But we would look at customising products to Indian taste. To me, creating a burger that has got almost a meat-like taste and texture is an opportunity, but a larger opportunity for me is to create protein-based products that can be fitted into the Indian repertoire of cuisines and is familiar for them in terms of taste, texture and culture,” he said.

According to Narayanan, food is very local. ”I cannot create products from Europe and expect the Indian consumers to say these are great products,” he explained.

Citing the example of Nestle’s spice business for Maggi noodles where the company works with 1500 farmers in 8 states, he said if the company is able to roll out more initiatives like the Maggi plant on spices in other areas like wheat and pulses, it can create a large eco system of sustainable farming. Nestle has a team that is also working with GFI to see how this area can be cracked, he said. “ It took almost 10-15 years for Maggi Noodles to be accepted as one of the options in snacking. We are easier with shampoos or toothpastes or soaps we use but we are much tougher with what we eat. Because it should not only be safe but also tasty and not eat into my wallet,” he pointed out. Narayanan said that food habits take 5, 10,15 years to develop. “You will not see returns happening in year 2 and year 3. That is the hard reality of the food business. As somebody who has spent 4 decades in this business, as much as you have the pleasure of seeing a large brand, you also have the pain of seeing it through its birth and its growth process for a long time,” he said.

“Our aim is not to create an alternate burger. The question for me is to create a product that is palatable to a Varun or Suresh as Indians and it gives them protein component and nutrition,” he said, underlining the need to quicken technologies between private enterprise and young start-ups. The intention in alternate proteins is not to run the farmer into the ground or eliminate dairy and dairy technology completely, he said. There is a need for a synergetic partnership between the plant-based proteins, industry and existing protein sources like dairy and pulses, so that there will be a way forward which will be good for both the country and consumer, he said.

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First published on: 11-11-2021 at 05:20 IST