Opportunities for Growth and Innovation

By Mohini Nitturkar

Millets are cereal crops and small seed grasses, which are widely used in African and Asian countries. The Majority of the world’s overall millet production happens in these regions. Asia is the second largest region producing millets followed by Africa and India is the largest producer of millets in Asia (contributing to nearly 80% of production in Asia). In India, the top 5 states that produce millets are – Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. India is the second largest exporter of Millets after the United States.

Millet is a part of the grass family ‘Poaceae’. Millets are slightly sweet, and possess a nutty taste, and offer a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, energy, and minerals compared to rice. Millets are popular for their incredible nutrient-rich composition. They have always been an important part of Indian cuisine for a long period of time. Millets are known for their resilience to climate conditions, requiring 70% less water than other staple crops and boasting a shorter growth cycle, taking half the time compared to other crops and hence, in the coming years there will be huge production of millets in India. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in millets as a healthy and sustainable food option among urban consumers. Millets were traditionally used into products like roti, Porridge, Sweet and savoury products, Popped products, etc. Several value-added products of millets like biscuits, cakes, pasta, and infant foods are available in the market and gaining attention.

biscuits, cakes, pasta, and infant foods are available in the market and gaining attention.

The major millets in India are – Pearl millet (Bajra), Finger millet (Ragi), Sorghum (Jowar), Foxtail millet (Kangni / Kakum),  Kodo millet(Kodo), Proso (Chena/Barri), Browntop, (Hari Kangni) and Teff (similar to ragi).

The Protein and Fibre content (g per 100 g) of major cereals and millets is given in below table:

Millets are a rich source of nutrients; they have high dietary fiber content and are gluten-free too. Gluten-free millets play a vital role in maintaining good health and preventing the risk of many diseases. Millets are loaded with proteins, dietary fibre and minerals, so they should be a part of our daily diet.

They have various health benefits, some of which are stated below:

  1. Improve heart health: By reducing the blood pressure
  2. Manage sugar levels: By increasing the efficiency of glucose receptors in the body
  3. Promote digestion: As they are rich in fibre content
  4. Detoxification: By removing foreign agents and free radicals and balancing the enzymatic reactions in the body

Value Added Millet Based products in India

Recently, the demand for value-added millet products has increased and there are many products in the market that contain millets. Some of the sectors in which millets are used are mentioned below –

  • Bakery – Cookies, Rusk, Bread, Breakfast Flakes, Cakes,
  • Snacks –Puffs, Papads, Extruded Snacks
  • Dressings and Spreads – Purees
  • RTE – Dosa Batter, Instant mixes
  • Noodles, Pasta
  • Beverages – Health drinks, etc

Popular Brands in India with Millet based products are:

ITC has also launched ‘mission millet’ to launch several products across its brands in 2023. ITC already has millet-based products in its product portfolio like – Ragi Flour, and Multi millet mix, it is further developing a comprehensive millets-based portfolio under popular brand names. ITC is also building awareness on millets through ‘educate, empower and encourage’ that will include experimenting with recipes. Very recently in May 2023, ITC launched the first millet-based cookies as a part of Sunfeast Farmlite.

Britannia, which is the largest Bakery Food company in India, has launched a millet Bread with no maida. It contains ragi, jowar, bajra, and oats. Currently, the Bread is available on Blinkit in Delhi NCR and is expected to be available across general and modern trade stores across the nation

With the objective of creating an international platform for millet products, the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) introduced a diverse range of millet-based products suitable for individuals of all age groups. These products were made available at affordable prices, ranging from Rs 5 to Rs 15, during the AAHAR food fair which was held from March 14-18, 2023, at the Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, recognized as the largest B2B international food and hospitality fair in Asia.

The All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi is offering a ‘Millet Canteen’ to promote millet products globally in March 2023. According to the head of food brands, there is a noticeable increase in consumer interest towards millet-based products.

Government Initiatives

In 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) approved India’s proposal to designate 2023 as the International Year of Millets, and subsequently, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2023 as the official International Year of Millets.

Maharashtra launched a ‘millet mission’ with a budget of INR 200 crores, which ensures an increase in the sowing area of millets, giving the right prices to the farmers and assisting the businesses involved in the processing of millets. The state government has raised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for millets significantly, with an increase of 73% for Jowar, 65% for Bajra, and 88% for Ragi.

The government of Odisha has partnered with FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) to spearhead the global promotion of millets.

In Karnataka, as part of the ‘Raithasiri’ initiative, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai, has introduced a scheme that offers a financial incentive of ₹10,000 per hectare to bolster the cultivation of minor millets.

During the Union Budget 2023 speech, Nirmala Sitaram declared that ‘Millets will be known as Sri anna’ which means the best among all food grains and has also stated that India is at the Forefront of popularising millet.

There are numerous initiatives and schemes in place to support the growth and awareness of millets, aimed at expanding the millet market. Governments, organizations, and agricultural bodies are actively promoting millets through awareness campaigns, subsidies, and incentives for farmers. These efforts focus on educating consumers about the health benefits of millets, encouraging farmers to cultivate millets through training programs and financial support, and fostering collaborations between different stakeholders in the millet value chain.

It is estimated that Indian millet based packaged food market was valued at USD 38 mio in 2022, and F1rst expects it to cross USD 90 mio by 2027.

Millets are highly nutritious and healthy Food options. They possess a delicious flavour and serve as a convenient substitute for unhealthy food choices. India has set forth ambitious goals to enhance the production, consumption, and export of products derived from millets. India has become a global leader in providing a wide range of millet products, thanks to government initiatives that aim to raise awareness among consumers, industry players, farmers, and government bodies. These programs are driven by the need for more nutritious foods and the importance of cultivating resilient crops that can adapt to the challenges of climate change. As the year 2023 is declared as the International Year of Millets, there will be an increased public awareness of the health advantages of millets and their sustainable cultivation practices. This, in turn, will further enhance India’s entrepreneurial landscape in the field of nutritious cereals. CSIR-CFTRI has made significant advancements in developing various technologies cantered around millets, and a substantial portion of these innovations has been effectively shared with small and medium enterprises. Popular brands like ITC, Britannia, etc. have also shown great interest into the millet sector and they do believe that this market has a great potential.

The supply and demand dynamics of millets are being effectively managed, and the outlook for the millet market appears promising. There is a notable increase in consumer interest and awareness regarding the health benefits of millet, leading to a growing demand for millet-based products. Farmers and agricultural stakeholders are responding to this demand by actively cultivating and expanding millet production. With a well-managed supply chain and a growing consumer base the millet market shows clear signs of expansion and holds great potential for the future.

About the Author

The author is a Research Analyst at F1rstMR, GIRACT. She has done her Bachelor’s in food technology (B. Tech), from Shivaji University Kolhapur. She has been with First for more than 2 and a half years and has worked on various interesting Projects like- Plant-based Proteins, Dietary fibre, Natural Food colors, and many confidential Projects. You can connect with her at mohini@firstmr.com