Star hotels, food companies gearing up for 2023: International Year of Millets

Chennai, Oct 14: With the United Nations designating 2023 as the International Year of Millets at India’s request, the superfood — millets — is going to be the talk of the world soon.

And proactive star hotels and food companies in India have chalked out their plans to whip up new millet based dishes for their customers.

The industry officials are expecting sustained deliberations about the goodness of millets to start soon and extend throughout 2023.

This will certainly have a positive rub off effect on the demand for millet based dishes, hotel and food company officials told BILKUL.

“Now nobody can ignore millets. The focus for food product companies will be on how to milletise their products,” S. Murugan Narayanaswamy, CEO, Southern Health Foods P Ltd that makes Manna brand food items.

The Manna brand which gained prominence with cricketer Ashwin Ravichandran as brand ambassador has millet based idli/dosa/upma/poha/kichadi/Pongal and rava dosa mixes.

Generally, millets are small-grained, annual, warm-weather cereals belonging to the grass family. They are highly tolerant of drought and other extreme weather conditions and have a similar nutrient content to other major cereals. Mayank Kulshreshtha, Area Executive Chef Southern Region, ITC Hotels & Executive Chef of ITC Grand Chola said.

The millets commonly grown in India include Jowar (sorghum), Bajra (pearl millet), ragi (finger millet), Jhangora (barnyard millet), Barri (Proso or common millet), Kangni (foxtail/ Italian millet), Kodra (Kodo millet) and others, he said.

The year 2023 will be a turnaround year with more consumers and companies opting for millets. The Atta product categories will see new offerings like oats atta, multigrain atta, nutrition bars and ready to cook packs.

“Sales of millet based products are expected to go up by 2.5 times. This is due to creation of awareness about millets by the central and state governments, food companies promoting their products and emergence of new categories based on millets,” Narayanaswamy added.

According to him, millet-based health drinks, breakfast cereals and noodles will grow. The breakfast cereals will turn into multigrain products with millets.

While Southern Health is mulling entry into the millet-noodles segment, the existing player the Mumbai based Satvika Bio-Foods Private Ltd is expecting higher sales volumes within and outside India.

“We have started exporting to Australia and the US. The big food products companies can no longer avoid the millet segment. And their entry will grow the market,” Vinod Kumar, Founder CEO, Satvika Bio-Foods told IANS.

Terming noodles as a pan-India food now, Kumar said the overall noodles market size is about Rs 15,000 crore. Within that the Atta noodles segment will be about Rs 500 crore.

Though the Atta noodles segment is growing fast it will take a long time to grow to the size of the maida noodles market. Given this, the millet noodles segment is small but will log accelerated growth starting 2023, Kumar said.

Like millet noodles, there is millet pasta from Wholsum Foods under the brand Slurrp Farm.

On the star hotels side, the 650 room meta ITC Grand Chola and beach resort Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort and Spa seems to have the first mover advantage having readied their special millet offerings to their guests.

“Next year, we will have focussed millet programme at our restaurants. We have incorporated millets in European dishes,” Kulshreshtha of ITC Hotels said.

According to him, the ITC Hotels as a group has enhanced millet offerings across the country.

On October 14, ITC Hotels launched its millets programme on the Pavilion buffets.

Some of the indicative breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are: Pearl millet and Brown Rice Poha, Foxtail Millet and Multigrain Loaf, Amaranth, Ajwain and Rajma Tikki, Bajra Gosht Khichda, Foxtail millet and Caponata Cannelloni with Roma Tomato Sauce, Amaranth and Jeera Poori, Pearl Millet and Wheat Sourdough, Sama aur Brown Rice Kheer, Green Peas, Corn and Finger Millet Tartlet, Sama Murgh Pulao, Finger Millet Crepes with Wild Mushroom Onion and Feta, Ragi Poori, Baked Cheese Cake with Buckwheat Crumble, Finger Multi Farmer’s Loaf, said Kulshreshtha.

“Unlike other hotels, resorts have an advantage in making their gue sts try out new dishes. The guests come here for leisure with their family,” R.Devakumar, Executive Chef, Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort and Spa told BILKUL.

“At our buffet restaurants we will encourage our guests to try out new millet based dishes highlighting the health benefits. For example the Kambu Koozh or Pearl Millet Porridge is good for the gut. Small portions will be served for the guests to taste,” Devakumar said.

As 51 per cent of the leisure guests come with their families, Devakumar said the children can also be encouraged to have millet based food items.

Devakumar said some of the millet based items that will be offered throughout 2023 at the resort are: Ragi Paniyaram – Fermented finger Millet dumplings with organic coconut chutney; Kambu Koozh – Pearl millet porridge with probiotic buttermilk infusion and raw shallots; Bajra ke Roti – Pearl Millet soft bread served with garden greens; Foxtail Millet curd rice – mashed grain with curd and southern tempering, served with vadam, vathal and more melagai; Kezveragu & Murungai Keerai Adai – Finger Millet and Drumstick leaf pancake, served with butter and jaggery.