Friday, September 26, 2008


Capturing and dominating the market are the goals of all commercial food processors. Some do it through innovative developments in products and technology to maintain their cutting edge superiority while many others invest their resources on brand building and promotion with lesser priority for innovations. Consumer trends and their behavior at the market place are monitored to serve as a guide for development of new products though the success rate for such products is generally low.
"Super Foods", a new jargon just emerging in the markets of rich countries, are nothing but food products made more nutritious and healthy by marrying two different category of foods to derive full benefit from their nutritional strengths for delivery through a single vehicle, most popular with the consumers. One of the hottest products now being promoted is fruit juices fortified with fish oil, unimaginable before. Of course the product does not smell because the Omega-3 fatty acid has been extracted and ultra purified from sardines and anchovies available in plenty but not consumed regularly as recommended by nutritionists because of their stinking smell. At present these fish are ground and converted to fish meal which is fed to larger animals. The technology of deodorization makes it possible to get the required active component from the fish and consumer will never notice its presence in the juice unless fore warned by the label. Consumers benefit from the ability of the product to protect them from cardio-vascular ailments while helping children in neural development. The 'HeartHealth' brand of orange juice from Tropicana is being walloped by the consumers giving further impetus to the industry to evolve such "super foods".
 Many products are in the pipe line which include green tea extracts in ginger ale, yogurt bacteria in salsa, powdered beets in peanut butter, blueberry blends that boost antioxidant properties, cherry anthocyanins that fight inflammation, green banana fibers micronized and encapsulated for blending with any foods, etc. It is not that these were not known before but improvements in technology make it possible to mix any thing with a main popular product without the consumer not able to detect by their organoleptic senses.
It is time Indian food technology comes up with a new concept in product development that will marry the ancient ayurvedic ingredients with modern popular foods to derive full benefits from both. The term nutraceuticals, coined to deflect the over dominance of the increasingly aggressive pharmaceutical industry in the every day lives of common man, can only confer legitimacy for their attempts to hijack the food oriented philosophy of our rich heritage which always propound good eating and good food for maintaining good health. With hundreds of plant and herbal parts with established health protecting properties and ability to  counteract ailments like diabetes, cardiovascular insufficiency, hyper tension, kidney disorders, skin problems, liver malfunctions etc there is no reason why Indian food technologists cannot go for a whole series of novel foods that will offer unlimited protection against many of the common diseases. Brahmi and Ashwagandha to prevent Alzheimer's, Basil, Turmeric and Neem to avoid cataract, turmeric against cancer, curry leaves against diabetes and cancer, many herbs with diverse health protecting properties need to be systematically used in new product development. Modern technology can make them flavor neutral like omega-3 rich fish oil so that these products become universally accepted. Let us call the new foods so developed "Ayush Foods", literally meaning foods that gives life and ensure that the leadership remains with the country. Any takers out there for this line of approach?   

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