Harnessing Ancient Herbal Health Benefits Can Greatly Enhance Our Quality of Life…

Aniruuddha Datta

In an interview, Mr. Aniruuddha Datta, Vice President Research & Development, Bambino Group, interacted with Sagrika Sanjay of Food Marketing & Technology-India to glimpse the research and development in the food sector.

1 What contribution does an R&D unit make towards the growth of food industries?

R&D units develop innovative new products for the fast expanding market of processed and packaged food products. These innovations lie in the use of new technologies, new food ingredients and additives, and new packaging solutions. Innovations drive the competition between and market expansion of different food industries.

2 Highlight your work in R&D. Any recent undertaking you plan to carry out?

The R&D unit of the Bambino Group is engaged in the development of functional foods with definitive health benefits through fortification of food with natural products containing quantified amounts of active substances, directed towards the goal of providing “tasteful health” to consumers. Our endeavour is to focus on and respond to market demands, and manufacture products accordingly. The objective of our R&D is to obtain new knowledge, design innovative methods to develop new products, as well as improve the quality, composition and nutritive values of new and existing products. The aim is to ensure overall value addition to existing or new products through the incorporation of health-promoting and disease-preventing ingredients derived from our traditional herbal medicinal repository along with the use of natural proteins, vitamins and minerals, without compromising on the taste and flavour of these products.

3 What is the role of functional foods and health supplements? Tell us about the basics of phytochemicals present in food?

Functional foods and health supplements bridge the gap that exists between the ideal nutrition requirements expected from our diet and the actual nutrition imparted to individuals by the highly processed, industrially produced food products available around us today. Many of the nutritionally beneficial ingredients found in different foods, like vitamins, minerals and other naturally occurring chemical ingredients in plants (known as phytochemicals), are depleted due to non-organic farming practices (use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides), over-cropping of the land, harmful post-harvest processing techniques and exhaustive food processing techniques. Functional foods and health supplements, thus, serve to provide the optimum levels of these beneficial ingredients to individuals and bolster our daily nutritional regimen.

4 What problems underline the system of global food production? How can R&D help resolve the paradox of food?

Global food production systems are facing the problem of severe depletion of beneficial phyto-ingredients in their products due to the reasons mentioned above. Rapid economic development in countries across the world is further driving the use of exhaustive and harmful agricultural and food processing practices, thereby rendering the diets of people living in developed and fast developing nations more nutritionally deficient. This phenomenon is also reflected in the rising incidence of obesity and nutrition deficiency induced diseases in people from affluent communities. R&D can go a long way in helping to resolve this paradox through the development of safer food processing technologies which retain nutritional benefits of ingredients, while eliminating harmful chemicals from entering the food chain. The development of food products fortified with optimal quantities of healthy ingredients is also necessary for the same.

5 Your comment on cGMP as guidance for industry.

cGMP adherence by entities operating in the food industry should be treated as more of a corporate responsibility towards ensuring public health than a regulatory imposition. The lack of strict enforcement mechanisms have enabled many unscrupulous companies in the food industry to bypass the cGMP norms, resulting in the development and sale of sub-standard products which present several health hazards to consumers.

6 What is the need for novel herbal approaches within the food industry?

Plant based foods have been proven to be healthier than animal based foods, and more and more people are now discovering the benefits of having a major portion of their diets be constituted by food articles derived from plants. Plants contain many beneficial phytochemicals which potentiate our health with respect to protecting the heart, liver, brain and kidneys; improving immunity against diseases; and preventing the onset of dreadful lifestyle diseases perpetuated by the stresses of modern living. Harnessing this ancient but currently ignored knowledge of herbal health benefits, backed by modern research, can greatly enhance our quality of life.

7 What is the need for modern quality assessment methods and techniques in the field of R&D?

Food is a very complex and heterogeneous material composed of thousands of different nutritive and non-nutritive compounds embedded in a variety of different plant and animal matrices; this serves to make the task of analysing the nutrient composition of and beneficial ingredients present in different foods very challenging. Quality assessment techniques are undergoing tremendous improvements with the application of modern analytical tools like liquid and gas chromatography, mass and NMR spectroscopy, and their combinations, in order to overcome this challenge. Quantification of the taste and flavour aspects of food is also another unique area that is seeing major advancements through a variety of R&D efforts.

8 What factors do you consider before selection of ingredients? Who are your major suppliers?

Sustained assurance of the desired quality with minimum batch to batch variation is the major selection criterion for an ingredient supplier. Cost competitiveness, good logistic networks and assured yearlong supply are also important considerations for choosing a supplier.

We procure our ingredients from all the major indigenous as well as multinational suppliers.

9 What are the major predictions for the future of food technology? What is causing multinationals in the food sector to focus more on R&D?

Food technology is advancing at a tremendous pace with the help of R&D inputs from both government- and private-sector organizations. Increased competition and the need to keep up with public expectations for safer, tastier and healthier food products with longer shelf life, the food industry multinationals have broaden their R&D efforts. Advances in food chemistry, analysis and packaging technologies are further driving the current trends in food innovation.

10 What are your thoughts on value addition in R&D?

Like all the other technological fields, food technology is also increasingly becoming a multi-disciplinary subject inviting contributions from food chemists, nutritionists, pharmaceutical scientists, packaging scientists and analytical chemists. Sustained growth in food product innovation in view of future requirements and advances shall take place with inputs from all of these scientific disciplines.

11 What is constraining R&D investment? What, according to you, does the future of R&D look like?

Investment in research and development is the major driving force behind the success of an innovative corporate. However, imitations and copycat” products dominate the food industry due to poor protection of intellectual property rights. The dominance of the un-organized sector in the field of food business, especially in India, limits the motivation for innovation. Thus, unlike the pharmaceutical industry, corporates in the food industry are hesitant to invest large amounts of capital for R&D work.

An enhanced public awareness with respect to food safety, quality and health benefits/risks is motivating more and more food industries to invest in R&D. Greater awareness about intellectual property rights and their protection is also generating more interest for the research and development of innovative products. FSSAI, the Indian food safety regulatory agency, and the Department of Science and Technology (Govt. Of India), are also pro-actively encouraging research activities in India through technology-sharing and financing.

Future food industry R&Ds are going to be multi-disciplinary, backed by more basic research, and will involve more intellectual property rights protection activities.

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Food Marketing & Technology is a monthly magazine published by L.B. Associates Pvt Ltd

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