Grown in many countries spread across all the continents, sugar cane is the main source of white sugar which has become an integral part of any diet. It is another thing that sugar, along with fat and salt are becoming synonymous with many diseases of the mankind we see to day. While Brazil is the largest producer of sugar cane with an annual production of 514 million tons (mt), accounting for almost one third of the world production, India ranks number two with a production of 356 mt and China is a distant third producing 106 mt. While a substantial portion of production in Brazil is routed for ethanol production for use as a biofuel, India makes products like white sugar, brown sugar, jaggery, molasses and ethyl alcohol. A unique product from sugar cane is its juice being made and sold fresh by small vendors in some countries like Hong Kong, Zanzibar, Pakistan, India,Vietnam, Brazil etc.
According to some scientific studies, sugar cane juice is a rich source of some unique phytochemicals which include policosanol a very long chain aliphatic alcohol and antioxidants like chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, umbelliferone kaempferol and sinapic acid. Its antioxidant activity as measured on ORAC scale, is very high, 1.26 to 2.61 million units per 100 gm dry weight, reflecting its property to protect health. Regular consumption is claimed to be effective in reducing LDL cholesterol and it is a useful antiinflammatory, antiviral, neuroprotective material. Traditionally it is used for treating sore throat, cold, flu, fever, jaundice, urinary tract problems and blood pressure, strengthening stomach, kidneys, heart, eyes and brain,combating prostate and breast cancers.
Many educated consumers shun sugar cane juice because of the unhygienic environment where it is made and served, uncertain health status of the vendor, doubts about the safety of sugar cane used to extract juice and the hygienic condition of the extraction equipment, utensils and serving glasses used by the vendor. Realizing the business opportunities, an organized attempt is being made in Bangalore to offer the consumer a high quality version of the product with assured safety and there are 19 outlets now in different localities in the city where it is available with flavors like mint, lime, ginger, salt & pepper and chaat masala. With an investment of Rs 8-20 lakh for each kiosk, these outlets use imported S S peeling and extraction equipment for making the juice fresh. More fascinating is the backward integration this entrepreneur was able to achieve for sourcing suitable quality cane by paying higher prices to the growers. This is a classic example of a visionary entrepreneur who sensing the need for such a wonderful product in the market, invested wisely with thorough knowledge about the dynamics of food processing and consumer expectations.
Success is bound to follow such entrepreneurs and if the future plans of the enterprise in Bangalore are any indication, it is a question of a few months before such kiosks start sprouting all over the country. Let this breed of small scale players with farsighted vision and commitment multiply manifold to make India the entrepreneurial capital of the world!