There was a recent report from Hyderabad that a group of food scientists attached to a National food R & D organization is taking up a top priority project to develop an Indian version of the US branded mixed juice product going by the name V8 Vegetable Juice. One is reminded of the hectic activity in 1976-77 when India launched a research program to develop its own desi version of cola beverage. It is another matter that a cola beverage looking and tasting like the US product, Coke, which was banned in the country, was developed and branded as "Double Seven" and it never got a foot hold in the domestic beverage market whatever might be the reason. Even then, many critics did raise the inconvenient question as to what was the need to develop a cola beverage in a country where more people go hungry every day than those having adequate wherewithal to buy their daily foods. Same question is relevant to day vis-a-vis the announcement regarding the V8 juice development project at Hyderabad.
Fruits and vegetables indeed provide the foundation for a healthy life though they may not be contributing much calories or proteins in the diet. The expert recommendation that one must eat at least 250 gm each of fruits and vegetables daily is based on sound concept of human nutrition. In a country like the US, 6 servings per day are recommended and bulk wise in the latest MyPlate "Icon" replacing the age old Pyramid Icon, fruits and vegetables occupy half of the plate of foods required to be consumed for good health. Unfortunately consumption of these so called protective foods has not reached any where the figure desired by the nutritionists. Same is true all over the world.
Why fruits and vegetables? Because they are rich in many micro nutrients, health promoting biochemicals and dietary fiber which other foods will not be able to supply in required amounts to the body. The great salad movement in the Western countries is able to address this problem of insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables but addition of calorie-rich mayonnaise, sauces, olive oil, etc dilute the value of salads vis-a-vis their pro-health credentials. There are hundreds of Soup and Salad vending outlets there offering a variety of such products with varying flavor, texture and taste. But still young children and teenagers are not enamored by salads and the fight to make them eat more and more fruits and vegetables goes on. Recent attempts by the US food industry to "smuggle in" vegetables in popular food products without making the label disclosure, speak volumes about the seriousness of the problem of inadequate consumption of these foods in that county. In India, especially in Northern parts of the country, simple salads consisting of cucumber, onion, green chilli and fresh lime are regularly consumed and are considered healthy. In the South poor people invariably consume many types of leafy vegetables which are quite cheap and affordable providing the much needed micro-nutrients.
One of the critical questions that begs for an answer is whether juices extracted from fruits and vegetables can be as effective as the raw produce themselves. Of course any one suggesting that a juice can substitute a fruit or vegetable must be out of his or her minds to make such an outlandish claim. The issue becomes all the more crucial when it is realized that modern technological operations using enzymes and high efficiency extractors produce juices which are clear in appearance and devoid of any fiber. The nutrient recovery in a juice can never be 100%, a significant portion being lost in the pomace or the residue. According to the manufacturers of V8 juice, one serving of 240 ml of its product V8 Fusion, provides 100% of the daily need of fruits and vegetables for an average adult though it is difficult to concede this point. However if one believes in the philosophy that "some thing is better than nothing", juices do serve a purpose, albeit to a lesser extent. While on the subject of juice drinking habit, Indians are not known to be voracious consumers of juices though there are many products coming under the category of fruit drinks which are regularly consumed as "thirst quenchers" but almost all these drinks contain sugar as the major ingredient with fruit pulps present in the range of 10-35% only. Consumption of vegetable juices is limited to a small population of health freaks and sick and convalescing patients.
Coming to the much vaunted V8 vegetable juice, it is a combination of juices derived from 7 vegetables like beetroot, celery, carrot, lettuce, parsley, watercress and spinach plus Tomato ( almost 87%) and probably it has the advantage of mutual supplementation of different nutrients present in the constituent vegetable juices, though real vegetables constitute only 13%!. The million dollar question is how can any average Indian be made to consume a juice which is made out of vegetables. In the fruit juice segment itself, mango based drinks outsell others to the extent of 10 to 1 and it is impossible to imagine that any vegetable juice whether it is V1 or V8 could make a break through in the market. A more feasible approach could have been to think in terms of developing mixed juices from both fruits and vegetables as the image of a juice in the minds of Indian consumer is always a sweet one and unless fruit juices are incorporated the desired sweetness cannot be attained in natural juice combinations. The US made V8 juices have versions like V8 Spash which has fruit juices but sweetened with High Corn Fructose Syrup (HFCS) and Sucralose, Diet V8 containing the sweetener Sucralose and V8 Fusion containing only pure fruit and vegetable juices. Taking up research projects like the one on V8 Juice reflects a poverty of ideas and limited vision of leadership that guides R & D workers in the country!